If you read my book Impossibly Glamorous (and if you haven’t, hurry up and BUY IT!), you know it starts with my high school best friend César sneaking into a Kansas City gay nightclub that was called The Edge. Hosting the show at The Edge that night were the illustrious Kansas City drag superstars, L’Oréal and Melinda Ryder. After publication I found out both queens were alive and kicking back in Kansas City, so today I have the pleasure of bringing you an Xtravaganza Interview with L’Oréal: nightlife maven, comedienne and gender illusionist extraordinaire!
Charles Ayres (CA): Hey sister, gurll! Tell me about your background, and how you started performing in drag.
L’Oréal: It was 1986, and I had just returned home from a stint in the US Army. I had been going to a bar in Kansas City called Pegasus for a few months. As Halloween approached, there was a lot of talk about who was going to dress in drag for the holiday. Back then, Halloween was THE holiday at the bar and many of the gay men did drag on that one day of the year. My sister was a cosmetologist and did my makeup, nails and hair. I went to the bar and people said I looked like a suburban housewife! Not exactly what I was going for. I met some other guys in drag that night and they told me about an upcoming Open Mic night. We made plans for them to help me do my makeup and learned a song. After my performance the bar emcee, Myrna Vonn, told me she had never seen anyone lip sync as well as I had. The song had some talking parts in it, and I guess that impressed her. From there I got the bug and have never looked back. I still remember the song I performed. It was “Do You Get Enough Love” by Shirley Jones (link). Not the white lady from Partridge Family, but the black lady who sang with her sisters.
CA: What is the concept behind the character “L’Oréal”?
L’Oréal: As far as a concept behind L’Oréal, there really was no thought given to that. My friends who put me in drag the 2nd time I did it offered some names and I picked L’Oréal. I was so ignorant to that fact it was beauty products. I thought it had a Spanish flair, as in Lori El! LOL Through the years I have evolved my own identity in drag as a somewhat loud, somewhat bawdy emcee. I specialize in being spontaneously funny on the microphone and doing some comedy numbers, but I love doing a great ballad or upbeat song. I was never really a dancer or disco queen. I prefer to serve the drama with my songs and my hair and makeup.
CA: Where can people catch you putting on your fabulous show?
L’Oréal: I host a monthly show in St Joseph, a small town in Missouri. The show is held in a straight owned complex that features a bowling alley, a billiard hall and a country bar (link). Who would have thought we would do a show drawing 180-250 a month just to see the show in a small town 60 miles north of Kansas City? I also host a show two Saturdays a month at Hamburger Mary’s in KC (link). I work at other bars in KC also and travel around the MidWest.
CA: Considering your moniker is inspired by the multi-billion dollar French cosmetics firm, what are a couple of makeup tips you have for aspiring queens and divas out there?
L’Oréal: Start with less until you learn techniques. Once you have mastered WHERE to put the makeup, you can then decide how much you want to wear. It’s all about trial and error and placement of the makeup.
CA: One of the points of my book Impossibly Glamorous was to make a statement about gay life and substance abuse. What are some words of wisdom you might have for young guys (and gals) coming up and starting to go out?
L’Oréal: Advice I have for any gay persons coming out would be to be yourself. You don’t have to do anything you are not comfortable doing. It’s easy to fall into a trap of hanging out in gay bars every night because often you feel like you are finally in a safe place with like-minded people, but don’t limit yourself in your early 20s, or anytime for that matter, to going to bars every night. There are lots of options out there and ways to connect with other LGBT folks besides bars or sex apps.
CA: Throw down or slow down? What is one power number and one slow number that are your signatures and always keep the crowds happy?
L’Oréal: When I do my take on Harper Valley PTA, people always respond well. Any of my comedy-based numbers usually get the crowd going. As far as a slow number that gets folks attention, when I do any Adele song, or ballad, the crowds love it. I do a look-a-like impersonation of her that goes over very well.
Check out L’Oréal at Hamburger Mary’s (link) in Kansas City, the Shaft nightclub in St. Joseph (link), or any other of her glittery and fabulous events across the MidWest! Also, read her cameo in my book, Impossibly Glamorous. Thank you L’Oréal!