Empress

Nneka Enemkpali (3) attemps to score but is blocked by Baylor player Brittney Griner (42).

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

Brittney Griner and Odyssesy Sims sparked a second-half 34-14 Baylor run to push the Bears to a 75-48 win over Texas.

The Longhorns (9-13, 2-9 Big 12), who have struggled in conference play this season, gave up a big two-handed dunk by Griner, which opened the game up giving the Bears (22-1, 12-0 Big 12) the eventual win. Other than that Griner had an average game with 14 points and three rebounds.

Texas was led by the freshman duo of Imani McGee-Stafford and Empress Davenport, who both tallied 13 points on the night. McGee-Stafford stood tall against the All-American Griner, with a career-high 18 rebounds.

“I use [Griner] as a sort of measuring stick. I was obviously compared to her a lot in high school,” McGee-Stafford said. “I statistically outrebounded her [in tonight’s game]. I can’t say I am satisfied because we lost but I wasn’t the freshman tonight. I can say that.”

Texas kept the game close for the most part in the first half as they threw everything they had at Griner, double-teaming, sometimes triple-teaming her. The Longhorns even caused the 6-foot-8 star to play just nine minutes in the first half after she failed to produce. Baylor only had a 34-25 lead at halftime.

The second half was a different story, however. Up by just nine, Griner took an inbound pass and went up for the dunk, stopping all momentum Texas had.

Even with the inspired performance from Stafford and Davneport, the Longhorns were outscored 41-23 in the second half and fell to the defending national champions by 28 points.

“Typical Baylor performance where they are just dominating on the defensive end,” head coach Karen Aston said. “More than anything I would love to see our team prepare and compete on a daily basis the way we did for this evenings game.”

Freshman Empress Davenport has found her niche after a slow start to her career, averaging 7.2 points in Big 12 play.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

About 19 months ago, an excited Duncanville High junior had to decide one thing. Did she want to become a Cowgirl, a Jayhawk or a Longhorn?

The 17-year-old Empress Davenport decided to move about 200 miles south and become a Longhorn.

Although Gail Goestenkors was the head coach when she committed to Texas, current head coach Karen Aston knew Davenport would be an integral part of the Longhorns’ future success.

“Empress is incredibly competitive and comes from Duncanville, where the environment has been very competitive, so she understands how to compete,” Aston said at the beginning of the season. “It has put her at an advantage in practice every day, and I expect her to play a lot.”

While starting 14 of the 16 games so far this season, Davenport has averaged 7.2 points a game, sixth most on the team. She has also shot 34.4 percent from the floor and recorded 20 steals, ranking second on the team.

Davenport wasn’t always putting up numbers this good every game. The freshman started slow, scoring minimally and showing almost no presence on the court. Whatever was causing this slump is gone now.

The holiday cheer between Christmas and New Year’s must have gotten to the 5-foot-7-inch guard as she has been a vital part of the young Longhorns team ever since. In her game against Big 12 rival Oklahoma, Davenport recorded a career-high 12 points and seven rebounds, which brought her team within eight points of a win against its ranked opponent.

“Empress and I talked a lot about roles and how she can get better before Christmas break,” Aston said after the rivalry game. “She has really responded in the last two games.”

Davenport didn’t look back.

In her next game, she turned in an even better performance against new Big 12 foe West Virginia. Davenport scored a career-high 14 points as her team fell in a dramatic loss.

“[Davenport] continues to do what she is asked to do,” Aston said. “She has really picked it up over the past two games, especially in rebounding.”

Although the aspiring anesthesiologist, who has continually stepped up her game from the start of conference play, isn’t frightened by the Big 12, her team might be as they have gone 0-5, the worst start of conference play in school history.

Aston has put a lot of focus on her younger players in the hope that they will carry the team out of the downward spiral it is headed into.

“The people that are taking ownership are really young, so I am asking freshmen and a sophomore and junior college transfer to take a lot of ownership,” Aston said. “It is hard for them.”

While the Longhorns have lost their last seven games, Aston is staying optimistic that her team is getting better every day.

“If they had bad attitudes or if they weren’t trying, I would be very frustrated, but I don’t feel that way,” Aston said. “It is not in them to quit. They are preparing better, but when they get into the games, they are still young and they forget what we have prepared. That will come with time.”

Davenport, as she continues to rise as a leader of this Longhorn team, is hopeful that her team will come out of this decline with a new look and a new way to win. The enthusiastic guard is ready to take on the rest of the season with the hard-hitting attitude she is known for.

