There is plenty of excitement and nerves inside the Camel’s basement with setting powder, panty hose, stick-on nails and wigs all around. Six drag artists are getting ready for the first night of The Least Bad Drag Performer of this Particular Group's third installment on Oct. 9.
The Least Bad Drag series is like a reality show, but live onstage. It was created by local drag queen Chicki Parm, who took inspiration from the popular TV show, “Ru Paul’s Drag Race,” and her admiration for other shows like “Survivor” and “Big Brother.”
The drag competition takes place every other Monday at the Camel for four weeks with different challenges. The first night consisted of lip sync performances and runway looks with a "neon" theme. The performances included dancers, props, movie scenes and choreography.
- Scott Elmquist
- Contestants onstage for the Least Bad Drag Performer series.
Alaya Armon has wanted to be a part of the show for a long time. She has been doing drag for about a year, “practicing and evolving,” Armon says. Her drag comes from a place of campiness and creativity.
Beau Tox is the first drag king to be a part of The Least Bad Drag. He has crafted and sewed for fun for a long time, but has only done drag for about a year-and-a-half. It’s an intense hobby, he says, investing at least $1,500 in his drag for the competition — with just an abs plate costing $200.
Carney Val hadn’t been on stage for six months, but she was confident and excited for the comeback after using the time to perfect her drag.
Daya B. Tease’s drag comes from her fine arts background, where she can showcase (artistically) going from 2D to 3D. She’s been doing makeup for six years and performing for over one year. Her nerves were at an 11 out of 10, but that shows investment, she says, adding that in the competition, if you get comfortable, you slip. She won the first night, accruing her points from the lip sync performance and her neon look. Her performance took on a superhero theme with two back-up dancers, and her feline neon look was self-made.
- Scott Elmquist
- Daya B Tease performing during an event.
Kris Rose has been doing drag for eight years. She felt a lot of pressure and just didn’t want to be the first one to go home but is excited for the competition.
Amethyst Douglas has been doing drag for about nine years; her drag is “anything and everything,” she explains. Douglas was the first to be eliminated in a tight race, after losing to Kris Rose in the eliminating lip sync.
The judges and prizes
Identity Crisis is one of the competition’s guest judges alongside Mercedes Douglas. Crisis is excited for what the contestants will bring. She compares her judging style to Paula Abdul on “American Idol”: polite, fair, but critical in terms of looking to help the contestants’ development. Her drag is at the intersection of “spooky and stupid,” she explains.
The Least Bad Drag is Chicki Parm’s baby, she says. The nerves come out when she is a guest in someone else’s show, but with this series, she doesn’t even have time to be backstage and let the nerves set in.
The last day of the competition will be on Nov. 20. The winner will get a prize package valued at more than $5,000, with $3,000 of that in cash. The package includes bookings all over the so-called DMV (D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area) and “drag goodies,” like wigs and more, Parm explains.
“That’s one of the things I’ve really tried to focus on is getting a really good price package because that’s when you’re able to get the best out of [contestants],” Parm says.
The contestants also get weekly stipends for every week they last, also inspired by Parm’s favorite reality shows. “These competitions are expensive. Just the first week, it’s so expensive,” Parm says. “It’s so much effort and work.”
By the end of the show’s last installment in the spring, every performance had the production value of a play, Parm adds. Nothing has changed much since the first time putting on The Least Bad Drag because she knew exactly what she wanted from the get-go — except a bigger package, she says.
Chicki Parm has been doing drag for nine years, becoming fulltime five years ago, something to be proud of in a mid-sized city, she says. Above all else, she is a club rat.
“Drag kind of becomes part of that going-out culture. I produce a lot of events, so it's up to myself and other drag performers in the city to make a lot of the nightlife happen,” she explains. “I kind of consider drag performers to be often leaders within the queer nightlife scene. And I mean, my ass is kind of owned by regulars.”
Chicki Parm performs at Thirsty’s on Wednesdays for her regular shows. She will also start at a new bar on Thursdays in the new year. Tickets for The Least Bad Drag Performer of this Particular Group are $8 and available at TheCamel.org. The next show is on Nov. 6 at 9 p.m. at The Camel.
The writer Gabriela de Camargo Gonçalves was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil. She is a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University graduating in December and a current intern at Style Weekly, while also leading VCU's independent student newspaper The Commonwealth Times.