As an assortment of sex toys surrounded her on stage and she stared back at the audience half-naked, Cake didn’t feel uncomfortable. She felt like she was home.
A few nights every month Kody Abarr, 21, starts his day as a student at Southeast Community College who works at Walmart in his free time. But, by night Abarr transforms into a leggy,sparkle-adorned drag queen:Cake.
The Struggle to be Seen
Cake came into being after winning a drag competition in October 2016. She entered with the encouragement of her friends, but the thrill of performing kept her coming back.
“There was a while where I did it every weekend. Sometimes it was even Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Cake said. “It was like a part time job.”
According to Cake, life as a drag queen is more than just glamorous dresses, big hair and perfect makeup.
“I didn’t realize how stressful it is,” she said. “You have to be invested in it. It’s time, effort, money… you have to put so much into it.”
A queen’s schedule is entirely reliant on the venue, the show and who you know.
The Alley, a bar where most of Lincoln’s drag performers started, closed earlier this summer, but one of its DJs opened a new gay bar: Das Haus.
Having a location where drag performers could still express themselves was a relief for many, however everyone had to make entirely new connections in order to continue to perform. Lucky for Cake, the owner of Das Haus was a big fan and gave her many other opportunities to get booked.
Cake’s Tricks to be a Showstopper
Booking a spot was just the first part of Cake’s journey. Performers have to pick songs, costumes, makeup, props and choreography to make sure their show is as successful as possible.
It took Cake about three hours to get ready. She got ready early so she could arrive to Das Haus early to mingle with the crowd before the show began.
“For one, that gets you more money…because people are like ‘Oh, she talked to me! She’s nice. I’m going to give her a dollar!’” Cake said. “When you just have normal conversation it really eases the tension.”
As the music started, the crowd began to cheer and the show began. Her peers performed, all earning cheers and dollar bills from the audience, and Cake hoped her act would be successful.
Even though her wig fell off in the middle of her performance, she received ample applause and contributions.
Drag in the Bigger Picture
The stress and hours of preparation weren’t just for the money she made that night. Cake doesn’t plan on doing drag professionally in the future. Drag is part of a much bigger picture to her.
“Drag is an art form about gender. It’s making a statement about it,” Cake said. “Drag crushes that binary of man and woman. Not everyone is fully male and not everyone is fully female. I think when someone sees us it gets you thinking about gender.”
On top of performing and expressing her beliefs, drag has given Cake a support system that reminds her of the impact she has made, especially at times when doing drag seems impossible.
“I think about quitting drag every other month,” Cake said. “But my drag family has me remember why I’m doing this.”
Cake hopes to spread this support to youth in the LGBTQA+ community as well. She started by hosting Lincoln Public Schools’ Pride Prom, which is an opportunity for LGBTQA+ youth to attend prom and express themselves however they see fit. NOVA Pride describes it as “ an opportunity for LGBTQ+ youth to attend Prom with PRIDE.”
Throughout every performance Cake keeps in mind that she might be inspiring someone who has lacks the self confidence she has when she’s in drag.
“It’s a hobby I love,” she said. “My goal for right now with drag is to move as many people as I can with it.”