Washtenaw United: Ypsilanti performer opening hearts and minds through drag performance
ABOUT JADEIN BLACK:
Jadein Black has been performing across the country since 2007. She has competed in various prestigious drag competitions, including, but not limited to, National Entertainer of the Year where she made top ten, and she has made it to the second round of auditions for RuPaul's Drag Race. Jadein Black is like no other Drag Performer you have seen before. She brings in her audience and knows how to captivate them and capture their hearts.
Before COVID-19 affected the U.S.A. in March 2020, Jadein was a full-time teacher at a local, Michigan school district. Once the schools shut down, Jadein took her drag on as a full-time career and her business has taken off ever since. During the pandemic, Jadein was producing and performing in up to four virtual drag shows a week and was hosting various virtual gatherings. Now as the world slowly opens once again, Jadein's calendar continues to fill as she does in person drag shows, drag bingos, weddings, birthday parties, and more!
In addition to being a solo Drag Performer, Jadein is also CEO of Boylesque Michigan, an Ypsi-based drag troupe, founded in 2010. The drag troupe vows to put on a fabulous show and create change by raising money for local non-profits with every show. Boylesque Michigan hosts events in a welcoming and inclusive environment through both in person and virtual entertainment. Their performances are requested at drag bingos, kid-friendly drag shows and story times, weddings, bar mitzvahs, divorce parties, birthday parties, bachelorette parties, and so much more!!
David Fair: The fight for equality and inclusion continues for all too many in our community and around the country. I'm David Fair, and I'd like to welcome you to Washtenaw United. It's our weekly exploration of equity and opportunity. One of the ongoing national debates is about drag culture. Now, as we wrap up Pride Month, we thought it worthy of further exploration and conversation. Our guest this morning is a drag performer and the founder and CEO of the Ypsilanti-based drag troupe Boylesque. Jadein Black says the profession can open minds and hearts and give back to the community. Jadein, thank you so much for making the time today. We appreciate it.
Jadein Black: Oh, thank you so much for having me today.
David Fair: Well, while you're in drag, as I understand it, Jadein, you prefer she/her pronouns. Outside of drag, you prefer he/him. Since we're talking by phone today and I can't really see you, which is the appropriate way to address you?
Jadein Black: I think either/or. Because the Ypsilanti community know me as my drag performer more. So, as long as they don't call me late for dinner, I'm good.
David Fair: Okay, great. Do you think sometimes the pronoun debate is a diversion from the larger issue of discrimination and bias against the LGBT community and anybody that stands outside of what many consider the norm?
Jadein Black: I do. I think pronouns are very important. I think, for some people, it is more important than others, especially how they identify as it how they want to be presented.
David Fair: As I mentioned, June is Pride month. I'm sure throughout the course of your professional life and your personal life, you've encountered those who believe drag performance should not be a source of pride, particularly if put forth as entertainment before children. How do you respond when you get the opportunity to sit down and have a shot at changing attitudes and social perspectives?
Jadein Black: So, this is one of many goals is to prove that I'm just a regular person, especially when working at Ypsilanti Community Schools. I'm a past elementary school teacher at Ford and Hope Elementary, where I taught fifth grade general music. As a teacher, I know our kids are exposed to a lot of things that are not appropriate. But through all my family-friendly shows, I know how to censor myself, just like going to a movie. Any kind of entertainment, you have different ratings, different age groups, and I believe it shows there's different ratings for different drag shows. Over the last year, I've experienced a lot of hatred, especially from those because I was the drag queen in the state to lead family-friendly shows, even though Pride's been going on for years. I think it's a political punch to our community, especially because, last year, I was hosting story time at Ann Arbor's summer festival. I was the party with so many people that call themselves proud. And I was followed to the festival and right when I started the Drag Queen story time, I was met with people with a bullhorn in which the Ann Arbor Police Department had to come in. All the parents got up in unison and stood around me and the kids, and I kept going. They held up signs that said "stop sexualizing children" and called multiple names. One guy brought his two girls in with him. They were holding up signs. They had to have been nine, ten, maybe in the early teens, too. And it was very sad for them it for these kids to watch in front of me.
David Fair: On a more personal level, Jadein On a more personal level, Jadein. While you are receiving this hate externally, you've taken the professional attitude the show must go on. But how does it manifest inside? Are you performing with a real sense of fear for your safety and well-being?
