Instead of adding extensions to their lids for full, thick lashes, Jen Powell takes their time applying tiny, individual blonde hairs with precision to their upper lip. A bow-tie and a pair lens-less knock-off Ray Bans completes the transformation of Jen into Adam All, Powell’s drag king persona. Powell has developed Adam All over the past decade, and they are one of the many who’ve taken the plunge into the world of drag.
Any article on drag, including this one, will mention “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” now in its 10th season. The show brought the sashay into many Midwestern homes, which were, for the most part, more familiar with gaits and gallops. These days, it’s not so unusual to see a man dressed as a beautiful woman with a fat cap’s worth of eyeliner, Ursula’s blue shadow, closer-to-God hair, tucked and top heavy. But their counterpart, the drag king, isn’t as well-known, even though kings have been around since the 19th century.
Queens take the female stereotype and amp it up as high as their size 15 heels. Kings do the same – their goatee-d alter-egos are macho, metro, sleazy, sexy, and everything else under, and above, the sun. The inclusive king scene is not limited to lesbians dressing as men. Kings can be cis, trans, bi, queer, or anything that falls within that spectrum.
Groups in Denver, such as Mile High Kingdom and Tranzend, are propelling the art form statewide and beyond, but the Durango king scene is limited. There are only a handful of kings, including Seeley Mudd, Blaze, and a few others. Maryl Winterscheid, AKA Myster E, has been dressing in drag since 2015. She said there are only a few times a year she has the ability to perform in Durango – Summer and Winter Pride and Dragrango – so she joined a burlesque troupe to have more opportunities to flaunt her boy band Bieber in fishnets.
So why the matriarchy?
Media representation and limited lesbian outreach may be a couple of the reasons there are fewer kings. Winterscheid said it takes a lot of courage to get on stage, so some who might want to try it will shy away. Winterscheid said that part of the reason drag queens have dominated the scene is simply because they’re infatuating.
“There is something about the queen community. When you watch the queen’s persona evolve in the dressing room, then you see them get into full drag, it is a whole thing of character development and transformation,” Winterscheid said. “You can make the booty. You can make the hips. You can make the boobs.”
But for every stuffed booty there’s a bulge. There are plenty of king gender benders who transform just as much as any queen.
Murray Hill, also known as Mr. Showbiz, is a Brooklyn-based trailblazer who has been entertaining in New York clubs since the mid-’90s. Hill’s fame grew with his polyester suit collection. Today he is still “slinging shtick” in ugly ties in NYC, across the nation, and internationally.
Hailing from England, Adam All is a metro geek who loves arena rock. His simple-mindedness adds to his charm. His drag relationship with hyper-feminine girlfriend and queen, Apple Derrieres, explores gender dynamics in a new, brightly-colored way.
And passionate entertainer Miles Long, now living in Tennessee, has been on television and drag stages for the past 8 years. Long is as active offstage as on. He has spent 15 years working with LGBTQ youth groups, educating them in areas such as marriage equality, gender rights, the bathroom debate, and general acceptance. In 2017, he won Oklahoma’s Mr. Bold and Beautiful, an inclusive drag king and queen pageant.
We wanted to get to know these boys a little bit more, so we talked to the three kings who outdo the ladies in style and sex appeal.
Murray HillInstagram: @murray_hillWhat would you say to someone who believes rayon is better than polyester?I’d like to meet this “someone.” Look, nothing is better than polyester. It’s the magic miracle stretch fabric that comes in some of the most appalling colors and patterns I’ve ever seen. I love my polyester suits. And, since they are basically plastic, inside my suit is like a little pressure cooker, sweat machine. Great for weight loss!
We’re curious how uninitiated straight men respond to you. But what’s an initiated straight man? Ha! I perform for all kinds of people. When I’m with the guys, I’m just one of the guys. I gotta say, most straight guys want my full head of hair. They get a little jealous. Hey, who can blame them?
Dean or Frank? Sammy, then Dean, then a cheeseburger.
Favorite cocktail? Alka-Seltzer with lime.
You’re larger-than-life and always on. Tell us something people would be surprised to learn about Mr. Showbiz. I’m one of the best ping-ping players in Brooklyn... and I do eat vegetables.
Tell us about when you first grew a mustache.I barely remember this morning! When I was around 6 years old, I remember painting on a ’stache to impersonate Schneider from “One Day At A Time” (the original series in the ’70s). It’s been on ever since... and the tool belt, (but) only on the weekends now.
Were you born with it?Whatever this question is referring to, the answer is yes.
