Drag class helps grow drag scene in Austin

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Photo Credit: Ashley Ephraim | Daily Texan Staff

For a Tuesday night, Rain on 4th is unusually packed. Eager onlookers crowd around the glowing stage as drag queen Tammi Gachi, dressed as little orphan Annie, switches effortlessly between the ballad “Tomorrow” and PTAF’s “Boss Ass Bitch.”

This is Sabel Scities’ drag class. Drag class is a competition and class for up-and-coming drag queens to hone and refine their skills. Currently in its sixth semester, Scities’s drag class takes place every Tuesday from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. at the gay club, Rain on 4th. Throughout the duration of the class, students will be given a drag mentor, complete challenges and receive critiques on their drag in front of a packed audience.

Sabel Scities, whose real name is Timothy Byars, started the class as a means to teach new queens the values that were instilled in him when he was learning drag.

“People were complaining girls had a bad attitude and (there was) a misconception people had about what drag actually is,” Byars said. “So I wanted to teach them the drag I was taught and hope that that would inspire them to go through channels rather than be entitled to gigs or money or status.”

According to Amanda Hold, a former drag class student who asked to go by her stage name for this article, the class is what kicked off her career as a queen.

“Drag class took me through everything I needed to know to be a drag queen basically,” Hold said. “I came to that competition only putting a wig on three times in my entire life and I walked out of there knowing how to paint my face, how to pad, how to dress myself, how to style hair … they basically help you figure
everything out.”

The class currently consists of six students and accepts both drag kings (the female equivalent of a drag queen) and drag queens. According to Byars, it was a struggle at first to find people interested in starting drag, but most new queens now consider it a stepping stone in their careers.

“I just put interest out there, Byars said. “I’ve been doing it for six semesters now so I’m lucky that a lot of people want to do it. For anybody that has been doing it for less than two years now they feel like it’s a boot camp.”

Although Byars’ class is helping to put new queens into the world every year, the drag scene is becoming increasingly competitive every year. The drag world has recently seen significant national exposure through the popular TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” While the show has increased people’s interest in and attendance to drag shows, Byars said it has made it significantly harder for queens, especially newer queens, to book gigs.

“Ten years ago I didn’t have to think about Drag Race as an element to my paycheck,” Byars said. “Some venues only book Drag Race girls now where they use to book girls who wanted to be there and had achieved being there.”

But the current competitiveness isn’t stopping new queens and kings from doing everything in their power to achieve their dreams. Jimmy Tran, a current drag student who goes by the stage name Tammi Gachi, said that what makes the drag class and the drag community so special is a willingness to help and support each other.  

“What’s so special about drag class is that it’s a drag-help-drag kind of thing where drag inspires other drag and drag inspires other people to do drag,” Tran said. “I know there’s prizes and stuff but the most important thing is that its people doing what they love to do.”