I remember my first time like it was yesterday. It was the early summer of 2008, and it happened at the Charlotte Eagle on the back patio. It was a packed, crowded night like most others and a bit muggy outside — and lots of men in leather gear and denim jeans, some in sports gear and some in merely boxer shorts. There were all the trappings of a leather bar. I had been at the Charlotte Eagle plenty of times — some I remember better than others.
But this night was different. I was surrounded by a half dozen guys near the barber shop, close to a makeshift storage area. There was a large cage and a St. Andrew’s Cross on the patio. I was sitting in the barber chair, bare chested and being beaten in the face with a brush — a powder brush full of makeup. That is where my first time happened. My first time being put in drag.
Five of my Charlotte Royals rugby brothers and I were being put in drag for the “Miss Crown Royale” charity pageant. My first song performed that night was “Big, Blond & Beautiful” from the musical “Hairspray.” After some intense brainstorming, I had decided my name was going to be Buff Faye — a tongue-in-cheek reference to an “all you can eat buffet” and the fabulous Southern celebrity Tammy Faye.
I recall wearing a huge white coat made out of 50 boas safety-pinned to a white crocheted jacket I had found. Underneath I had a floor length fuschia pink gown I managed to sew and hot glue together. I would do a reveal after the first part of the song. And, of course for the big finale, I had a pink lace spaghetti strap lingerie to rip away. I was all fishy, baby. LOL. The opening lyrics of the song: “Bring on that pecan pie,/Pour some sugar on it,/Sugar don’t be shy,/Scoop me up a mess,/Of that chocolate swirl,/Don’t be stingy, I’m a growing girl…”
It was definitely “all you can eat” and the crowd loved it. I won the charity pageant and the rest, as they say, is “herstory.” That was my first time. I remember it so well. And I thought it was a one time thing.
Well, it wasn’t quite. I really had fun. The Charlotte Eagle had me do a Sunday night show once a month around 9 p.m. It was titled “All You Can Eat Buff Faye.” I would serve up some drag and cook some food. Yes, my first show was a “barnyard theme” cooking drag show. I recall that we made some ham biscuits. Those were the days — the early days of Buff Faye.
All of us have a first time. I remember mine fondly. Do you recall yours? Who put you in drag your first time? Who gave you your first chance onstage?
I try not to lose sight of how it all started. It’s so easy to get mixed up in today’s drag scene. It is important to be thankful and show appreciation, especially to those who did drag before it became an Emmy Award-winning show on VH1. I did not want to be a drag queen to be a celebrity on YouTube or to be a style icon to have more followers. I did drag as a way to bond with my friends, celebrate my queerness (masc and femme) and raise money for charity.
My husband Tommy and I loved going to the “Nikki Eaves Show” at the Charlotte Eagle long before I agreed to be put in drag. We had fun seeing Nikki and her cast of queens like Kiana Layne, Roxy C. Moorecox (aka Delighted Tobehere), Emory Starr, Deana Rose and Sierra Santana. Your first time always starts with someone helping you, believing in you and inspiring you.
Nikki Eaves is the one who opened the doors of the Charlotte Eagle, a leather bar, to even doing drag, long before I had the chance. She also opened my eyes to this world. As a result, I met my drag mother Sierra Santana, and she put me in drag my first time at the Charlotte Eagle alongside Nikki Eaves letting me borrow her makeup. All of these ladies made drag look like so much fun and truly inspired me.
Because of Nikki, Kiana, Sierra and Roxy, I got to do more shows and be seen more. Then came people like Brian Hemerick and Tiffany Storm who asked me to perform at places like Chasers and The Scorpio. Then came the love and inspiration of my grandma Boom Boom, grandpa Ron Dees and the resolute pioneer Brandy Andrews.
Lucky for me this list of people who have supported me in the past, and those who continue to support and help me, has grown exponentially. But I will never forget those people in my early drag years who gave me opportunity — and inspired me.
Regardless of what happens, your first time is always special.
DRAG TIP: Looking for some new shoes and great deals? Try online at ShoeShowMega.com.
SHOUT OUTS: Are you hungry for drag and an all you can eat buffet? Come out to Buff Faye’s Drag Brunch every month — get tickets online at AllBuff.com.
Buff Faye calls the Queen City her home and loves caramel chocolates (plus she loves to raise money for charities). Find her at your favorite bars and hot spots. And don’t forget her monthly Sunday drag brunch. Learn more at AllBuff.com. Follow on Twitter @BuffFaye.