At a time when transgender kids are the targets of elected officials, gay bars are shot up by right wing extremists, and queer people’s access to healthcare and basic civil rights are being questioned by the courts, one of the bravest things a man in America can do is put on a wig, heels, and a full face of makeup.
Despite the recently intensified climate of LGBTQ harassment and hate, drag queen Melanin “Moneybag” Monroe is serving up several shows to collect canned goods and toy donations to help Richmond families through the holiday season.
It should come as no surprise that Monroe is fearless in the face of prejudice — that’s the entire reason she came into being a queen.
“When I started getting out of my internalized homophobia, out of nowhere there was Melanin jumping off of tables,” she says. “Melanin is sultry, sexy, and Black. She comes from a place of wanting to express my feminine side which is something I wasn't always able to do, so she has this extra layer of confidence.”
From the parking lot of Diversity Richmond to the dancefloor at Fallout, any drag show featuring Melanin Monroe will exude high energy, fast-paced dancing, and a “bag full of tricks.” She earned her claim to fame as one of the city’s best stunt queens thanks to her reputation for jumping off of things into a death drop, a classic drag dance move.
“I take a lot of influence from Black women of all eras, but ‘90s styles and female rappers like Lil Kim are a big inspiration,” says Monroe. “I just want to embody that fly, sexy aunty who is just trying to look good while she is out here taking care of business in these streets.”
- Scott Elmquist
To celebrate six years as a fixture of the local drag scene, Monroe decided it was time to give back in a big way. Her series of charity shows kicks off on Saturday, Dec. 3rd with For Da Babies, a holiday toy drive benefiting the Lucian Hunter Foundation of Hope [a nonprofit which raises donations to support children, families and bus drivers. Read more here].
Doors open at 7 p.m. at Tang & Biscuit with performances from drag royalty Sutton Iman, Jasmen Clitopatra, and Jack Trade beginning at 8 p.m. Campy queen Wette Midler will serve as co-host and lead attendees through an ugly sweater contest and a prize raffle.
Monroe couldn’t recall if any of the talent had already claimed Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You;” however, she was certain about the purpose of the money and the performance she would be delivering. “The focus is to get people to shell out as much money as possible for these kids,” she says. “I hope people will come out and bring a toy to donate because I, for one, will be serving up a nasty Mary J. Blige Christmas moment.”
Monroe has also planned a charity drag brunch the following day for those who like to turn in early but don’t want to miss out on the fun. Hosted at Lunch & Supper in Scott’s Addition, Making Spirits Bright will benefit RVA Community Fridges. Attendees are asked to bring a canned good to donate, wear their ugliest Xmas sweater, and be ready to lip sync for their lives.
Beau Tox and Monroe could not be more excited about the drag brunch’s lineup. The latter performer will be the show’s only drag king.
“I’m literally obsessed with Beau Tox as they just joined the House of Trade with Jack as their drag daddy,” says Monroe. “With how excited everyone is to do good, this is going to be a lot of fun with a big impact.”
The last event of the weekend is Monroe’s highly-melanated signature show: Black Girl Magic. The Sunday night celebration at Fallout on Dec. 4th will also be the three year anniversary party of the show. The venue’s December beneficiary is Toys for Tots, so there will be donation boxes around the club so partygoers can pay it forward as they dance the night away.
“Over the last three years of hosting Black Girl Magic, I’ve gotten to meet so many different kinds of Black talents from all across the mid-Atlantic,” says Monroe. “Just being able to share that space and watch everyone feel so comfortable on stage is what matters the most to me. Being able to do that three years in a row makes me really happy.”
If you’re out of town the weekend of December 3rd through 4th, you haven’t missed all of your chances to catch Melanin “Moneybag” Monroe in action. As the host of Papi’s bingo and drag brunches, Richmonders have plenty of opportunities to see Monroe’s moves on stage.
Although many drag queens see an appearance on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” as the ultimate goal of their careers, Monroe measures her success based on how much she can give back to the community and improve the performances she serves up to her fans.
“My goal in drag is to just continually better my craft and make lots of money as I do it,” she says. “I never know where I am going to go next, but I am always interested in the next level.”