On the surface, Miss Guise and Lola Monet couldn’t be much more different.
Guise is a fierce punk rocker in the mold of Paramore’s Hayley Williams, while Monet is a bubbly blonde with more good humor than situational awareness.
Despite wildly different exteriors, the two have a lot in common. Both Guise and Monet were at-first reluctant drag queens readying to participate in their first Glitz drag show Friday and Saturday. They’ll be joined by almost 20 other kings and queens, including Sonique from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Tenderoni and Kelexis Davenport.
“When I first saw that stage, I said, ‘No, no, no,” said Mitchell Leggett, who performs under the Lola Monet moniker. “But as I got confident in my abilities — let’s call them abilities — I got more confident. I’m excited for it. It’s Juneau’s biggest drag show.”
Richard Carter, who goes by Miss Guise on stage, said he’s especially excited for this year’s show because it doubles as an observation of the Stonewall Uprising’s 50th anniversary.
In 1969, a police raid on a known LGBTQ-friendly bar, the Stonewall Inn, in New York City sparked resistance. The raid and the brouhaha that followed quickly led to spontaneous and sometimes violent demonstrations. The incident and subsequent solidarity galvanized LGBTQ communities across the U.S. On the one year anniversary of Stonewall, there were Pride parades held in major U.S. cities.
Performers were tight-lipped about exactly how the show will pay homage to the civil rights milestone, but based on rehearsal conversations, the audience should expect to see police uniforms.
Both Carter and Leggett are eager for the big nights to come, but a year and a half ago neither had even tried drag.
Each performer said in hindsight they can see their love for drag has roots in childhood. Carter said while drag is much different from putting on a Halloween costume, he loved the performative holiday as a kid. Leggett said he remembers enjoying dress-up as a child, too.
However, external and internal pressures kept each of them off stage for a long time.
“I didn’t want to do drag for a really long time, and I think it’s because as a gay man, it’s something people expect you to do,” Carter said. “People had been asking me for years, ‘Why don’t you do drag?’ Almost like I was supposed to as a gay man. I was like, ‘I don’t know it’s just not really for me.’”
However, Carter said he could tell it was something performers put a lot of work into their craft, and he wanted to see if he was up to the challenge.
“At one point, I just decided to challenge myself to see if it’s something I could do because it’s really pretty challenging,” Carter said. “It’s a whole different facet of skills required. It’s such a warm and welcoming and encouraging environment that I just kind of stuck with it.”
Leggett said his parents have struggled to accept his sexual orientation, which initially played a part in his aversion to performing drag on stage.
Still, when watching drag, Leggett was struck by how much fun performers seemed to be having on stage. That freedom piqued his interest.
After some encouragement from Juneau drag superstar Gigi Monroe, who Leggett said is like a mother to him, Leggett tried drag for the first time in the friendly confines of downtown Juneau bar Rendezvous.
“That was a lot of fun,” Leggett said.
He said he’s glad he gave it a try and to be part of the tight-knit Juneau drag family.
“I am a lot happier being who I am,” Leggett said. “Sometimes family isn’t blood.”
Time thought and effort went into the making of Lola Money and Miss Guise.
Both Leggett and Carter said they formed their onstage identities to fill niches they perceived as empty.
“I had a hard time finding that campy humor,” Leggett said.
So he crafted a guileless, glamorous throwback to intentionally silly drag with the clueless and sweet Lola Monet.
“She has no idea what’s going on,” Leggett said. “She thinks she’s funny all the time, but is probably only actually funny half of the time.”
Consideration also went into crafting a name to match the personality.
Leggett wasn’t entirely sure where the Lola part of the stage name came from. He said it’s not meant to be a Kinks’ song reference, but “Space Jam” and “Copacabana” may have implanted the idea. The Monet surname has a clearer origin — it sounds like money, and Lola Monet is a material girl.
“She’s still happy about the fact she got a tiara last month,” Leggett said.
Carter said Miss Guise is a pun that works on a few different levels.
“It’s meant to be a play on words,” Carter said. “It’s kind of like a triple entendre. It’s Miss Guise, like disguise, so almost a homophone, and also missing guys, and it’s also just a name with the miss title.”
The new wave-ish aesthetic is both something Carter said he doesn’t often see as well as something that’s in his comfort zone.
“Drag is a really interesting way to let those expectations go, those gender norms go, and explore gender fluidity and gender identity, and being sort of a badass chick is what I use as a bridge to connect the dots and get myself into drag, and I just love the whole aesthetic,” Carter said. “There’s a niche for everything. That’s what’s so wonderful about the drag family we have here in town, you get a little bit of everything.”
Know & Go
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Centennial Hall, 101 Egan Drive.
Admission: Admission costs $15-100, and tickets are available at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center, Hearthside Books and online at JAHC.org.
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.