By Alex Butler
On March 17, 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ordered all bars and nightclubs to close for 30 days. 10 months later, some of those restrictions are still in place.
With the shutdown of nightlife due to the COVID-19 pandemic, gig workers such as drag queens have had to find new ways to make an income.
“I really started focusing on how I can keep myself stable and how I can keep myself relevant,” said Florida based drag queen Christina Embers Taylor. “Relevancy, especially right now, you really have to evolve the way you did drag so a lot of people went to digital drag.”
NextGen Florida organized the #YouthVote Drag Show online via Twitch. The event was joined by several other drag queens such as Axel Andrews, House of Black, Venus Envy, and Natalie Devine.
“We understood that during the pandemic everyone was at home, everyone was isolated… we thought of the concept, let’s do a drag show,” said NextGen Florida’s national political manager, Justin Atkins. “We partnered with Omni Entertainment and had 160 people at least attend.”
The event was hosted by performing drag queen, Axel Andrews.
“Twitch is a little bit more difficult to do unless you have someone there to help you,” said Atkins. “There would be a point where it would blank out and we lost Axel for a little bit but after that little bump they were able to keep going because Axel had somebody with him to troubleshoot.”
An article by Mashable said, “In May 2020, Twitch actively grew their drag creator base, launching the Twitch Drag Community Development Program.”
In order to help performers maintain an income, Twitch has also allowed creators to run ads, set up donation links, and promote subscriptions.
According to Atkins, tips were distributed on the #YouthVote Drag Show via CashApp and Venmo.
Other online platforms are also being used to showcase drag.
“I post my videos mainly on Instagram and sometimes Facebook as well. I am very much a perfectionist, so I wanted them to be cool videos and videos that I put a lot of effort into the production value. They take so much work for very little reward,” said Taylor.
On Instagram, Taylor has over 6,000 followers and has posted multiple videos. The most watched video gained 4,984 views.
“I follow a pretty decent number of drag queens across all forms of social media, so I have definitely seen lots of their content over the past couple months,” said University of Tampa sophomore political science major, Philip Ferdinand.
Since the pandemic, Taylor has also performed in nationwide shows on online platforms, including the #YouthVote Drag Show.
“[During the pandemic], a lot of people started getting together to do shows online and the cool thing about it too is that you can get people from other states to join your drag show and you couldn’t otherwise do that unless you flew them in,” said Taylor.
Even with more collaboration between drag queens, attendance and involvement have been a struggle.
“It was always such a fun experience to be in the club and dance and sing with the queens, give them a couple dollars and then continue having a good night,” said Ferdinand. “But with COVID… watching a drag show just really hasn’t been something that I have even thought about doing.”
The pandemic has caused organizations and workers both to reconsider how they connect with an audience.
“Patience and persistence,” said Atkins. “It’s much easier to engage with people in person… there’s so many things that can take folks’ attention away but just being patient with that and having a clear message is important.”