Main image: I’m Baby onstage at Dyke Drag.
It’s not every day that a weeknight drag show at a small Brooklyn bar draws a roaring, sold-out crowd. But Dyke Drag is no ordinary drag show.
The brainchild of co-producers Kayla Manjarrez, a fashion stylist, and I’m Baby, a nonbinary drag performer, Dyke Drag debuted in early February 2022 with a Valentine’s Day-themed show at Ginger’s Bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Their inaugural event delivered exactly what the name suggests: a drag and variety show by dykes, for dykes. It’s a simple concept, but any drag enthusiast knows just how rare it is to see a lineup of all non-cisgender male performers. To their knowledge, it is Brooklyn’s first and only dyke-centric drag show.
“I think that because of so much gender discussion, lesbians are seeing that drag doesn’t have to be a male-dominated space,” Baby tells Logo. “It can be for us.”
Before they were co-producers, Manjarrez and Baby were friends with a shared passion for drag. The duo first connected at a pre-pandemic karaoke night at The Rosemont, a queer watering hole in Williamsburg. Baby clocked Manjarrez’s bright-pink purse and bottle of poppers and immediately knew they’d found a kindred spirit. The rest, as they say, was history.
Logo caught up with Manjarrez and Baby to talk about all things Dyke Drag, including how New York City-based drag lovers can get in on the fun for their next show.
Hi! How did the idea for a dyke-centric drag show first come about?
I’m Baby: When I first started drag, I thought it was so interesting that there’s no drag in lesbian spaces really. So I had the idea; I just didn’t really know how to facilitate it. And then a few months ago, Kayla said, “Hey, what if we tried to put on a Dyke Drag show?” And I said, “You know what? This is something that I’ve cared about and wanted to do. I’m ready and willing to figure this out how we can make it happen.”
Manjarrez: We’ve been trying to get it off the ground for a minute now. We were actually planning to start it in December, and then Omicron hit. So it’s been a work in progress, and we’re so excited that we were finally able to get it off the ground. And I think [the timing] was meant to be. I think Valentine’s day was a perfect way to start.
Truly. Neither of you had event production experience prior to this, right?
Manjarrez: Not event production necessarily. I’ve worked in fashion styling and celebrity dressing for five years now, so I’ve worked really intimately in events but from a different angle. I think it has helped provide a perspective that I wouldn’t have had going into this without that background.
Baby: I have obviously performed at a few different venues with a few different people, a few different producers. Even when I wasn’t performing, I was always at a drag show. So just us being at those events all the time and seeing how they run and hearing things from the scene. Performers often feel like they’re not being communicated with enough or whatever, so how can we make them feel comfortable, and what would we want in that kind of situation?
In a few words, how would you describe the atmosphere of the first show?
Baby: All I can think of is gay and sweet.
Manjarrez: I was going to go with flirty and exhilarating.
There are so few spaces that not only cater to fellow dykes who love drag, but center dykes and dyke drag performers. Because it’s not just gay men out there. Can both of you speak to creating a drag space by dykes, for dykes?
Manjarrez: I mean, I feel like I kept having this experience of trying to connect with dykes, and it was like we spoke different languages. My references are not landing; nobody knows what I’m talking about. And it’s just because our cultural spheres looked so different. I’ve always felt like it’s not that lesbians don’t like drag, it’s just that they don’t necessarily know about it. It’s not at our bars, and I never understood why that was. For me, it was really important to sort of bridge that gap. Baby and I had talked a lot about feeling like we lived our lives in segments of, this is where we can be gay. And then this is where we go see drag. It didn’t always feel like those things could exist in the same spaces. In the bars where we would traditionally see drag, I would get a lot of, like, “Oh thank you for being here. Thank you for coming.” I’m like, “Thank you for coming? What do you mean?”
Baby: I go to the bar, and I have to choose either going out to flirt with people or going out to see drag. And not just that, but I see my fellow performers who are nonbinary or drag kings. I’ve been lucky enough to start drag in Brooklyn where I’ve been well received. People don’t come up to me and say, “Oh, you can’t be a drag queen,” but I see people not having spaces to perform a Hayley Kiyoko song. [The audience] is going enjoy my performance, but they’re not going to get it. If I perform that in front of dykes, other lesbian musicians and stuff, they will. … It’s really lovely to have a space for myself where I can be comfortable and perform for people who want to see it. I think that because of so much gender discussion, lesbians are seeing that drag doesn’t have to be a male-dominated space. It can be for us. We can enjoy the art. We can enjoy the gender of it, the exploration of it.
That’s so real. Like, fundamentally, drag is about playing with gender and performance.
Baby: I mean, through drag was how I realized I’m nonbinary. And I just think it’s important for people to see drag at a bar. Sometimes you’re like, “Oh, I want to try that.” And then you don’t know what you’ll discover about yourself.
Kayla, what you said about being mistaken for a straight person in a gay male-centric space really struck me, too. I feel like femme lesbians and queer women really get the short end of the stick.
Manjarrez: It’s crazy. Before the pandemic I started trying little tricks to feel more valid. That’s why I started carrying around poppers at bars. If somebody said something snarky, I could be like, “Want some poppers?” [Laughs] I don’t know. I was just grasping at straws trying to find things that made me welcome. Now I’m like, fuck it. I’ll make my own show where I’m welcome.
The first show was at Ginger’s, Brooklyn’s last remaining lesbian bar. Was it important to you to have Dyke Drag in a sapphic space?
Baby: Absolutely. Part of it was this idea that lesbians don’t know about drag. We have to bring the drag to the lesbians, so it was important for us to do it in a space where they are. But there are only 15 lesbian bars left in the country, three left in New York. Ginger’s is the only one in Brooklyn, as you mentioned. We also feel a bit of a responsibility to protect those spaces and help them not only survive but flourish throughout these times that we’re in. By doing a show there, it helps achieve both of those things.
And what was the reaction like?
Baby: I’ve heard from so many performers who want to be in the next one. Kayla’s running the Instagram, so people have messaged, “I can’t wait for the next one,” “Please let us know when tickets are available because I missed this one,” “I saw the videos and I want to be in that space.”
Manjarrez: Yeah. I can’t even count how many messages we got when we sold out of people being like, “Please will there be tickets at the door?” “How do I see the show?”
Baby: People were posting on Lex about it! Somebody sent me an ad — “Look, they’re looking for tickets on Lex.” Like, “We want to get into this show.”
The second Dyke Drag show is Tuesday, March 8. What can people expect, and what is your longterm plan for Dyke Drag?
Baby: We’re going with a “nod to Pisces” theme because my birthday is in March. I’m still working on lineup right now. But we definitely want to have a drag king there, and I really want some dreamy, water sign vibes.
Manjarrez: We’re hoping it’ll be a monthly show, but I don’t know. We’re setting our sights high.
Baby: I’m a Pisces Moon, Kayla’s a Pisces Moon. We have big, dreamy visions of how big this could get and where it could go. Right now we’re taking it show by show and trying to figure out, how we do keep it going long term? What does that look like? What kind of events we can throw? If we get to have a third one, we’re going to have to start looking and planning for Pride, and that could be major.
Tickets for the next Dyke Drag show are available now.