In Diva Watch, we'll profile the passionate, diverse and fascinating performers who light up Denver's drag community. We're expanding on our Diva Dozen list from earlier this year by asking a series of questions to get a peek underneath the make-up.
Meet Valerie Shearz, a Denver native who's honed her drag skills over just a few short years. Valerie started winning fans during the Tracks Ultimate Queen competition in 2013, where her rock-and-roll attitude took her far in the contest — just not to the crown. No matter, the exquisitely styled hair on Valerie’s head – it better be, as Ms. Shearz is a hairstylist by trade – doesn’t need a crown. She rules with a “hit the stage running” energy that she brings to all of her performances, be it a Joan Jett classic, a new jam by Deborah Cox, or the grit and sass that Amy Winehouse gave to “Valerie,” a song that may as well have been about this performer. She's now expanding her repertoire by giving drag motherhood a try, having recently adopted two princesses, Amber and Lala, who now have the sterling Shearz moniker, securing the dawn of a gorgeous new empire for Denver's drag community. So “Why don’t you come on over, Vaaalllerriiee?”
Westword: You’re also known as…?
Valerie Shearz: Jai Lopez
Barber/stylist at ChopZ Salon.
Tell us about the first time that you ever performed in drag.
The first time I performed it was for my friend (and Diva Dozen member) Mariah Spanic’s birthday show, and I had rehearsals for about three months. I asked my friend Andrew, who was a dancer, to help. He got a few more dancers and we pulled together an amazing performance. And then, a monster was born…
What is the origin of your drag name?
I got my name because I wanted a slutty ‘V’ name and Victoria was already taken (ha) and I also wanted something that represented my career, my life...me! Valerie Shearz rolled off my tongue.
What cultural icon do you admire the most and why?
The cultural icon I admire the most is Pink because she has never been afraid to be herself and express who she is. Also Mariah (Carey) and Whitney (Houston), of course.
Explain what it feels like to get into all of your drag and hit a stage.
To me, when I get into drag it's an amazing experience — I love the transformation. I love to have different hair colors and styles to express all different sides of me. Sometimes I feel glam but most of the time I'm rocker chic. The fun part is that you don't have to be any one certain way, there are no rules to drag. When I get on stage there's nothing better than that adrenaline rush, and seeing people smile and sing to the songs that you are performing. Seeing people appreciate your art is what keeps me going. I never thought I would have "fans," so to speak, but I love them all.
Who/what inspires you to keep pulling out the makeup brushes everyday?
I'm always inspired by other drag queens — some local and a lot of them "famous."
Favorite brand/item of make-up (and why)?
My favorite brand of makeup? I have no favorite, actually, I find something I love in all products. Some really cheap, some really expensive. I’m always looking for secrets and beauty tips. The fun part is that you can never stop evolving and learning.
Name three very important items in your purse/drag bag you can’t leave home without..
My three important items in my bag would have to be my cell phone — I'm lost without her — lipstick and my ID.
When you’re out in drag, what one thing does everyone want to talk to you about? What do you WISH they would actually talk to you about?
One thing people talk to me about a lot is my eyebrows, or getting their hair done. I just wanna talk about positive stuff and influences.
If your drag persona had a theme song, what would it be?
“Masterpiece” by Jessie J! I'm trying this new thing to be more positive.
They’re casting the movie about your life; what actor and actress would be perfect to play both sides of your coin?
I think Jared Leto would be good to play the guy version of me because he's diverse and different in so many ways. The girl… would definitely have to be Christina Applegate: She's so fun and funny, not to mention pretty!
Which is harder, given your drag profession: tucking (the legendary act of hiding a man's "candy" while performing) or having a relationship?
To me the harder of the two would have to be dating; it's hard to find a guy who will appreciate your talent and not assume that you want to transition to being a woman. There's so many "labels" that people can’t look past. I've been fortunate enough to have had two amazing relationships during my drag career. As far as tucking, I don't use tape to tuck, it hurts. Plus, it's really hard when you have to use the restroom!
What does the word “family” mean to you?
That word means to me that we are all one and the same. We all have different issues that are relatable. We are each other’s family when our real family turns their back on us. I'm fortunate enough to have a few amazing families in my life. I recently adopted two (drag) daughters and this journey with them is amazing.
There’s a bank error in your favor, giving you $15,000. What’s the first thing that you buy?
Wow, that's a tough one! I think if I accidentally got $15,000 from the bank I would spend half on charity – for good karma — and with the other half I would probably pay off debt. Nah, just kidding. I would buy my momma something real nice!
When we check back on you in three years (2018), what do you think you will be up to in your drag career?
In three years I plan on doing some big things with my new family that I recently adopted, LaLa and Amber Shearz.
You can find Valerie every Thursday performing at the Compound Basix for Bitchcraft, the second Saturday of the month at Tracks for Tucked or at Charlie's for Felony’s Cell Block. Also keep an eye out for Valerie at various charity shows and other open stage opportunities.