Saunders chooses unique route to become entertainer

Inspired by his uncle, senior Chevan Saunders first dressed in drag last year.


Luke Hutchinson | Online Editor

Don’t be a drag, just be a drag queen.

This was the mindset senior Chevan Saunders had when he first dressed in drag last year for Kings Island’s annual Pride Night. Drag queens are people who usually dress in feminized clothing and act in a flamboyant manner for the purpose of entertainment. Saunders said his night was rough due to his lack of experience.

“I went in drag and I was a mess because it was my first time in a dress and heels,” Saunders said. “My full-face makeup all together looked terrible.”

Despite the struggles he had for his first time, Saunders said the environment was welcoming: he received compliments on his outfit and helpful tips from other queens.

“Another queen came over to me and showed me a better way to do my eyebrows,” Saunders said. “You basically have to glue them down and put setting powder on them, but mine are so thick that I had to use seven layers while most people only use two.”

Technically anyone can dress in drag, but Saunders said it is a hobby most typical to homosexual men. He also said there are no established rules for gender pronouns when it comes to drag queens.

“Anyone can be a drag queen because it’s just another form or art, but it is typically gay men,” Saunders said. “As for pronouns, I answer to basically anything when I’m in drag”

Saunders’ family was no stranger to drag culture before he started the practice. His uncle, Tyese Rainz, is an award-winning drag queen and prominent LGBT figure in the setting of Cincinnati Pride, Saunders said.

“My uncle is a big inspiration; I remember first learning what drag was in 2011 when I watched RuPaul’s Drag Race because my uncle’s friend was on the show,” Saunders said. “He has hosted the Kings Island Pride Nights, he has hosted Cincinnati Pride for the past ten years, and for a couple years now, he has been hosting Lexington Pride down in Kentucky.”

Even with an established connection to drag, Saunders said his mother did not originally condone his hobby because she wanted to protect him, especially after a hate crime she witnessed that was aimed at his uncle.

“When I first told my mom that I was going to go out in drag and all that, she initially didn’t want me to because she was afraid I would be bullied,” Saunders said. “Last May, my mom, uncle and some friends went to a Waffle House in Monroe, as they traditionally did every weekend. Someone found out my uncle was gay and started beating him up. There ended up being seven people on him.”

Saunders said he reiterated to his mother that he should continue to drag, considering he does not care what others think and his character is structured around humor.

“I told my mom I would be fine because I just have never cared what others think,” Saunders said. “My sense of humor is what gets me through life, and also what I base my drag off of — I’m a comedy queen. You can not care about what others say: that is the key to life.”

Drag queens tend to accentuate certain facial and fashion characteristics for comic, dramatic or even satirical effect. Chevan said a lot of thinking goes into the specifics of his drag routine.

“You have to shave your whole body, and then I like to add foundation, eyeshadow, eyeliner and of course a wig,” Saunders said. “The vibrancy of the eye color depends on the look; you have to match. You can’t just go out in like all black and then have like bright pink and green eyes.”

On June 23, Saunders will be attending his first Cincinnati Pride event in full drag. He said his biggest concern is walking through the city in his six inch heels.

“The heels I’m wearing to pride are about six inches high, so my foot is basically going to be vertical,” Saunders said. “I’ll be walking from the square all the way down to Sawyer Point where I will be meeting people and taking pictures.”

To have a career based solely on drag is rare. Saunders said he plans to do more drag events when he turns 18 in June, but only on the side.

“I turn 18 soon, and I plan on doing pageants and shows where you do stuff like lip syncing and dancing,” Saunders said. “I’m excited because this is a passion that I’ll be making money off of. I would not call it a job since no one makes a ton of money off of it unless you’re famous.”