Jadein Black: No. I perform because this is what I love to do, and there's nothing that's going to stop me in my life. If you are doing what you love, no matter what, I want my message heard. It makes the world a better place, and I believe that manifestation. And if something were to start or happened to me, it would cause even bigger movement to protect people like me just living their best life.
David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and our Washtenaw United guest today is the talented Jadein Black. Jadein is a local drag performer who founded the Ypsilanti drag troupe Boylesque. She has successfully competed in a number of drag competitions and placed top ten for National Entertainer of the Year and made it to the second round of auditions for RuPaul's reality show. Drag Race. That says exactly what you told me-- that you love to do these kinds of performances. What inspired that?
Jadein Black: Being in the church. I started seeing performers. I learned that that was all around. And then, whenever I came out, I was shunned by the church. You know, I knew that there was somebody that I could express my personality, be my ascetic self by giving joy to others.
David Fair: Once again, we are talking with the founder of Boylesque on WEMU's Washtenaw United. Jadein Black is an Ypsilant-based drag performer with fans not only from Washtenaw County and Ypsilanti, but from all over the country. You know, Hamburger Mary's was a fully supportive venue for drag performance in Ypsilanti before it closed. Now you're doing performances at the Taproom in Ypsilanti. Are venues open to having you perform whenever and wherever you like?
Jadein Black: The thing is just I've doing it for15 years. I'm very proud to give a shoutout to all the owners. I really enjoyed working out there. We have our family event every Wednesday from 7 to 9. We also have regular shows at Dick's above Aubree's and Sidetrack as well on the back patio. The brunches are amazing, and I love seeing all the kids get up and stare at the numbers and everything. It's just brings me joy.
David Fair: Another part of your mission is to give back. And to do so financially, you do charity events and you specifically raise money to reinvest in the community. Why did that become central to your mission?
Jadein Black: I got to a point where I was performing in nightclubs. I'm getting older, and I like when my shows are by 10:00. And so, I had to reinvent myself to say, "Okay, I need a mission of why I wake up in the morning and why I put on makeup or wig or even go into chi-chis. And so, when you give for the community, bring back infrastructure, like we did every year during New Years Eve, where we would have a sponsor for the drag budget, and we use all the ticket sales to buy gift cards for the front line workers at U of M, at St. Joe, the local teachers, and our local Rite Aid pharmacists that were doing double time, double the work. And it helps our community, and it helps our community grow. I think this was bigger, and I'm glad I started this a long time ago because I feel like our community has grown so much because of events like mine and other people that are throwing around, like at Keystone and stuff like that, that provide a safe space to raise money and put equity and equality, you know, right there on the forefront.
David Fair: So, if a youngster came to you today and said, "This is what is inside me and this is what I want to do and this is how I want to put my self forward to the public," what would your advice be to getting a start and doing so without fear and with a joy of the performance?
Jadein Black: Well, it's a lot different nowadays from whenever I started doing drag. I started doing this before there was an Amazon or YouTube. There's thousands, millions of makeup tutorials. It's different because now you can learn how to sell yourself on YouTube. So, my best advice is if they're happy, you know, let them be whoever they want to be.
David Fair: And to those that are existing around them and dealing with a young and fragile soul, what words do you have for them?
Jadein Black: Be patient. Be patient and do your homework, because there is a lot of resources out there right now. You know, our families and some generations don't understand, but that's why there is such amazing books and research by scholars and very educated people that provide insight on how to deal with those situations.
David Fair: Jadein, it's been an absolute pleasure talking with you. I thank you for sharing your story with us today.
Jadein Black: Thank you so much for having me. Have a wonderful day.
David Fair: That is Jadein Black, helping us wrap up Pride Month as our guest on Washtenaw United. For more information on Jadein and Boylesque, visit our website at WEMU dot org. Washtenaw United is produced in partnership with the United Way of Washtenaw County, and we bring it to you every Monday. I'm David Fair, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM Ypsilanti.
United Way of Washtenaw County stands with the LGBTQIA+ community and we dedicated to showcase local drag performers who are actively working to make a difference for our local nonprofits and LGBTQIA+ individuals.
The stories we hear of LGBTQIA+ people are often those of discrimination, abuse, loss of family, and painful experiences. It is also important to remember and recognize queer and trans joy, and the power that these communities have to create radically welcoming spaces and chosen families.
WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw Countyto explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area. And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services. It is a community voice. It is 'Washtenaw United.'
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