As Republicans in NC try to make drag shows a crime, we’re pulling together a list of the best performances that deserve your love, from Wilmington to Asheville.
Drag performers in conservative states have seen bills advance or pass in recent months that seek to destroy their public existence, and North Carolina is no longer an exception.
One bill introduced last week in the North Carolina General Assembly would make it a felony to hold a drag show.
House Bill 673 groups topless and exotic dancers and strippers with “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest,” and says it will be “unlawful for a person to engage in adult live entertainment” in public or in a private location where a child is present. A first violation would be a Class A1 misdemeanor, while any subsequent violations would be Class I felonies.
Drag performances are not inherently sexual, but conservative activists have targeted these shows. North Carolina has the second-highest number of protests and threats against drag in 2022, according to GLAAD (Texas came in first).
“I realize, to these lawmakers, that they probably don’t see this as that big of a deal. But it is felt very much as a personal attack,” therapist, educator, and drag performer David Zealy-Wright told the Daily Tar Heel this week, noting the bill threatens jobs, like those who work popular drag brunches.
But drag queens are resilient. Raleigh has had a thriving LGBTQIA+ scene for decades, and performances have been continuing regularly all across the state despite adversities.
In that supportive vein, here are some of the best drag performances going on in North Carolina so you can slay all day (but especially at brunch):
Asheville Drag Brunch – Asheville
Not only is the city’s original and longest-running drag brunch a rollicking good time, Asheville Drag Brunch is also a fundraiser, with all profits going to local charities. The brunches, run by Bearded Lady Productions, are held at venues across town, and the group prides itself on throwing a high-energy show that celebrates “diversity, community, and charitable giving.”
Beyond brunch, there is also a drag queen bar crawl that runs from April through October. The beer-nanza is hosted by Divine Holeburn, who also runs a myriad of lively events like Divine Intervention, The Game Show!, Wine With Divine, The Happiest Hour!, Songo (drag music bingo), and Divine’s Karaoke Kiki.
Upcoming Events: Information can be found on Asheville Drag Brunch’s website.
Brunch Party – Asheville
Brunch and mimosas or Bloody Marys are included in this weekly Sunday event at Asheville Beauty Academy, which started in January 2020. Host duties are split between the hilarious fan-favorite Ida Carolina — voted Miss North Carolina Comedy Queen in 2022 — and Euphoria Eclipse, who recently sashayed her way through a ‘90s-themed brunch.
In addition to drag brunch, Tuesday nights at Asheville Beauty Academy are for trivia and karaoke, and the space is known for fierce, themed dance parties.
The LGBT-friendly bar has glowing Google reviews, with guests speaking highly of the food, bartenders, and local DJs — Ganymede helps shy guests to feel welcome in the space — as well as its inclusivity. One reviewer specifically noted how good a time her teenage daughter had at brunch.
Times: Sundays, Doors open at 11:30 a.m.
Location: Asheville Beauty Academy, 28 Broadway St., Asheville
Buff Faye’s Drag Brunch & Diners – Charlotte Area
Both Charlotte Magazine and Elevate Magazine named Buff Faye’s Drag Brunch & Diner, the longest-running drag brunch in Queen City, the number one drag brunch in the area.
Host Buff Faye throws the brunches at a number of venues across the Charlotte region. All are themed — upcoming ones are “Diznee Princess,” “Mommie Dearest,” “Barbee” and “It’s Britney B@tch” — and often have guest hosts and local favorite queens on the bill. But the cheekiest theme coming up? “Babes, BBQ & Bud Light” – a nod to the (overblown) controversy over a trans promotion by the beer company.
As for Buff Faye herself, the activist has been doing drag for 15 years, hosts a podcast, Dishing with Buff Faye and Funsize, and founded the non-profit Campus Pride. She is known beyond the Tar Heel State — she won National Entertainer of the Year in 2019 and 2020 and placed 5th alternate in Miss Gay America in 2022.
Upcoming Events: Information can be found on Buff Faye’s website.
Diva Royale Drag Queens Show – Raleigh and Charlotte
Looking for a little comedy and dancing to go with your dinner? Diva Royale has got you covered. Advanced tickets are required for Friday and Saturday dinners and Sunday brunch shows at their divalicious festivities, inspired by RuPaul, with three showtimes every weekend.
There are a variety of celebrity impersonators at all of Diva Royale’s nationwide locations, including Dolly Parton, Celine Dion, Adele and Beyoncé, and they pride themselves on treating all guests like queens.
Times: Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., Sundays at 1:30 p.m.
Drag Karaoke and Drag Me to Ibiza – Wilmington
Wilmington’s queer-friendly nightclub, Ibiza, hosts not one, but two weekly events.
