Pride Month: History of drag in Savannah

Published: Jun. 17, 2021 at 8:02 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - “I think, in some ways, it’s addictive. Once you get a taste of being on stage.”

The glitz and the glam. It is hard not to get sucked into it all.

“They’re beautiful. They are gorgeous. Their confidence is so contagious,” Savannah resident Christine Perez said.

The drag queen scene thrives in The Hostess City. From evening drag shows to Sunday drag brunches, Savannah’s drag queens light up a room. {TODD MAULDIN/”Blair Williams”}

“I feel like the more outlandish or outrageous we are, whether in the makeup techniques or the hairstyling or the costuming that you put on is something the audience wants to see. They want an experience, and we want to give them that,” said Todd Mauldin, who plays Blair Williams at Club One in downtown Savannah.

Mauldin has been in the industry for about 30 years.

“It has nothing to do with wanting to be a woman up here. It can be an expression of gender, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be about gender.”

Mauldin says drag is rooted in theatre performances back in the 16th and 17th centuries.

“In Shakespearean times, when woman were not allowed to be on stage, men performed all the roles,” Mauldin said.

And is now enjoyed all around the world by both young and old.

“Being so interactive with each other, not even afraid to be themselves...just so much fun,” said Shannon Seliz, who attended the drag brunch.

Someone who knew a lot about being her authentic self was Savannah’s very own The Lady Chablis, who passed in September of 2016.

“She was a small, small woman. She was a trailblazer in the transgender community,” Mauldin said. “She identified as a woman. She lived her life as a woman. She was unapologetic about it. She didn’t try to make people comfortable about it. She just was who she was.”

She was Club One’s first entertainer, known as The Grand Empress, rising to fame in the 1994 book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

“She was quite a character on stage and off.”

Paving the way for Savannah’s drag queens, including Blair Williams.

“She knew how to connect with people and make people feel like they were appreciated, and that’s very important in this business.”

Behind the big hair and glamourous makeup are people who just want to bring a smile to their audience’s faces.

“It’s rewarding that people are entertained by what we do.”

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