Drag Survivor contestants look forward to the next show at Oilcan Harry’s


Pu Ying Huang

Chanel Andrews performs Poor Unfortunate Souls from “The Little Mermaid” on Drag Survivor at gay bar Oilcan Harry’s. 

Kelly Eisenbarger

Lavender LaFleur pinned a bright red curly wig to her hair. In the midst of contouring, padding, glittering and practicing her lip-syncing, LaFleur transformed into a six-foot tall Merida from Disney Pixar’s summer hit “Brave.”

On early Wednesday evenings in the middle of Austin’s Drag Survivor season, Jonathan Krugman becomes Lavender LaFleur.

“It’s so much fun preparing for [a] show, whether it’s scrounging last minute for another piece to your costume or listening to your song on repeat for days,” LaFleur said.

Drag Survivor is Austin’s version of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” a reality TV show on Logo. Contestants dress according to the weekly theme and perform in a lip-syncing competition. At the end of each performance, a panel of judges critiques and asks the contestants to pick a fellow competitor to be voted out. Thus far, the contest has been such a success that it has been scheduled for five seasons at gay bar Oilcan Harry’s.

Kelly Kline, the show’s host and co-creator, could give RuPaul a run for her money.

“We wanted to create something that wasn’t your typical drag contest with the pageantry and crowns,” Kline said. “The owners of Oilcan Harry’s and I got together to devise a contest that would focus on lip-syncing and not your costume. They could come out in a trash bag but if their lip-syncing is on point they will advance.”

Lady-Grackle Birdbreath is a contestant in Drag Survivor who calls herself a “street trash drag queen.” Birdbreath’s style of drag is the antithesis of the glamorous exaggerated beauty-queen drag of the nineties.

“At first I was really disappointed because I felt judged for performing my different style of drag but I’ve found my niche at Kelly Kline’s show,” Birdbreath said. “Immediately Lavender LaFleur came right up and started talking to me and I quickly learned how amazing she was and ever since then we’ve become Drag Sisters.”

Birdbreath claimed that, with the emergence of shows like Drag Survivor, drag shows in Austin continue to improve.

“Lady-Grackle has really expanded my notion of what drag is and can be. Seeing her doing her thing makes me feel free to go outside my comfort zone,” LaFleur said. “I’m only six months into doing drag so I’m trying to find out what sort of persona I want my drag character to be and seeing all different types of styles and performances really helps fuel my imagination.”

Birdbreath can be found performing at the Poo Poo Platter variety show, which bills itself as “a monthly shit show of drag variety,” at Elysium. Her next showing is Friday.

Every drag queen has her own preshow ritual. LaFleur focuses on doing her makeup and finishing a drink, while Birdbreath needs her “three cigarettes and four shots of tequila” to combat
preshow jitters.

The end of the performance, for LaFleur, is even more nerve-racking than the beginning.

“Having to stand up there next to your fellow contestants — and I’m friends with all of them — who did an amazing job and pick one out to leave is the hardest part,” LaFleur said.

Printed on Thursday, November 29, 2012 as: Austin's Drag Survivor has queens preparing for friends and fame