What effect has the ’stache had on your life? It’s been a life changer, pal! It’s kinda like, “My milkshake brings all the guys to the yard,” but completely different. You know what I’m saying? Or, love it “like a fat kid loves cake.” My ’stache has been a magnet for all kinds of things, especially heckling. I’ve been called Magnum P.I., El Chapo, Oliver Hardy – it’s all over the place. People ask me all the time, “Is it real?” Hey, of course it is! I’m a natural!
Adam All Instagram: @adamall_dragHow do you get such chiseled abs?Well, it’s a strict training regime of Netflix, wine, and cheese, though I have to say regular sex is a great ab definer. Maybe he’s born with it (maybe it’s Maybelline)? I like to run, swim, and weight train. And, of course, yoga is the central rock of my workout rituals. I’ve been told my abs are so defined they look, well, unrealistic. But I say, to hell with reality when you can have living-cartoon-Ken-Doll realness!
You like to use the element of surprise in your performances. What is something that would surprise most people to know about Adam?I’m not that surprising really. Under all the glitter and costumes, I’m just a regular guy – whatever that is. Something that people may be surprised to know is that I’m pretty practical. I’m a qualified joiner (woodworker), and I like making things when I’ve got the time. I try and bring that into my show when I can – a bit of arts and crafts or something. But more importantly, as it turns out, I’m a Ravenclaw. Surprised the shit out of me!
Both are excellent, but your refined fashion sense and love of arena rock clash. Please explain the disconnect.I’m obsessed with the suit as an outfit. It’s my go-to for all occasions. Outwardly expressing my love of bright color combos was a liberating turning point in my fashion consciousness. I’ve always remembered rock legends as having a wild sense of dramatic flamboyance – glitter, sequins, leotards, flashing neon, and bold, bright designs, so it never felt that big a leap for me to merge my own look with the songs I love the most. They seem to have a similar resonance. Besides, what makes a man? Well, a huge range of things actually. It’s a broad rainbow of gender expression, as is my suit collection.
Tell us about your relationship with Apple. What is it like when two big personalities are a couple? Apple and I fit together very well. We seem to be reaching from different ends of a spectrum at times, and that makes for a really dynamic and productive partnership. We’re very often in tune with each other, musically and physically – sometimes psychically, which is terrifying. But I’d be nothing without her, and we have a very deep, inescapable love for one another. She’s got a sixth sense for impending doom, which is utterly uncanny, so as long as I do what she tells me, even if it seems counterproductive, we tend to wind our way through life’s storms together, reasonably unscathed. She’s a powerhouse, which makes her the perfect woman for me.
Have you ever considered wearing contacts or getting Lasik? What’s wrong with my glasses? I like them, I can see things, and they match. I’m committed now. I’ve got tens of pairs matching all my accessories. What would I do with them all? What would Adam be without his RoyBuns?
Miles LongInstagram: @the_mileslongYou won Mr. Oklahoma Bold and Beautiful in 2017. What does it take to win?Yes, I won the Mr. division of the Oklahoma Bold and Beautiful Pageant. It takes passion, determination, creativity, talent, and fashion to win.
Since you mention fashion, tell us about your style. My fashion is a touch eclectic, ranging from urban hip-hop to GQ modern. One night I might walk out in a three-piece suit, then jeans, (a) baseball t-shirt, and a snapback. And, every now and again I like to throw themed costumes into the mix. I like to be as well-rounded as I can.
Being a shorter guy, do other men give you crap for it? I’ve been short my whole life, and I’ve had my fair share of jokes, but it really doesn’t bother me anymore, because as soon as I hit any stage, all eyes are on me and no one can tell me anything. I feel larger than life.
The Oklahoma Bold and Beautiful Pageantry System brings kings and queens together and celebrates both. Is this usually the case in the drag community? (The) Oklahoma Bold and Beautiful System is one of the very few systems to group all of the male sub-divisions – be it male lead, drag king, or trans – together into the Mr. Oklahoma Bold and Beautiful contest, as well as group all of the female subdivisions – be it queen, diva, or trans – together into the Miss Oklahoma Bold and Beautiful contest.
Have you always had a natural stage presence, or did it take practice? A mixture of both, honestly. I was comfortable with being on stage from participating in plays back in school, but figuring out what I liked doing on stage and what worked for me personally with makeup and costumes, that’s what took the most practice.
Do you have a pickup line that you use? I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a pickup line in my possession. But think about this – if I told you, then it wouldn’t be just MY pickup line anymore, would it?