December 26, 2013

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A Night in the Day of a Female Impersonator

Performing has been in my blood since I was a small child. Making my mother smile by putting on a dress and singing a Diana Ross song was as normal to me as climbing a tree was to my brother. Back then, I didn't know this was strange, or even judged as bad by some.  I just knew that it brought joy to me, and the people I sang and danced for. How could that be wrong?

It was the beginning of a long journey that took me through various outlets, such as professional dancing, and various types of performance art, all the way up to doing what I do today; performing as a female impersonator at Images Nightclub here in Chattanooga.  

Not only have I done shows in Chattanooga for many years, I have also competed in the pageantry system, including many of Chattanooga's local pageants as well as national pageants. Every pageant has taught me something as a performer. As an artist, I continue to evolve. I'm very proud of what I have accomplished. I am also humbled by the people who continue to come see me perform.

From making costumes, to editing music, making up and practicing choreography, the schedule can be grueling. The money I make usually goes straight back into materials for future shows. As far as music goes, I focus on choosing meaningful songs and interacting with my audience in a way that makes them forget about the problems of the week and just enjoy life for a bit. Before each show, I always talk to my audience and try my best to get some laughs and set the mood for the night. I make it a point to welcome newcomers and to let everyone know they are in a place where they can be themselves without fear of judgment.

We all tend to spend our days walking through society with our socially acceptable masks on.  At Images, you can let that go and just be you, whoever that may be. In my job I see people from every walk of life—they are gay, straight, bi-sexual, transgender—and even confused. The common factor is a search for acceptance. I'm lucky enough to be able to give a sense of that while doing what I love.

In my mind, art is art. Art for me isn't fulfilling unless it brings joy to others, or touches them in some way. So a typical day for me isn't just about the hair, makeup, and physical preparation I go through to transform into the role. But yes, there is a lot of preparation.  

My day at work usually starts at 4 p.m. I arrive and get myself settled in. If it is a Thursday, then the entire cast has rehearsals for our weekend productions. We have to learn songs as well as group choreography. Everyone gets input; this process can take hours. If it is a Friday or Saturday, then I have to start getting ready for the show. After I've posted on Facebook to invite people out, I write a line-up of the show schedule. I start my transformation process as I listen to music. It gives me ideas of what I would like to do in the show. If I have a certain costume in mind, I may listen to songs to find which song has just the right fit. This also gives me a chance to learn the lyrics. Every week there are new songs released. It’s hard to stay on top of them and to learn them all. I listen to them at work, in the car, or whenever I get the chance. There are also people and groups that will come in that will want to see you do a particular song or character. I get asked to do Cher and Annie Lennox a lot. You have to give the crowd what they want. 


December 26, 2013

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