With limited performance opportunities in Muncie, local drag artists bond through mutual support

Drag performer Celeste Rife strikes a pose during their performance April 5 at the L.A. Pittenger Student Center. Rife performed twice during the night.  Andrew Berger, DN
Drag performer Celeste Rife strikes a pose during their performance April 5 at the L.A. Pittenger Student Center. Rife performed twice during the night. Andrew Berger, DN

After spending the day cutting hair for those who find themselves in his salon chair, Chandler Skye heads out for the evening, but he doesn’t return straight home.

Instead, he heads to the venue of his next show and finds himself onstage with a full face of makeup, a wig and an eye-catching outfit. In front of the audience, he is no longer known as Chandler Skye. In his shift from the hair salon to the stage, he becomes Aura Aurora, a well-known Muncie drag queen. 

“It is the art of female impersonation. Getting to use your body as a canvas and turn yourself into whatever you want,” Skye said. “It’s about being an outcast and something otherworldly. At the end of the day, makeup washes down the drain, a wig comes off. That doesn’t define you as a person, but you can use this outlet to express that inner artistry that we all have within us.”

Skye has been performing in drag shows for nearly seven years, starting when he was 17 in Muncie, his hometown. To keep himself going, he challenges himself not to become stagnant, which grows and evolves with his persona, Aura Aurora. 

Muncie-based drag queen Aura Aurora gives an introduction speech April 5 at the L.A. Pittenger Student Center. Aura Aurora was the host of the show put on by Spectrum. Andrew Berger, DN

Skye describes the current Muncie drag scene as small and close-knit but still present and loving. 

With the Mark III Tap Room closed for renovations, performance hot spots are limited in Delaware County, forcing many to go to locations in Anderson. Shows like Spectrum's annual spring drag show provide spaces for performers to show off their creativity in the local community.

“Muncie has a special place in my heart,” Skye said. “It's important, for me at least, to want to keep drag alive [and] to keep people inspired.”

At events like Spectrum’s annual spring show, artists from different backgrounds and experiences get to grow alongside each other.

“No drag show you'll ever go to is going to be the same, which is very exciting,” Skye said. “You never know, fully, what to be prepared for.” 

Another Muncie drag queen who has made a name for themself is Glinda B. Fierce. They’ve been performing in drag shows since 2017 when Fierce decided they wanted to find a way to use their voice in a fun and creative way. They emphasized that drag is something anyone can get involved in. 

“Drag, like any other art form, can be molded and manipulated and changed for any kind of audience. I can do a show at a bar one night and then do a kids' show the next day at the library because we have range,” Fierce said.  

Drag performer Glinda B. Fierce grabs tip money as they lip sync and dance April 5 at the L.A. Pittenger Student Center. Fierce performed twice, once to a "Disco Inferno Mix". Andrew Berger, DN

With Ball State University located in Muncie, college students are joining the drag community each year. Chris Navarro is one example of a fresh face in the local scene. 

Navarro, a second-year fashion major at Ball State, has been performing in drag for only a few months but feels welcomed among drag performers in Muncie as their drag persona Celeste Rifé.

“It’s a sisterhood — they’ll help you out,” they said. “ I just did the thing with Aura Aurora, and she’s from Muncie, and we’re backstage and she’s talking about, ‘Oh let’s hang out sometime. We can rhinestone together, we’ll make costumes and everything and just talk.’ So, it really goes past just doing a show together, and you want to get to know them as well, so it’s more personal.” 

Navarro said they feels like a very expressive person outside of drag and has been performing for years, so embracing this new-found passion in their life wasn’t much of a shift. As a fashion major, Navarro wasn’t afraid of the sewing machine and started making their own costumes. 

“Recently, every single time I've performed, I’ve worn something different. It honestly seems like every single week I’m coming up with a new idea for an outfit and making something new — coming up with an idea, buying fabric, doing something differently,” Navarro said. “Honestly, it’s a weekly basis when I’m making another costume.” 

Traveling drag artist Fluxx De’Luxx, originally from Dayton, Ohio, performed at Spectrum’s annual show and got a glimpse of the Muncie drag community. 

While living in the Netherlands for three-and-a-half years, De’Luxx started their own drag house, Haus of 4D, and they honed their craft in the country before returning to the U.S. from the Netherlands. 

De’Luxx uses drag to help grow and learn about their gender fluidity. 

“The relationship between drag and gender is pretty, pretty obvious,” De’Luxx said. “It's a platform to experiment, and for me, my drag persona very much reflects the relationship I have with my gender outside of drag, which is very fluid and label-less.”

Another personal aspect drag helps De’Luxx explore and work through is the fact that they’re neurodivergent. 

“I learned a lot with my former drag house, [like] figuring out how we craft the space that is most accessible to people with all sorts of different sensory and neurodivergent needs,” they said.

Performer Fluxx De'Luxx performs during a drag show put on by Spectrum April 5 at L.A. Pittenger Student Center. De'Luxx recently returned from doing drag in the Netherlands. Andrew Berger, DN

The Spectrum show was their first performance in the U.S. since they moved back. De’Luxx has started doing more traveling gigs than the home gigs they were accustomed to in the Netherlands.

What they think makes home gigs so special is that one’s respective “queer community” gets to see the artist’s growth and evolution in-person through the performances, compared to seeing growth online.

However, Skye said to support local drag artists, simply following them on social media is a big step. 

“It's the biggest thing to do, to have our backs on there, because everyone's virtual voice matters, especially nowadays,” Skye said. 

An online presence also enables artists and supporters to branch out into the larger community.

The art of drag is versatile and can be an outlet for anyone. Understanding the roots and what it means to be a drag performer is an important part of the culture.

“Drag belongs to Black, trans women first,” Fierce said. “It’s about queer liberation, not just dancing on stage. It’s about fighting for our rights and being the frontline warriors of the gay community. We’re the ones at the front yelling and screaming the most, so if you’re not ready to be political, you shouldn’t be a drag queen.” 

Contact Hannah Amos via email at hannah.amos@bsu.edu or on X @Hannah_Amos_394.   Contact Ella Howell with comments at ella.howell@bsu.edu.


More from The Daily

Loading Recent Classifieds...