Kenneth Theariale St. Cyr Stallings is a man of many names.
He prefers Theariale St. Cyr, but his mother strategically gave him another name as well. "I'll tell you what Ken Stallings is," he says. "Ken Stallings is, believe it or not, for white America. That's how things are, that my mom had to give me a white-sounding name for white America. Isn't that terrible? She said Kenneth is for white America, and Theariale is for her. So I go by Theariale."
In the Denver drag world, St. Cyr is best known by his dazzling drag-queen alter ego's moniker, Felony Misdemeanor. As a member of both Denver's LGBTQ+ and black communities, Misdemeanor has long been outspoken about the lack of diversity and inclusivity in Denver drag. Now she's taking action to bring some fresh faces into focus with a new drag show, Black Diamonds, digitally premiering Sunday, June 21, after Denver's virtual Pride parade.
Black Diamonds will have an all-black cast of drag performers from the Denver area. It's a platform the city's drag scene desperately needs.
"I hope to bring a much-needed missing demographic of drag shows," Misdemeanor says. "As you're aware, Denver is predominantly white, and in that aspect, there's not a lot of black drag performers that are invited to shows. There's a lot of queens that are underused, or not even used at all, or don't even have a place to perform. So with Black Diamonds — granted, it's going to be digital for now — I plan to bring forth the best black queer performers in the state of Colorado and surrounding areas."
Every industry is plagued with biases, and the drag world, despite its deep roots in communities of color, is no exception, explains Misdemeanor. Past attempts at predominantly black, or even just more inclusive, drag shows have not always been met with much support in Denver. Even when black performers are included, it's usually the same few queens, and they don't receive the same adoration as the white queens.
"There are a few black queens that are the faces of black drag in Denver," she continues. "There's myself, there's Zarah, there's Menaje, just to name three, but there's very few. Each show is pretty much inundated with the white queens." And it's not just getting booked that's the issue: "When a black queen is there, granted, they're there, but in reality, I notice the black queens make less tips most of the time, and also, usually if the queen is not really dancing, like really hard-core dancing, she doesn't get much applause, either — whereas my white counterparts can go out there and walk around and serve a look, or do this or do that to minimal effect but still get all the admiration, all the applause, all the cheers, all the money."
The Black Diamonds commitment to diversity doesn't just mean having an all-black cast. It also means searching for and hiring new performers.
"Myself, I'm recycled, Khrys'taaal is recycled, because you know they're not really branching out and testing other queens when there are so many more talented other black queens and queer performers here in Denver," Misdemeanor says. "I'm finding black queer performers that I never knew about, because they're so underutilized."
Through word-of-mouth recommendations and asking people to tag their favorite black queer performers in social media posts, Felony cast a total of twelve people (in addition to herself) for the Black Diamonds premiere: Kendra D Crase, Bootzy Edwards Collynz, Krystal Towers, Menaje E'toi, Lee Lee the Twirling Goddess, Venus Sexton, Lisa Frank 666, Coco Bardot, "Juicyy" Jay Flora, Porsha DeMarco-Douglas, Shiksa Mess and Miss Zarah.
Apathy toward diversity is simply not an option for Felony Misdemeanor.
"It's important to me because, well, I'm diverse," she says. "I'm a black queen, and I can only speak from my experiences, what it's like to have to be diversity in Denver," she explains. Fresh faces on the scene also just makes for better entertainment: "It gets boring; it does. You see the same people all the time, and myself included, you've seen that outfit before, you've seen that performance before," she confesses. "And with diversity, it will bring so much more fresh air to an already stale environment. No tea or shade to anyone, but the environment here in Denver is stale. Everyone is doing the same shit. Yeah, there are some people who are doing shock, but that's for shock value. No one's really progressing here in Denver, and with more diversity coming in, that can definitely change."
That change begins this Sunday, June 21, with the first Black Diamonds showcase, sponsored by Denver PrideFest. Felony Misdemeanor will host and perform two numbers, one solo and one with the whole cast plus other members of the black queer community. Because it is a special PrideFest event, all of the performances will be pre-recorded. It will also be (mostly) appropriate for all ages.
"We are definitely family-friendly, but I do know that there will be some explicit words," she says. "Black people are not explicit in that sense. We are family-friendly. And I encourage people to show their families that we're out here. There won't be anything overly sexual or anything like that, but there will, I'm sure, be some heavy tones dealing with racism and things of that sort."
Though the PrideFest Black Diamonds show exclusively includes Colorado performers, Felony hopes to showcase out-of-state artists in later shows.
"With this first show, I wanted to focus mainly on the people of Colorado, because again, we are underused, and the next one will be more Colorado-heavy as well," she says. "But I do plan on reaching out to other cities. I heard there's really good folks in Kansas and Oklahoma. I want to reach all the other places where they have black queens who aren't featured in any of their shows and maybe bring them some attention here."
She also hopes later shows will be able to be broadcast live, so that there can be more interaction between the host, audience and performers.
As soon as Misdemeanor is able to host in-person shows again, Black Diamonds will transition from a digital format to the stage at Denver's X Bar as a monthly or bi-weekly show. Notably, X Bar was the first LGBTQ venue in Denver to speak out in support of Black Lives Matter after the recent high-profile police killings of several African-Americans across the country.
Says Misdemeanor: "They already had a similar show, and it was called Groove Saturdays, but I hope to make it Black Diamonds Saturdays and amplify what was already there and just make it unapologetically black. And black and black and black and black."
X Bar will host a viewing party for the premiere of Black Diamonds, but space is limited, and reservations are mandatory. Black Diamonds will take place on Sunday, June 21, at 5 p.m. It will be streamed over the Denver PrideFest website, Facebook page, and Felony Misdemeanor's Twitch account. The show is free, but viewers will be able to tip performers during the broadcast using platforms like Venmo and PayPal.
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