The entertainment industry has been radically impacted during the pandemic, and performers and entertainers have been forced to improvise. What was once normally filled with flashing lights, glitter and live music, is now a struggling industry filling the voids on the internet. Many entertainers have turned to livestreaming throughout the past year to connect with fans and keep the rapport intact.
Anthony Bosquez, a Salt Lake Community College art major, was quick to try something out of his comfort zone. Bosquez, who had a gut feeling that mandatory shutdowns were not going to last only two weeks, bought the gear necessary to keep the spark of his shows prevalent while switching to a different platform for his performances.
“At first, I started doing my performance solos on livestreams which were mainly Instagram about three times a month,” Bosquez said.
Throughout quarantine with the many days sitting at home, Bosquez thought of ways to get creative with his performances.
“I invested in ring lights, a backdrop and cleared a room in my house specifically for livestreaming my shows,” he said.
Bosquez noticed a consistent following after two months and got to experiment with dances and singing in the comfort of his own home without the debilitating stage fright.
“When you do drag, there are often themes. You have your main persona that you dress up as, but for certain months and occasions there will be themes, such as for Halloween and Christmas,” Bosquez explained. “I know where my comfort level is, I’m always trying to advance as a performer, and I’ve had ideas of stuff I’ve wanted to try in shows but have been hesitant to do so in front of a live crowd. Being home has made me grow confidence and develop new skits for my future performances when we can be in public settings again.”
There were some positives that came out of experimentation at home, but it created a difficult adjustment for others.
“It hasn’t been easy to convert to livestreams for shows,” said Jared Chowen, a business major at SLCC.
Chowen has been doing drag for three years and, after not doing many shows last year, started to miss his friends and performing with them. He has been doing livestreams as well, whether on Instagram or Zoom, about twice a month where he gets into character and performs.
“It’s been a hard adjustment not having a live audience and it just being me in my apartment,” Chowen said. “When you perform, you feel the energy from the crowd and they pump you up. When it’s just me in my home, I have to exude more energy since it’s online and impersonal. I think you have to overcompensate when the audience isn’t there and people are watching you through a screen in a different location.”
Since many have struggled with mental health issues because of the pandemic, it is more crucial now to keep doing the things that lift your spirits. According to Mental Health National, mental health has been worsening in adults even before the pandemic: “In 2017-2018, 19% of adults experienced some form of mental illness, an increase of 1.5 million people.”
“I was extremely depressed when I first started doing drag,” Chowen said. “It offered a nice distraction, I met amazing people and it made me temporarily forget about my problems.”
Throughout 2020, Chowen, like many others, were not feeling their best mentally or emotionally.
“I wanted to focus on making myself feel better by having fun, but also give other people a distraction as well as creating a safe space for them,” he explained.
However, the industry is not only about costumes, glitter and dancing. Tyler Andersen, an SLCC art major, started doing drag not long after he had come out as gay, and things did not go over well with his family.
“I was in a very dark place, and the people who were supposed to love me unconditionally, apparently no longer did. I needed more people in my life that understood the struggle of not being straight,” Andersen explained. “Growing up, I got bullied a lot and never felt like I belonged, so when I realized I was gay, that only made me seem even more different from everyone else.”
In doing drag, Andersen has found loving friends and finally feels accepted for who he really is, and all just in time for an isolating year.
Ry Mount, an SLCC alum who now resides in Minneapolis, started doing drag five years ago. Mount created a drag group that includes a diversity of race, gender, as well as body types and they were consistently performing multiple times every month. With the shutdowns, Mount also resorted to doing online shows and is optimistic about live performances to be the norm again.
“I think this will change how people see performers, and I hope that people will take advantage of every live show once things go back to normal,” Mount said. “Doing drag is hard on your body and is overall exhausting, but I love it.”
Mount has been doing live shows since early on in the pandemic and has been seeing a great turnout.
“I bought all the gear; the lights, the backdrop, everything, so my group and I can take turns doing solo performances on Zoom, but every week we spotlight a different performer in the group,” Mount said.
Doing drag throughout the countless days staying at home in Minneapolis have been beneficial to the mental health of Mount and others in the group.
“I couldn’t imagine not doing shows throughout quarantine, so we developed a new way of doing them online. It kept me busy and strengthened my group’s overall bond and morale while renewing my excitement for the future in-person shows,” Mount said.