With glittered and rhinestone costumes, drag kings and queens dance down the stage at the Corner Bar at the Irish Bred Pub every Saturday evening.
But it has not always been that way.
Drag shows in the Auburn-Opelika area only began about a decade ago at the Balcony Bar in Auburn on Sunday evenings after performing for several years in Columbus.
That’s when the show’s manager, Chad Peacock, stepped in and formed the name of the group, ROYGBIV.
The group started to focus on bringing more audience members to the show and was able to switch to Friday nights at another Auburn bar. There, the ROYGBIV cast grew even more and gained a reputation in the area and beyond, Chad Peacock said.
“We were just tired of having to go everywhere else just to be ourselves,” Chad Peacock said.
The show has shifted location from time to time as bars go in and out of business. It is currently held on Saturday nights at The Corner Bar in Opelika.
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The purpose of the show has also fluctuated as the show has grown.
“It’s become less novelty and more of a home,” Chad Peacock said. “More of a safe place for our community — just a place to go and be yourself because we just don’t have that here.”
Their first big expansion several years ago was to invite weekly guests to participate in the shows. As the popularity of the show grew, so did the esteem of the guests. In the last few years, ROYGBIV has been able to host multiple contestants from the drag show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
This brought even more attention to the show and brought in more audience members each week. Each special guest loved their experience, which helped to bring in other guests, Chad Peacock said.
“It really just builds the brand and builds attention toward the show,” Chad Peacock said. “Really, it just builds attention toward them [the ROYGBIV performers] and gets their name out there even better.”
When a local pride organization, Pride on The Plains, was formed in 2017, ROYGBIV began working closely with Pride to fundraise and raise awareness surrounding the LGBTQ community in Auburn and Opelika.
To do this, ROYGBIV hosted yearly pageants for both drag kings and queens, Chad Peacock said.
About a year ago, ROYGBIV expanded once again to include a separate drag kings show, where show patrons see something different from ROYGBIV’s typical queens show, said Do’Nyal Webb, whose performer name is Tucker Wright and prefers the pronouns they and them.
“It’s just me in a hot dog costume dancing to songs about hot dogs,” Wright said. “It’s just a humorous take on life as a hot dog.”
A hot dog costume is not commonplace at a drag show, but it is what Wright’s fans have come to expect from them: a fun-loving performer looking to give the audience a good time.
“To be queer in Auburn, that’s just a whole different sentiment,” Wright said. “That’s just a whole different sentiment than to be in drag. I think drag is a whole different story. Here, at least, there is such a family.”
In 2014, Wright came to Auburn for college. They started going to drag queen shows with friends. For several years Wright was a regular at the shows, often attending with friends and making new ones at the shows. That is how they learned about Pride on The Plains.
From there, friends encouraged them to sign up for one of the first drag king pageants in the area.
Drag was fun, Wright thought, so they continued to seek opportunities to perform as Wright. Wright currently holds several titles including Mr. ROYGBIV, Mr. Pride on The Plains, Mr. Birmingham Rising Star and Mr. Caritas, both of the later which hail from Birmingham.
They continued to perform at venues throughout Alabama, Georgia and Florida, though sometimes it was easier than others.
“Being a drag king is a lot harder,” Wright said. “You have to build a name for yourself. Sometimes it is who you know, but sometimes it’s the presence you have.”
Through their performing they learned more about gender identity and gender fluidity. That is how they discovered they are gender fluid.
Webb felt like they finally had a good understanding of who they were. The information just did not sit as well with others as they would have hoped.
“For them [Webb’s parents] to hear that their child was queer was, I guess, life-altering in some senses,” Webb said. “It hasn’t been the most pleasant experience.”
Being queer in the Deep South made Webb feel isolated, like they were on the outside of the rest of the community.
That is what brought Webb to the drag community as Wright, to find a place where they did not feel so much like they were on the outside. And that is exactly what the drag and LGBTQ community did.
“They treat me like one of their own and it’s a beautiful experience,” Wright said. “I have moments I’ve had with Imberlli, Colana or Chad even where they’re like, ‘No, you’re doing amazing.’”
They continue to echo those same complements to Wright months after their first performance.
Chad Peacock said he has confidence in Wright. That’s why he asked Wright to join the early show and create the drag king’s show.
The show is not just about the community it creates among the performers. It is about the community it creates for everyone. From people that identify as LGBTQ to LGBTQ supporters, ROYGBIV wants to provide a show for everyone.
ROYGBIV has always been inclusive to drag kings, but the inclusion of a drag king's show over the last year has furthered their mission of inclusivity for everyone, said Tim Peacock, also known as drag queen Imberlli Vontrell.
“We also use it more of as a way that kings can get that exposure and a way for new up and coming queens that aren’t getting that much stage time to also use the king’s show to get practice and experience that they need,” Tim said.
The drag king shows typically start at about 9 p.m. each Saturday at the Corner Bar in downtown Opelika. A few drag kings will perform and drag queens take turns hosting the show.
Since the drag queen show does not typically start until 11 p.m. or later, the drag king show is seen as an earlier show that is used as a stepping stone for guests that may not want to stay out late for the queen’s show.
But that does not mean the show is any less exciting, Tim Peacock said.
“It’s been a great success,” Tim Peacock said. “We have a lot of people that do come earlier to watch the king’s show and we encourage everyone to come check that out.”
As ROYGBIV aims to include everyone in their shows, their fight for equality continues every day, especially since Auburn is not known for its activism of LGBTQ rights, though it is improving.
Recently, the Human Right’s Campaign’s 2019 Municipal Equality Index scores were released. These scores rate large communities throughout the U.S. on how well they support the LGBTQ community.
In 2019, Auburn scored a 23 out of 100, which is up from Auburn’s score of four in 2018. Opelika is not scored.
“I’m glad that it’s not as low as it was,” Tim Peacock said. “It shows that we are growing and that we are being more inclusive and progressive, which is something I definitely think we need.”
The only way to bring those scores up is to continue pushing for equality and bringing more people into the LGBTQ community, both as supporters and those that currently feel too afraid to express their true selves, Webb said.
After all, that’s what they would have loved to have when they were a child.
“I always think about when I was a little kid what I would have wanted someone to do for me,” Webb said. “I got bullied a lot, so getting to college was a chance to be a self. I just wish that I had me now for the little kid I was.”
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