The truth behind Savannah Georgia’s entrance into drag society

I’m going to let you know right up front before you continue reading any further – this is going to be a very emotional blog post.
First I will need to set the stage for you. When I came out to family and friends almost 15 years, I did so at a cost to myself. Despite the costs, I was still determined to make my mark on the world as a proud African-American gay man. Only thing was, I didn’t quite know how to do it right. Being a perfectionist, I always had to do everything perfectly.
At the time, I couldn’t care less about disappointing anyone – except my mother. So when I finally came out to her, I was very happy that she told me that she loved my unconditionally – gay or not. That’s the kind of bond we shared.
Let me back up a little … I didn’t tell my mom when I first came out. A number of months had passed before I finally told her. The months prior to telling her, I was acting like an old fashioned newbie. How most people know me these days, well, that’s not how I acted when I first came out. I had many heterosexual friends, and only a couple gay friends who I could interact with at the time.
After hanging out, as a “new” gay, with my only other gay friend, his boyfriend was a little too friendly with me, and after a little while, that friend didn’t want me around his boyfriend, nor around him either. I wasn’t trying to be a homewrecker; I just wanted to make a lot of friends. The reason I am mentioning this is because at that pivotal time in my life, with not many to turn to and not knowing hardly anyone in the gay community, it was hard to deal with issues new to me.
Something else I ventured into with this friend of mine was the drag community. He took the time out to introduce me to a couple of other drag performers, and with his much-needed help, he got my face painted, helped me to pick out a little drag name, Olivia Twisted, and I hit the stage a couple of times and did my twirl lip syncing to my songstress divas Whitney, Diana and Natalie.
The final time I stepped onto the stage, some 15 years ago, was a disaster. It was shortly after my friend let his irrational jealousy end our friendship, and I had no clue whatsoever of how to drag up my face. See, he’d done that for me the couple of times before, and back then, I was new, young, slightly naïve about how to be fabulous, and I was just a clueless mess. I didn’t really know any others in the gay community, and I felt awful about so many things in my life at that time.
And despite all of that, I was still determined to keep dragging myself on that stage and do the best I could. So then after that disastrous time where my makeup looked like I was auditioning to be the next Pennywise clown, and my clothing looked like “Dynasty’s” Dominique Devereaux right after one of her epic catfights – I wanted to keep it going and make myself better.
Then it happened – my mother’s health started deteriorating, and I found out that although she had no issues with her youngest son being gay, she would never accept her son ever being in a dress. It would have killed her, and so then I made the decision to immediately stop doing any sort of drag. In my mindset during those years of naivety and guilt over being myself, I couldn’t cause my mother any more aggravation, especially since she was battling for her health.
Plus, I’d rationalized to myself – I wasn’t any good beating my face, I didn’t lump myself into any drag style, I felt like people didn’t get me or my style – or lack thereof, and plus I didn’t have any drag family to help me along the way and kick my ass when I made mistakes in drag.
To put it in the most literal terms – I gave up. That was something that I wasn’t used to doing – giving up. I’d always been an overachiever, and to be honest with myself that I was giving up put me in a very undesirable depression.
Fast forward to 2016. I made significant changes since 2002. I won’t go into a lot of details, but looking back on myself then, and looking at myself right now, I am blown away at myself. And I don’t say that in an effort to brag or boast; I say that because I’m damn proud of myself and how far I’ve come as a gay man. It brings me to tears.
I am a professional man who has struggled to get to where I am, and wouldn’t change it for anything. I have a successful LGBTQ blog that not only makes people laugh at the craziness we all get ourselves into but shines a light on what we as a community need to do to further our success. I founded and instituted an annual successful fundraiser, the Asbury Park Pink Prom, which benefits several LGBTQ groups and organizations. I have a boatload of friends in and out of the community who I have come to cherish, respect and admire.
But running a close second to the prom, I think I can safely say that the thing I’ve done as of late that I am so proud of myself for accomplishing would be for resurrecting my drag. I’m going to have to say that giving up that passion years ago, for whatever reasons – fear, shortsightedness, pleasing mom – I’ve secretly kicked myself thousands of times. I’ve never wanted to admit that to anyone because I was trying to keep that part of myself very much under wraps.
Giving up a passion you have is almost like dying a slow death. I was dying a little, seeing my creative juices wither away was killing me. I’ve always admired so many drag performers’ tenacity, style, passion, determination, flair, love of the craft. I felt like I’d lost a big part of myself over the years, not finishing what I started.
Admitting to myself that I was feeling incomplete has been a tough pill to swallow. I hadn’t shared that with anyone because, well, because I wasn’t sure if anyone would understand those feelings – especially knowing me as so many people do.
And after going through eye surgery in August, that was the impact I needed to get my ass in gear and I promised myself that no matter what happens, I’m doing this drag. So that is just what I’ve done.
This past Sunday at the Toys for Tots benefit at the local gay bar Georgies, I reintroduced my drag. Miss Savannah Georgia took the stage, and God, I felt alive and rejuvenated. I know I have a ways to go, and I cannot adequately express in words how I feel right now. And I have to give props to a few people, because without them, Savannah wouldn’t have made it to the stage that night. I won’t get into naming all of the people who have helped me along this latest journey (it’d be a long-ass list), but one does deserve my shout-out …
If not for Lea Sky, fellow local drag queen and a dear friend and sista, for helping me get this face together and making sure I felt fabulous, I don’t know what I would have done. I felt beautiful, and thanks to her help, I was able to beam and shine, and I was able to stomp the stage without fear bogging me down.
Another thing that is so vastly different this time around is the support and love that I finally feel from others around me who have been fabulous in doing their drag for so long. It’s such a relief to see those queens around me and offering advice, support, good laughs and a kick in the butt when needed.
I’ve always been aware that so many in the community see me in a certain way, not really needing help and being self-sufficient, so it has always been difficult for me to ask. I know that I do come off that way, sometimes way too often. It’s a blessing and a curse.
But I am asking my community, my family, my dear friends and comrades a sweet favor. If you could find it in yourselves to open your arms, hearts and lives to greet Miss Savannah Georgia, she’d dearly appreciate it. It’s been a long journey for her to arrive in New Jersey, and although she’s a little weathered because of the path she took, she’s a joy to behold and you will not regret it – trust me.
Oh yeah, in case anyone is curious why I chose to use Savannah Georgia, it’s an homage to one of my Top 10 films of all time, “Waiting to Exhale.” Savannah was the name of my all-time favorite diva Whitney Houston’s character in the film. In addition, “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight and the Pips was my mother’s favorite song.