Nathan Alexander Oral History

Dublin Core

Title

Nathan Alexander Oral History

Subject

Drag
Drag Community
Drag Queens
Drag Bars
Community Centers (LGBTQ)
Mental Health Care for LGBTQ People
LGBTQ Homeless Youth

Description

Nathan Alexander describes the drag community in Urbana-Champaign, the Southern Illinois Pride Parade, and Uniting Pride (formerly UP Center).

Creator

Nathan Alexander

Source

History Harvest 2019
Nathan Alexander

Date

2019-10-26

Contributor

Avi Miller
Ross Brown

Rights

In copyright

Format

.wav

Language

English

Type

Sound

Coverage

Champaign, Illinois
Urbana, Illinois

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Duration

00:06:58

Transcription

ROSS D. BROWN: What item did you bring in today?

NATHAN ALEXANDER: Today, I brought in aspects from my drag career, local and in-town and my volunteer work with the UP Center of Champaign County, including certificates, special event permits, a few event flyers and booklets, as well as some Southern Illinois Pride Fest materials from Carbondale.

ROSS: How long have you done drag events?

NATHAN: I’ve performed in drag events since 2011, but mostly on the west coast. I moved here in 2017, and the drag community was one of the first communities that I engaged in here, particularly at (Chester Street Bar) where we did talent nights for newer drag queens, and then we also did fundraisers for organizations like the Greater Community AIDS Project. Once C-Street closed, the drag scene tended to move toward 51 Main. Currently, the drag scene doesn’t have a very regular venue and they’ve rebranded themselves “C-U Fabulous Entertainment” to find performance venues that can be cohesively branded.

ROSS: How many events do they have right now and what venues have they been at?

NATHAN: The drag shows are very sporadic at this point. It’s not very consistent. I did several of the drag shows for this past Pride where we worked with Seven Saints. We used their outdoor patio to do a drag show, and it started raining at the very last moment, but luckily it was the last number and the drag queen enjoyed being wet, so it worked out well. Aside from that, we also do Drag Brunch as part of Pride at CityView at the MTD terminal, and that went well as well. Aside from that, there have been drag shows at Neil Street Blues, 51 Main still does some at their new location. There have been shows at Blackbird in Urbana, at The Red Herring on campus. Hillel on campus does a perim show every year as a benefit to the UP Center, generally. I wasinvolved in the first one but not the second. Hillel had hired a new rabbi named Ari, who was trying to increase LGBTQ visibility and acceptance and programming among Jewish students. My involvement in the first one was pretty much: 1) I identified the performers and the DJ and kind of developed the concept of doing drag as storytelling where each section of the story would have a drag counterpart to exhibit that general feeling. This was back when 51 (Main) was still doing drag shows and doing open talentnights. It was kind of an opportunity for a lot of the queens who were still doing open talent nights without regular bookings to kind of participate in drag, and then DJ Silky was the one who did sound. The local drag events tend to be rather house-based, or smaller events, like the Red Herring had three to four drag performers for it.

ROSS: Can you talk a little bit about your involvement in the UP Center here in Champaign and kind of your involvement in it, and what they’re working on right now?

NATHAN: I started volunteering for the UP Center in the fall of 2017 after Pride. I had performed in the Friday night drag show for that and became friends with the now-president William Blanchard. My involvement was that I primarily worked off of grants and did bookkeeping. That was one of the deficits they were facing at the time. The UP Center got down to two board members at one time. My involvement was kind of the rebuilding of the board and the internal structure. I recently resigned from the UP Center. We got a 90 percent raise in grants from the Champaign County Mental Health Board. We’ve brought continuing credits in education for professionals in treating (transgender) and gender non-conforming clients in mental health, and I’m still involved in that for medical treatment. We did a homeless youth drive and visited Project Oz in Bloomington-Normal to kind of identify the needs that street youth would have. We do weekly youth groups for ages 13-18, kind of high school-aged. If they don’t have resources or support networks, we try to foster and build those. One of the things with the UP Center is we work as a community center for the LGBTQ people in town, and so there’s a little bit of everything that we do. We also do Pride. I guess one of the ways I was specifically involved was I worked at improving record-keeping and I also was able to get back in contact with the founder of the UP Center and get a lot of institutional knowledge on how it was founded. A lot of documents that were necessary for us to continue. I redid our insurance policies.

MAKAYLA DORSEY: Have changes in funding or changes in venues for the drag community--has that affected the cohesiveness of the drag community or larger community in Champaign-Urbana?

NATHAN: I think one of the things that the UP Center has kind of struggled with is involvement. As more businesses, more bars, more areas become more accepting, there's less pressure to be a unified force. With the drag community, in particular, there’s kind of a lack of resources because there’s not one venue that’s consistent and there’s not a venue that’s worked with drag performers before. It’s sometimes a unique dynamic because you need changing rooms, sound systems...drag can be expensive. If you’re making your own outfits, doing your own makeup, doing your own hair and buying your own shoes, it’s not breaking even. It’s turned into how are we going to promote each other’s events and make sure we are telling all of our social networks that these events are happening to make sure these events stay alive within the community

Interviewer

Ross Brown
Makayla Dorsey

Interviewee

Nathan Alexander

Location

MTD City View, Champaign, Illinois

Citation

Nathan Alexander, “Nathan Alexander Oral History,” Omeka, accessed July 22, 2024, https://historyharvest.web.illinois.edu/omeka/items/show/90.

Output Formats