Drag Karaoke Night, hosted by Prwincezz Malaysia Kay, takes over the venue on Wednesdays, while Friday nights feature plenty of dancing during two shows. The energetic evenings are hosted by Rashmia Biosh on the second and fourth Fridays of every month, while Tara Nicole Brooks, the club’s entertainment director, takes over on first and third Fridays.
Times: Karaoke – Wednesdays, 8 p.m.; Drag Me to Ibiza – Fridays, 10:30 p.m. and 11:45 p.m.
Location: Ibiza Nightclub, 118 Market St., Wilmington
Drag Me to Brunch – Winston-Salem
Queer Winston-Salem is focused on holding and promoting queer-friendly events in the Triad, and Drag Me to Brunch is their own fabulous event.
Performers come from all over North Carolina to wow the crowd. Their next show, hosted by fan-favorite Brenda the Drag Queen (a.k.a. Greensboro’s Green Queen) and benefiting the Triad Health Project, is beach party-themed. Guests are encouraged to dress accordingly, and most shows get sold out.
Upcoming Events: Information can be found on the Queer Winston-Salem website.
Drag Story Hour – Triangle Area
Across the country, local drag queens help get kids excited about reading through the work of the non-profit organization Drag Story Hour.
The Triangle Area branch has been outspoken against threats to the queer community, and following the news of HB 673, doubled down on a statement to family, friends and allies to help in any way they can, whether it be by showing up to events or donating to stand up against discrimination and violence.
Though their Earth Day programming was postponed due to weather, they regularly put on excellent events for kids, including a Black History Month celebration with local mainstay Stormie Date and Pierce Freelon and family-friendly brunches.
Upcoming Events: Information can be found on DSTTA’s Facebook page.
Haus of LaShay Productions – Triangle Area
If you want to see some of the best drag performances in the Triangle, look no further than Kayla LaShay.
Kayla puts on a number of shows in the area and always looks dusted doing so, whether that’s performing in head-to-toe florals while lip-syncing Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers” or donning a white choir robe for Kesha’s “Praying.”
Her monthly drag brunch at Libations 317 in Raleigh is co-hosted with Emory Starr, while the one at Triangle Beer Co. in Cary includes brunch and photos with queens. She also hosts a regular evening performance at Raleigh’s Green Monkey, and most shows feature special guests — at her April birthday show at Libations 317, she was joined by Marsha Mellows (tag line: “get into the fluff”) and Ruby Liqueur.
Upcoming events: Information can be found on Kayla LaShay’s Instagram.
Illusions, the Show – Raleigh, Charlotte and Greensboro
Burlesque and comedy come together for Illusions, the Show, which prides itself on having “the best celebrity impersonation drag queen show in the nation.” Performers go all out to pay tribute to major pop icons like Madonna, Cher, Whitney Houston, Rihanna and Britney Spears, and they happily cater to bachelorette and gay bachelor parties.
There are four shows each weekend — two dinner and two brunch performances — and you can catch the show in a number of other cities across the country, including Savannah and Myrtle Beach.
Times: Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 1:30 p.m.
Locations: 9021 Tryon Hill Drive, Raleigh; 3217 The Plaza B, Charlotte; Bar Latino, 316 W. Meadowview Rd., Greensboro
Vanity House Events – Charlotte
The queens of the Vanity House host some of the best drag performances in Charlotte.
Vanity House’s head queen, DJ Vanna Vanity, co-hosts So Sassy Sundays at All American Pub with Erica Chanel, who is also the host of the monthly, punny Drag Me to Brunch at Free Will Craft + Vine.
The crew puts on many other events on the weekends, including movie nights (the one on April 28 is a viewing of Sister Act), a queer prom, and various parties, like one at Scorpio, the longest-running LGBTQ bar and nightclub in Queen City. Vanna Vanity is also a staple at Bar Argon, where she regularly spins tunes after RuPaul Drag Race watch parties on Friday nights.
Upcoming Events: Information can be found on Vanity House’s Instagram.
Underground Presents – The Triad Area
If you’ve been looking for entertainment that combines drag with the alternative scene — think plenty of monster and goth — these queens will be your jam.
Founded by drag queens and performance artists Ellis D. and Hysteria Cole, the duo put on self-proclaimed weird and delightfully queer shows around Greenville and Winston-Salem.
Their themed drag and burlesque events are the “house down boots.” A regular event is Freaky Friday, and they’ve put on shows with titles like “Circus of Freaks,” “Haus of Hysterics,” and “Drag Before Christmas” at venues like Monstercade in Winston-Salem and Jarvis Bottle Shop in Greenville.
Two upcoming shows will get country (“Fringe”) and nerdy (“Dungeoncrawl”). In fact, Dungeons & Dragons fans may be especially happy to hear that Underground Presents puts on an annual show called Dungeons & Drag, with the next one on May 20 celebrating the group’s fourth anniversary. And, yes, there will be a cosplay contest.
Upcoming events: Information can be found on Underground Presents’ Instagram.
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