Yes, I’m back! Did you miss me? Don’t answer that question. Well as promised I have another fierce queen to tell you all about. Her name is Amber Rochelle. Don’t be fooled by her calming voice and loving nature if you meet her though. This lady can light the stage on fire with a belly dance and ass shakin’.
Like many a queen, Amber in 1995 first got the glitter bug on Halloween. She was all done up for the High Holiday and went to party with the ladies at Oleen’s Lounge. The legendary queen Kasey King, who worked there back in the day, discovered Amber that night. “Kasey could not get my name right. But she noticed me and asked me to come back and do a talent show.” Before Amber could press on a nail or bat an eyelash, she was competing and actually won her first title as Charlotte’s New Entertainer at Oleen’s. Shortly after, she was also asked to start working at Scorpio, too.
Damn, there must have been something in that vodka at Oleen’s turning out all these queens over the years. Amber recalls: “I thought it was a one time thing. You know I was a stripper at Chaser’s first, then I did drag at Oleen’s and quickly after Rick asked me to be at Scorpio. It all happened so fast. I look back and it was really all meant to be though.”
Amber identified as “gay boy” growing up. It was not until she began drag that she began to understand and transition into living her life as a woman. “My father was in the military, you kind of suppress everything. I was late in coming out as gay and then it all went real quick for me. First time I went to a gay club was in Charlotte. I finally saw people like me — that was eye opening.”
She admits that being a trans woman and transitioning even 10 years ago was very different than today. “I needed a map. I always enjoyed make-up, dressing up as a girl when I was little. I just didn’t understand who I was. When I first saw drag queens, I thought they were women performing on stage. Then I realized that some are women — trans women. I began my own process then,” Amber said.
“Who is to say how you feel inside…I am me,” Amber continued talking about oppression of LGBT people, trans women and being a person of color: “They don’t really talk about the gay thing. It is very taboo. I thought I was the only one in my whole family. It took some slow progression with my mom. Trans issues are further hidden but my family, my mom especially, has been there for me.”
Now I have to admit I ended up interviewing Amber twice for this column. The first time my cell phone did not record. Don’t judge me.
As we sat eating our second dessert at Dish (my gayborhood fave diner), I was compelled by how “real” the second interview felt, even though she had shared her experiences with me before. Her story resonates with me because I believe it is something forgotten at times by both cisgender and transgender people. Drag is a mode of free gender expression without limits of a binary, a way to live fantasy and explore. Ultimately, it can lead to finding a part of ourselves that is waiting to be found. For some people, it leads to a journey of acceptance — and to find their true self. Amber’s story means a lot to me for that simple but forgotten reason.
Asking about her future, Amber shows no sign of stopping anytime soon after two decades of performing in the Queen City. Retirement was not even a bullet point in our interview. Plus this woman does not show any age. Now that pecan pie she devoured may tell a different story. LOL.
“What’s up next for me… I really want to do USA and Continental. I want to do it when I am ready. I am still trying to lose this Christmas weight. I also want to do it when I don’t have to depend on anyone,” Amber said. “At the end of the day, I am an entertainer period. When I can’t walk or dance…well then it is time to stop.”
No tea. No shade. Other things I learned about Amber: Did you know that Amber dated Elaine Davis? Seriously. And I also learned that she was a competitive roller skater from six years old till she was 15. Well, now you know.
What advice does Amber have to tell younger girls: “Learn to paint yourself. At least practice or do something…don’t depend on others to do it all for you. You will never look like yourself if you have others paint you. Be yourself.”
There is no stopping a drag queen like Amber Rochelle who has survived and thrived over the years making the Queen City a place for queens like us. Sunday nights you can find Amber at the Scorpio in the “Sexy Sunday” Legendary Show with Gypsy Starr.
Her final words: “I don’t knock anyone for what they do. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Carry yourself as such.” : :
DRAG TIP: “Words, words, words…know your damn words. It drives me crazy when you don’t know your words. That is Drag 101 — you should know every breath, every bump in the song.” Holler!
— Buff Faye calls the Queen City her home and performs to throw glitter at innocent straight boys (and to raise money for charities). Find her at your favorite bars and hot spots. Plus don’t forget her weekly Showtune Sundays, monthly Sunday drag brunch and regular Friday night party bus. Learn more at AllBuff.com. Follow on Twitter @BuffFaye.
Cierra Nichole is selling Girl Scout Cookies. Be sure to private message her on Facebook if you want a box of Thin Mints or Samoas! Plus 316 has a new Star Search Talent Show the last Thursday of every month. Big talent? Win some cash!