A look inside the hearts, minds and closets of four diverse drag queens
The transformation from Justin Liming to JewDi Vine began just five years ago at Hamburger Mary’s. The restaurant started turn-about shows where the male servers dressed up in drag and performed for the customers. At that point JewDi Vine was born.
Growing up, Justin was largely involved in theater, and knew he had a flair for the drama, which made his transformation easier. “My theater background was a really good catalyst for me to start performing in drag.”
He had grand performing dreams, including being the next Justin Timberlake, Justin admitted. But as he grew up, his dreams changed. “When I came to Las Vegas, I wanted to be a show boy. But instead of becoming a show boy, I became a show girl.”
Justin has had immense support from his family and friends, and the support follows when he transforms into JewDi. “I am so fortunate. I have a huge support system.”
Justin admits that the road to transformation is a touch one. “But there are such great resources today that people can and should use. Also seek out your friends, family and community. It makes the process a lot easier to have positive influences and a support system on your side.”
Scott Wilson grew up knowing that he was going to be on stage, and his dream was realized at a very young age. He has been on stage, professionally singing since he was eight years old. But 15 years ago, he was dared to enter the Miss Gay Utah pageant drag contest. Scott transformed into Syren Vaughn for the event, and he won, and it’s just snowballed from there.
Although Syren has played a prevalent role in Scott’s life, female impersonation has been a side job. “I never looked at (doing drag) as a career move. I’ve done it mostly for charity.”
Syren has participated and help raise funds for many charities around the country including, Utah Aids Foundation, City of Hope, Nevada Aids Project, AFAN, different Prides around the country among many others. Even though he has put his feminine talents to good use, Scott has not always had the greatest support as Syren. “My parents understand it. They have always supported it. It’s just they would rather have Scott instead of Syren. But I have to say they have always been great. They have always supported me. It’s just that one little thing – the wig. It’s that last little hump.”
Scott’s transformation was an easy one with his performance background; however, he understands the challenges and strength it takes to go through any kind of transformation. “Everyone needs to feel okay about themselves. So stay true to who you are whether it’s in a wig or out. Just be true to yourself.”
Shawn Magby saw La Cage at the Riviera Hotel and Casino when he was 18 years ago and knew instantly that that is what he wanted to do. Nearly 22 years later, he has transformed into one of the most recognizable drag queens today. Shawn M has been performing at Freezone for the past 12 years, been a guest on the Ru Paul show, the Jay Leno Show and played a part on Miss Congeniality 2. “It’s a career and not only is it a career it’s just fun,” Shawn said.
Shawn has had so much success performing as his female counterpart, but at the end of the day, he is happy being a boy. “I would never want to be a girl 24 hours a day. I like being an actor – doing it on stage and taking it all off – and just being a regular guy afterward.”
Being on stage has helped Shawn come out of his shell and become a more confident person over the years. “I’ve helped a lot of people. I’ve made a lot of people happy and I’ve educated a lot of people. It’s been good for me. It’s like therapy to me.”
Going through any self transformation can be a challenge, but one that can bring a lot of happiness and strength. Shawn advices, “Just go with your heart and what you want and feel. Don’t let anyone stop you or bring you down.”
Mitch Gill made his first transformation into a drag queen soon after he graduated from high school. At the time Gill was living in Texas with his family of farmers. He had always wanted to be a performer, but he never felt it was an attainable goal. That was until he saw his first drag show. “I knew I could do that,” Gill recounted.
The most well known and successful queens in his community took him under their wings and told him that if he was going to do this, he was going to do it right. The rest is history. Gill has been performing – the right way – ever since. For many years, performing as DeShannon was his career. But when Gill realized that he could use his performing talents to help charities, specifically AIDS charities, he began only performing for fundraisers and charity events. DeShannon has volunteered his time to PAWS, American Heart Association, Sin Sity Sisters AIDS Program, almost everything for the Rodeo and NGRA. DeShannon has raised money all over the country.
Mitch has transformed into DeShannon for many years now and has been very successful. He attributes this to his ability to separate and balance his life. “You have to learn to separate it. When DeShannon is done, DeShannon goes into the closet and is put away. Then Mitch comes out. Mitch is there for his partner and his friends. You have to be able to separate.”