For as long as there have been drag shows, there have been drag fundraisers. Drag queens have raised money for funeral expenses, fallen friends and queens, hospital bills and even pageants for girls trying to compete at the next level. The list goes on and on.
Boylesque, a troupe of female impersonators, male dancers, vocalists and entertainers, follows this grand tradition. This is especially true since the group's director Jadein Black decided to switch things up by offering virtual performances to raise money for various causes. Co-founder Chanel Hunter is no longer officially on cast but does make an appearance as a special guest a few times a year.
"Since we started online, we have raised over 30K and, already since June, when we've been back in person, we have raised over $32K," said Black. "Our shows are always a fundraiser for a non-profit of some sort — unless it's a special private booking."
She said they never support a cause they don't believe in. One of their core principles, she said, is to make a difference in everyone in this world. Black added that their shows help "heal and educate each and every one" who attends.
Audiences have responded with enthusiasm.
"We have received feedback from many audience members that, once they have come to our shows, they have had an easier time accepting those in their family that have come out as LGBTQ+," she said. "It's not because we force our opinions on them, but because we gently offered them a perspective that they were then able to understand."
And just as their audience members evolved, they too have evolved throughout the past nine years. Black said to make it in the industry, the group must change in all aspects of their act, from the content to the wigs and costumes.
"We are always aiming to find something that interests everyone and that will be entertaining," she added. "So far, Boylesque has performed murder mysteries, drag bingos, drag queen storytimes, live singing shows and teaching shows. The Boylesque team does it all to give back to the community."
In their most recent effort to give back to the community and to celebrate their nine-year anniversary, Boylesque has created three Halloween special events:
- Friday, Oct. 29 marks Boyleque's return to the Tap Room, located at 205 West Michigan Ave. in Ypsilanti. The show will star Jadein Black along with Maxi Chanel, Anibriated and Hershae Chocolatae. This benefit is for Safe House Center and has limited space available, so advance tickets are your best bet. Doors open at 9 p.m. and showtime is at 10 p.m. Tickets are $10 and are available on Eventbrite.
- Saturday, Oct. 30, Boylesque welcomes "RuPaul Drag's Race" contestant Pandora Boxx to Sticks, located at 39 East Cross St. in Ypsilanti, for Drag Queen Bingo. Boylesque performers for the night include Jadein Black, Chanel, Hershae Chocolatae and Izaya Cole. Tickets, which include three rounds of Bingo and a show, are $35 and are available on Eventbrite.
- Sunday, Oct. 31 will be Boylesque's Hocus Pocus Halloween Brunch at Sidetrack Bar & Grill, located at 56 East Cross St. in Ypsilanti. This event, a benefit for the Humane Society of Huron Valley, is family-friendly and open to all ages. Tickets are $12 and are available on Eventbrite.
"We see how this world is changing constantly in the political realm and within our own local community," said Black. "Even before the pandemic, many LGBTQ-owned establishments have had issues with remaining open for longer than a year because they are not given the same attention nor funding. If we want our community presence to grow, we have to work together, not against each other."