“The Big 12 is a difficult conference and we have to stay aggressive,” Davenport said. “That’s how we get numbers. Everyone goes out and plays aggressive.”

Chad Savells, a corporate services assistant and education student at Austin Community College is a leader in the GLBT community.

Photo Credit: Ryan Smith | Daily Texan Staff

The lone, voluptuous figure of Bianca Fairchild saunters onto the dance floor wearing a tight, red, knee-length dress.

Her blonde-brown hair is teased high and the silver ring on her finger scintillates in the softly lit room. It’s performance time, and as Pink’s “Sober” begins to play, she perches a hand on her hip and opens her mouth to lip-synch.


It’s Saturday night at Charlie’s, a gay bar a block west of the Capitol. Fairchild hosts Drag Idol, a charity lip-synching contest held by the United Court of Austin, a nonprofit that raises money for organizations related but not limited to the health of people in the GLBTQ community. This year, Drag Idol raised $605 in donations for the Trevor Project, an organization that provides crisis and suicide prevention services to the GLBTQ youth.


When Drag Idol comes to a close, Fairchild makes a quick escape to the bar’s kitchen. She rubs off her heavy face makeup, removes her prosthetic breasts and hip padding, snaps off the dangling earrings and becomes Chad Savells — a man in his mid-30s. Savells is a corporate services assistant during the day and an elementary education student at Austin Community College at night.


“While there are drag queens who do want to get sex changes, I’ve always enjoyed being a boy,” Savells said. “For me, [drag] is just a creative outlet. It’s like theater; I’m putting on a costume.”


As a child growing up in his hometown of Shreveport, La., Savells enjoyed joining his family on camping, hunting and fishing trips but also played with his cousin’s Barbie dolls. Later as a young adult, he briefly dabbled with drag, performing in talent shows and drag pageants. Savells admitted he wasn’t enthusiastic about it then because he was still figuring out what he wanted to do with his life.


Nonetheless, he kept his activities a secret. His relationship with his mother was already strained after his cousin revealed that Savells was gay. Although, nowadays, he still keeps in touch with his mother on a weekly basis, they avoid talking about his sexuality or female impersonation.


“My mom couldn’t accept it, and my grandpa disowned me,” Savells said. “I was always the black sheep growing up.”


After moving to Dallas and then Austin in 2004, Savells ­— alone and new to the city — decided to go socialize at the now-closed Rainbow Cattle Company, a Western-themed bar. The United Court of Austin was throwing a drag show and, after meeting new people, Savells decided to return to drag and join the organization.


“I’m such a shy and quiet person normally,” Savells said, describing himself as antisocial at times. “Being in drag is my way of breaking out of who I am.”


Unlike most nonprofits, the organization, or Court, is run similarly to a traditional monarchy, with an emperor and empress crowned each year. Savells, under the stage name Bianca Fairchild, currently reigns as the twice-elected 17th empress along with emperor Bobby Barnett. Although anyone devoted to the Court’s cause can be crowned, the emperor historically has been a man or lesbian and empress has been a female impersonator, Savells said.


“I’m lucky I can take care of myself on my own and have a steady job, but not everyone is blessed enough to support themselves,” Savells said. “This is my way of giving back to those who can’t.”


When not performing his duties for the Court, Savells spends most of his day-to-day life as a man at his office job downtown, taking ACC classes or doing homework. Opening his fridge, he pulls out a 5-hour ENERGY shot and swears it’s his source of survival.


Though Fairchild might be spotted at a bar for a charity event, Savells said he’s not keen on the bar scene or nightlife. With his busy schedule, he prefers spending free time relaxing at his apartment near South Congress Avenue. He jokes that the main lover in his life is Ringo, a friendly Norwegian forest cat that looks more like fluff than cat.


In his small, but tidy, living room is a dresser that shows the first indication of Savells’ drag life. Framed photos of Fairchild and other drag queens, trophies and glittering crowns line the shelf. One of the crowns, a heavy dark metal one crafted in New York, cost $500.


Savells gingerly picks up the crown and puts it on, turning his head side to side to demonstrate his poise at keeping it on.


Come August, when a new empress is crowned, Savells plans on retiring from female impersonation. An empress can pay up to $10,000 out of pocket for travel and other expenditures, Savells said. While he would like to stay active with the Court’s causes and still dress up every now and then, drag requires time and money he’s refocusing to his career plans. He hopes to transfer to UT in the fall of 2012 to earn his teaching degree.