Welcome to the story of how a farm boy from a small town in Georgia moved to Aspen and became a queen.
For starters my name is Toni. I moved to Aspen in June and fell in love with this town, but something very important to me was missing up here in the mountains, the art of drag. For those of you who don’t know, Drag is a gender-bending art where a person dresses in different types of clothing and makeup to exaggerate a gender identity, often of the opposite sex. Even though drag is known for entertaining performances, it is also a way to showcase self-expression and celebrate LGBTQ+ pride.
I started performing in drag part-time at age 22. I had experienced drag in Atlanta, Georgia for years, but didn’t have the courage to explore it until I moved from Georgia to Salt Lake City, Utah. It was there where I saw how free these other queens were on stage. I was honestly depressed at the time, but the first time I put make-up on with a cheap shake and go wig, I felt like a princess, even though I looked like a circus clown. Over the years I discovered myself in and out of drag.
Growing up I admired the music and styles of Reba McEntire, Avril Levine. I also was captivated by Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. Greek mythology changed my outlook on life with the realization that Aphrodite isn’t just the goddess of love, because where there is love, there is heartbreak.
I love balancing the country, the alternative, and the ancient art of love into who I am. As a child, I was extremely shy and timid. I wanted people not to see me. I dreamt of being able to turn invisible, so I could truly be alone. As I grew, mythology and theater helped me to realize that I have a voice for a reason. In my high school years, I began to experiment on who I truly was, but all of that got halted when I developed an eating disorder. In 2015, my senior year of high school, I was diagnosed with Anorexia. I would go days without eating, and when I did eat I would tuck food away to throw away when no one was looking. At age 17, I was 6’2 weighing 107 lbs. I want to dive into my mindset when I chose to skip a meal. I was working 2 jobs, maintaining straight A’s, and worried about my college career. In my mind, it wasn’t about body image, but how I was too busy to eat anything. After six months of suffering, I finally asked for help. I went through therapy to the point where now I see eating as a critical part of my day.
Fast forward to the present, I’m once again suffering from my mindset. As a drag queen I get complimented for being “skinny”, but I hate that word. I hate not having a waist, or not having a gut to put a corset over. People judge me because I do want to get bigger. I often don’t feel like myself and I have worked way too hard on myself to feel like this. I have overcome insulting comments from locals, family, and my friends. I broke out of the vicious cycle of growing up in a one-light town and am living every day as who I am, an optimistic proud gay gender-fluid drag queen. I have worked myself to the bone to be happy, but I feel incomplete. Everyone says I am overreacting, but that’s what society tells people when they can’t understand the other party’s thought process. It took one of my childhood friends who recently passed away to reshow me who I was. I went through so much trauma as a child from divorced parents to bullying. I broke out of an old-fashioned mindset, and moved away to become who I feel like I truly am. I have had my heart shattered by a guy I was in love with. I picked myself up through all of the flames and kept moving. I worked on myself and my mental health and am contributing to pioneering drag here in Aspen. I made a name for myself based on who I was, and not how I looked to others. I rose like a phoenix when I thought I would burn with the ashes. The death of my friend drove it home that I have only one life, and no matter what life throws at me, I’m in control of my own destiny and that I am the most perfect imperfection.
No matter what the world or society says, I am whoever I wanna be. With that thought racing through my mind, I have been performing drag part-time in Aspen. I didn’t think it would blow up, but now after 3 months, I host my own shows at Here House, check them out on February 19th & 26th.
What I am saying is that it takes time, but when you are patient, you can see things more clearly. Every day when I look in the mirror, I no longer see a shy, scared farm boy. Instead, I see a beautiful queen, who is changing how the community of Aspen views the art of drag and the LGBTQIA+ community.
Written By Anthony Henson