I am so excited to share this post! For the last three years, friends of mine have organized an annual trip to Las Vegas to dress in drag and put on a show. It began back in 2014 with just three people… then grew to around 10… then 25… and this year over 50 people joined! The past few years I’ve watched via social media as friends shared photos and video from this epic weekend. Participating in drag isn’t something that had ever really intrigued me, but there was clearly a spirit of inclusiveness and embracing being different that seemed so liberating. I wanted to be a part of it. So when the 2017 dates lined up with my calendar, it was a no-brainer — I was going to Drag Weekend!
Oh, the full name of this weekend is the Fabulous (But Very Serious) Las Vegas Drag Weekend. Which abbreviates to F(BVS)LVDW for short. Here are most of the kings and queens, as photographed by the supremely talented Cory J. Photography:
My big dilemma approaching Drag Weekend was how to dress up… did I want to go as a specific character? A friend suggested The Dude from The Big Lebowski… I liked the idea of wearing a robe. Or how about a more generic man — get a fake mustache from Amazon and thrift a wife beater tank top, plaid shirt, trucker hat, and aviators? But neither of those really stood out to me. It wasn’t until the final deadline approached, when we had to tell the organizers our drag name, that it occurred to me to think BROADWAY. Done and done! I found my way in, and for the weekend of March 11-12, I would be Alexandria Hamilton. I was going full colonial, baby!
Here is our full group in front of the Las Vegas sign, photographed by the visionary Michelle of Infinite Imaging Photography:
Below, I use a mix of my own photos, as well as Cory and Michelle’s. I’ve added a watermark to each so it’s clear who took which photo. Side note: I am so glad the organizers of F(BVS)LVDW found such talented professionals to document our weekend! I loved kicking back and relaxing, knowing that everything was being documented. I brought my DSLR for fun but there was no pressure to photograph everything since Cory and Michelle were on it.
The weekend began in Hollywood — our inimitable hosts Daniel, Joseph, and Matt had arranged for a bus to drive all of us to Las Vegas and back. The bus would also cart us around during the weekend: to the Las Vegas sign for photos, then to dinner, then to the club where we’d perform, and finally to brunch the next morning before heading back to LA. It was SO convenient to have transportation all taken care of. Worth noting: the costs for the bus, photographer, and videographer were covered by a nominal fee to participate in the weekend, and that included a donation to My Friend’s Place to support homeless youth in Los Angeles. For the first time, Drag Weekend was officially a fundraiser for a charitable cause, which felt really good. So major kudos to Daniel, Joseph, and Matt for all their hard work in organizing and planning this weekend for 50(!) of their closest friends.
All boarded and ready to go… time for mimosas!
Our hosts had prepared these bottles and pamphlets for the weekend:
Our itinerary — it takes a lot of organization to keep 50 kings and queens on schedule:
Love these pics from the bus ride — it usually takes around four hours to drive to Vegas, but it felt like two. Time flies when you’re having fun and socializing.
We arrived at the Tropicana and checked in. Our hosts had been upgraded to a two-story suite, complete with a hot tub in the room! There was just enough space to set up this step and repeat below (so fancy) to take our before and after photos.
We had exactly two hours to get ready. While my prep was easy — I’d found a colonial costume on Amazon for just under $50 — most of the guys went to painstaking detail to transform into their drag personas. We’re talking body shaping garments, hose, heels, full-on make up, wigs, purses, padding, etc. Essentially they went through the same process most women do when getting ready for a big event. By comparison, I just had to slap on a costume and be a dude. I was enjoying this gender reversal already!
A professional make-up artist was brought in for anyone who wanted to use his services.
And before long, everyone was ready. The suite worked out perfectly — pretty much everyone was staying in the hotel, and this gave us a space to congregate and hang out.
Matt and Daniel — excuse me, Malleable Barbie and Booby Tuesday — strike a pose:
Cory took before and after shots of everyone in the suite — check out these transformations!
I love how Cory took these portraits — he used a really high f-stop which blackened out the background, and then a flash illuminated each person’s face and torso as they posed.
Without further ado, meet this year’s kings and queens! Please enjoy their very humorous names.
And here is my head-to-toe ensemble. I decided to go male from the neck down, and female from the neck up — so mine was a gender-bending Hamilton. I like the subversion of that: flaunting Hamilton as part-woman, a gender that had no place in the founding of our country (as one of our emcee’s noted following my performance, “Alexandria was always my favorite Founding Mother”). But it was also Drag Lite to a certain degree which was a nice way to ease into drag. I think next time I’d go all the way (e.g. with a masculine wig and facial hair) to really enjoy inhabiting a different skin for the night, as that transformation is a big reason why drag is so fascinating to experience.
Someone from the group took this photo of me in drag and put it on a $10 bill — this “ten-dollar founding mother” loves it so much!
Time to board the bus for photo ops and dinner:
Perhaps the most eye-opening part of this whole weekend was being in drag in public — standing out as being “different” while walking through the casino floor. I first experienced this en route from my room to the suite, as I was by myself wearing my Hamilton costume. There were so many stares. It was nothing negative, just a lot of eyes looking at me curiously. And when we all emerged from the suite in our respective king and queen personas, that was a whole different level of Lookie Loos. It felt safer / less exposed to be part of a pack. But it was still a mini-education in what it feels like to walk through the world being outwardly different from everyone else. Trying to be immune to the stares and gawking. After all, Las Vegas is in a red state and we probably would have been more comfortable participating in a Drag Weekend in our own backyard in Los Angeles — heck, that would be par for the course on a typical Saturday night in WeHo. So there was a certain vulnerability to doing this in Vegas. Granted, I myself was somewhat less conspicuous in my colonial costume compared to some of the queens who went all out strutting their stuff down the Strip. I admired the fierceness of my companions. I was grateful for the opportunity to parade around being different and weird for the night, outside my own comfort zone but gloriously surrounded by a welcoming group of people. If only everyone could experience how to feels to be exposed like that — literally walking a mile in someone else’s stilettos / colonial boots — while Middle America watches with curious eyes. It breeds enhanced compassion for anyone who has the courage to walk around being themselves — dressed as their true gender — in broad daylight day after day, all around the country, facing never-ending stares and snickers. I’m grateful for the chance to have experienced a sliver of those feelings for one short night, and may that understanding perpetuate greater compassion for everyone we come into contact with going forward. It was one of the things I most looked forward to sharing in this blog post.
The bus dropped us off at the Las Vegas sign for photos. Sunset was in progress and the lighting was beautiful.
Our hostesses — Josephine, Booby Tuesday, and Malleable Barbie — without whom this weekend would not exist:
I took the next batch of photos. Such a beautiful group to photograph!
And here are a batch of Michelle’s fabulous photos:
Next up we climbed back on the bus for dinner… at Hooter’s!
Our hosts picked Hooters because we could have our own private room and do a bulk order of items for ease / speed. It was an efficient way to get 50 people fed in a short amount of time and really nice to have our own space.
Our group photo outside of Hooters:
Next up… we got back on the bus and headed to the club to perform our show!
I will be back tomorrow with photos / video of the sublime performances — this weekend featured too much fabulousness to squeeze into one post.
XOXO yours truly, Alexandria Hamilton