HAINES — Attendees of the Southeast Alaska State Fair who didn’t see “Barbie” on screen got a chance to see her live thanks to Juneau Drag’s Lamia Monroe who brought the doll to life via a drag performance Friday night.
The queen’s set was one of many put on by the six Juneau Drag performers who traveled from the capital city to Haines for a debut performance in front of hundreds of attendees of all ages cheering and jumping during the two-hour headliner event.
It’s hard to think that despite the hundreds of people who attended the event, just months prior, there was talk of the show being called off before the queens even hit the stage.
When it announced Juneau Drag would be one of the many performances at the 54th annual fair, the Southeast Alaska State Fair board and the group faced an onslaught of local scrutiny in Haines via comments posted online and shared at Haines Borough Assembly meetings expressing opposition to the performance, citing it as inappropriate and “adult only.”
Those comments did not sway the board or the group to call off the performance, but a decision was made to push back the start time of the performance to later in the evening “in consideration of the concerns we heard from some parents.”
“We’ve received hundreds of letters, visits, and calls from the community; some opposed to Juneau Drag performing at the Fair, and the majority in favor,” the board stated in early May. “We took a close look at the substantive issues people raised with hosting drag performance here, and have found those concerns do not warrant us removing Juneau Drag from our line up.”
The board took a stance to further defend drag as the same as any other art form hosted at the fair and called it as something that can be performed to be appropriate for all ages.
“Indeed, Drag as an all-ages performance is long established worldwide,” it stated. “Further, there is no evidence to support the idea that Drag performers are predators of children, we find the allegation of such offensive towards the performers we happily partner with and support, and we do not give such an argument any credence.”
According to Gigi Monroe, the emcee and a performer, the number of people and support the show garnered Friday night took her off guard.
“I definitely didn’t expect this — it’s really just incredible, it’s very emotional and very heartwarming,” she said. “I knew that the Haines community was fantastic and really supportive, but this is just above and beyond, and I feel like everyone is so here with us and connected.”
Monroe said she hopes the connection felt during the performance expands into the Haines community, and inspires others to feel more comfortable and supported in being who they are.
“Coming out I was 17 and I needed stuff like this — I needed others — I needed a community to give me a round of applause letting me know that I was welcome,” Monroe said to the crowd. “If you need to feel appreciated and loved and seen — this is your moment.”
“I hope that it means something to the people who feel the most isolated and the most afraid that the show has the ability to reach people wherever they’re at, and give them a little bit of sparkle and a little bit of hope,” she said.
She thanked the crowd for the support during the period when the show faced scrutiny.
“I know that the board has to deal with some community feedback this year and I just feel like they didn’t have to go to bat for us, but they did and the community did, and now we get to reap the rewards and have a great show together,” she said.
Luke the Duke of Bell, a Juneau Drag performer, agreed and said he was taken aback at the “huge community” that showed up for the show in Haines. The show was his first time performing at the fair.
It was awesome — the energy never died down,” he said. “It was perfect.”
He hopes the show might inspire people to be more comfortable performing their own shows or hosting an amateur night in the future.
“The whole time I’ve been here I never had any negativity whatsoever, it’s hard for me to believe that there is a negative part here — I didn’t see that at all,” he said.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at email@example.com or (651)-528-1807.