She steps out onto the neon lit stage, face beat, wig secured and costume double checked. She sees the crowd packed with staring faces waiting to offer crisply folded dollars with two prim fingers. The music reaches her, and the fear fades away. Biology junior Justice Smith has been preparing for this her whole life.
Smith’s first solo performance as persona Alondra Andrews will take place at Splash Nightclub on March 30. She considers herself a drag queen, but she said she has come under criticism for being a cisgender woman.
“I don’t have to tuck, and I don’t have to shave,” Smith said. “But I still glue down my brows; I still wear costumes; I still wear my makeup like they do, and I still wear wigs.”
Smith said she believes all one needs to be a drag queen is a love for the style of expression. Her interest in entertaining came about when she was 8 years old and enjoyed performing to an old Lady Gaga CD. The interest became connected to drag when she started watching “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
“I would put on makeup for my mom, play some music, run around the house dancing and lip-syncing and trying to act cool,” Smith said.
Smith said her mother has stayed supportive of her aspirations, and even gets her nails done before each performance she attends.
“Whenever I started doing more serious stuff with wigs and outfits and actual costumes I would perform in front of my mom because she’s one of the biggest influences on my life,” Smith said. “Her opinion really matters to me.”
Smith recently received her last name. Drag queens start off with first names and gain last names once accepted into a “drag family.” Smith received the offer from Amanda Andrews, who became her “drag mom.”
“She helps me style my wigs, cuts my lace, tries to get me booked,” Smith said. “It’s basically your second family because it originated when people came out and started doing drag, and their family didn’t approve of it; so they were by themselves. So they started their drag families. That way even if your family wasn’t there, you’d still have one.”
Smith said beginning to seriously practice drag at 16 was not easy and recommends starting off slowly while working under realistic expectations. She said not to expect immediate perfection or greatness.
“My mom bought me my first wig, and I looked a mess,” Smith said. “I didn’t know what I was doing.”
Smith said every queen has a “signature something” that sets them apart from the rest, but said she has not found hers yet. However, she said she currently attempts to set herself apart with a distinct makeup style.
“It’s kind of hard for me to do regular makeup now because I want to put my wings all the way out to my ears,” Smith said.
Though Smith’s career in drag may be controversial, she said she will continue to do what she loves for herself. She said drag is about transforming into another person and forgetting about everything else.
“You get to be whoever you want to be for however long you want to be that person, and it’s not permanent,” Smith said.