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Drag King’s Exist Too… and They’re not Going Anywhere

Georgia State student Avery Noah is a social work student and bratista by day and drag king Aries Alxndr by night. Photo Courtesy of ARIES ALXNDR

Lights go down as an eager crowd peers at the seemingly quiet individual before them. Sporting a sweater and fanny pack, the last thing anyone expected was for the person on stage to strip down to a shirt with the words “daddy’s boy” on it, and whip out four dildos one by one while dancing to a song by queer artist Troy Sivan. The crowd went wild.

One could say this performance from timid to outspoken is a metaphorical interpretation of this student’s experience in the performative world of drag. Avery Noah Alejandro Willis (they/them) is a social work major and Starbucks barista by day and an up-and-coming drag king called ARIES ALXNDR (he/him) by night who breaks boundaries one expressive routine at a time.

Whether throwing condoms and lube into the dancing audience before him or evoking tears with his honest messages about self-acceptance, ALXNDR will not be silenced. Although seemingly made to be a performer, Willis was not always ARIES ALXNDR. 

Stumbling upon the performative world in with which they fell in love, Willis got their start by helping a friend choreograph a routine for the Georgia State Alliance’s annual drag show. Asked to join their friend on stage, Willis’s journey to stardom embarked. 

Performing at small fundraisers and shows on campus that year, it was not until this past February that ALXNDR found his voice. When local Atlanta drag king, Mystery Meat, decided to host an all-drag king competition called “Macho Man Brawl,” Willis knew they had to make a statement.  

An entrance accompanied by footage and audio of the “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be” Gillette commercial morphed into a song by gender-fluid drag icon Dorian Electra, entitled “Man to Man,” about confronting toxic masculinity. ALXNDR danced while wearing a shirt proclaiming, “men will do better.”

Since that performance, ALXNDR became “known for [his] messages.” When Macho Man Brawl returned in April, ALXNDR’s performance had his crowd reaching for tissues. Walking out to “Reflections” from Mulan, ALXNDR wore traditionally feminine clothing backed by a picture of Willis before coming out as transgender. 

The picture was replaced by current-day Willis, proudly wearing a nametag with their pronouns and a genuine smile, while the music altered to audio of their voice shifting up to 11 months on testosterone. Friends of Willis ran up on stage with transgender flags while ALXNDR changed into gender-affirming clothing. 

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ALXNDR’s confidence and forthright nature stems from Willis’s personal value of speaking their mind. 

“Being on stage is a way to get everyone to pay attention to what you have to say,” Willis said. “It’s a platform.”

ALXNDR’s performances are not only inspired by Willis’s story, but the stories of others in the drag world as well.

King Gunner Down has a piece in which he covers derogatory language written on his arms in rainbow paint, expressive of his journey growing up queer in a family that did not accept him.

King Perka $exxx has a number in which he brought out photographs of the trans women of color killed that year, accompanied by the names, places and candles. 

“People who are not known for politics are finding their breaking point,” said Willis. “It’s the beginning of a revolution.”