By Melinda Munson

A tall woman in heels and a silver spangled dress, presumably one of the visiting drag queens, served punch at Bites on Broadway’s meet and greet, Pride Weekend’s 2021 kickoff event. 

“How do I spell your name?” this reporter asked.

She leaned over with a smirk.

“N-I-L-S, D-A-V-IS”

The proprietor of the cafe, normally attired in mens clothing and an apron, was part of the Pride Committee that welcomed seven drag kings and queens, mostly from Juneau, to the upper Lynn Canal. While Skagway normally rolls out the red carpet for Pride celebration, the weekend of June 25 was packed with outrageous fun, culminating in a drag show headlined by Gigi Monroe, with local guest performer “Mowena Hurtz,” otherwise known as Red Onion employee Don Nelson.

The performers, who often described themselves as family, stepped off the Friday ferry with a mere 1 hour and 45 minutes to prepare for their first engagement with Skagway’s participants. According to drag queen Lamia, the average time to get ready for a show is two to three hours, with a more intensive look taking as many as six hours.

But it’s not all about appearances. For many of the performers, drag is a way of uniting the feminine and masculine, projecting confidence and taking risks in the form of a persona.

“I would identify as two-spirit,’ said drag king Tyquan. Juneau has an unusually high number of kings, who tend to get less attention than the queens.

“They forget about us. Kings are more in the shadows,” Tyquan said, although the Juneau kings get equal stage time.

Drag king Stevie Smalls described performing as wearing a mask.

“I’m not super confident. When I do drag, I get to be confident,” he said.

Full-time Tlingit weaver, drag queen Lituya, is using some of her performances to celebrate Native culture. In one of her numbers, Lityua’s clothing and dance are inspired by Tlingit culture. The Skagway audience was nearly breathless.

Lituya said she was terrified when she first started incorporating Native elements into drag. 

“It was a huge risk. It was mortifying,” she said.

According to Lituya, the response thus far has been positive.

Other highlights of the drag show included Nicholle Chandler’s eight costume changes as she passed the tip bucket and Charity Pomeroy’s chilling gender bending choir performance that might make Skagwegians wary of drinking kool aid in the near future.

Lamia was 800 miles from home on her birthday, performing at Dedman Stage for the enthusiastic Skagway crowd.

“This sounds like the best way to celebrate,” she said.

After two hours of stunning costumes and roaring fun, drag queen Gigi Monroe summed up the night. 

“If pride is about anything, it’s about loving yourself and loving those around you,” she said.