“I wasn’t nervous—I had so much adrenaline. But after the first song was over, I couldn’t stop shaking.”
Christian, a 22-year-old UMKC student and part-time drag performer, recounts his first time stepping onstage not as himself, but as Sheila Tacku (pronounced “she’ll attack you”), a fierce and unpredictable woman.
“You never know what you’re going to get with Sheila,” he says.
Christian found a new, inclusive family in the local drag community after watching an amatuer performance at Hamburger Mary’s and contacting Boris Tudeth, a well-known local drag king (he was on the cover of Kansas City’s The Pitch newspaper in July). Boris welcomed Christian with open arms, and he hasn’t looked back.
After moving from Omaha to escape a tumultuous home life and finish his education, drag became a way for Christian to explore fashion and identity, make friends, and channel his anxieties from school into something positive and creative.
“Sheila saved Christian,” he says. “I’ve never said that out loud, but I think it’s true.”
Since that first show back in February, where he performed to songs by Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” and Kesha’s “Take It Off,” Christian has continued to work on his stage
presence and performance quality at both amatuer and paid shows.
He attributes a lot of his success so far to his mentors, Boris Tudeth and Cynthia Doll.
“If I’m having a problem with something, then Boris is the one I go to,” Christian says.
Cynthia helps him in other ways, like going shopping for new costumes with him and helping him with his makeup—a skill that can be difficult to master without years of experience.
Cynthia is always honest with Christian, which he appreciates.
“She’s the one that says, ‘Your makeup looks busted,’” he laughs.
Shopping for dresses and learning to walk in heels has provided a new creative outlet for Christian, who embraces his masculinity but has an eye for fashion and grandeur.
He says he grew up watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. His favorite queens include Jujubee and Shangela.
Now, Christian has some drag secrets of his own.
“Thrift stores are really good if you need outfits,” he says. “You can get an ugly dress and make it beautiful.”
One of his favorite stores to peruse the aisles at is Viva Fashion.
The birth Sheila seems to have influenced Christian’s confidence, something he mentions. He recently got his belly button pierced, and just a few weeks ago, he wore heels to class for the first time ever.
“Sheila is everything Christian is afraid to be,” he says.
Last month, Queer Eye’s Skyler Jay visited UMKC to discuss his experiences with the show, and he shared some anecdotes about his past as a drag performer. Skyler referred to drag as a “gray area” – a safe place to play with gender roles and intertwine femininity and masculinity.
“That was such a good quote from him,” Christian says of Skyler’s statement.
With his name becoming more familiar within the Kansas City drag scene, Christian is eager to see what the future brings. He has three performances this month, including a Halloween-themed event he’s planning with Pride Alliance; UMKC’s drag show, happening on Oct. 19; and at Hamburger Mary’s on Oct. 28.
As someone who used to shy away from self-expression, Christian’s fearlessness now fills up the room.
Does he have any words of advice for those who haven’t caught up to him?
“Live your truth and be who you want to be, Barbie girl.”