Monkey Business drag hostess Amanda Austin has a driving ambition to bring aspiring, talented female impersonators into a venue where they can hone their craft.
“It’s not easy to transform yourself from a young man to look like a young woman,” Austin admits. “It’s not just about putting on a dress: You need to know how to carry yourself. The makeup has to be perfect, because when you get on stage, under those demanding lights, it has to [look] flawless.
“Then of course there is the hair,” he adds. “If an upstart has their own hair and can use that, great, but if not, then there is the question as to whether you do blonde, brown, black, red— what works with the makeup and the clothes? Some people just think you throw on a dress and some stilettos, and you are all set. It is not that easy,” explains Austin (whose non-stage name is Shawn Steele).
By Dale Madison
“I really started Drag Wars at Monkey Business as a way to help develop new talent in the area,” the performer explains. “We do Drag Wars on Monday nights, beginning at 9:30, [and] we run the cycles in eightweek increments. [The current cycle began on September 24). At the end of the cycle, all winners return for a final contest. Weekly winners win $50 and get a paid booking, they work one of the shows, and get their tips. The cycle winner gets $100 cash, but the total is actually about $300, because Monkey Business pays their entry into the Miss Illusion contest, and [they receive] either jewelry or a crown.
“The weekly contest is judged by the audience, and then the final is judged by a group of [drag performer] peers: Those who have paid their dues and have what I like to call the ‘right stuff,’” he adds.
Unlike other competitions, “The judges actually give feedback to help the contestants get better,” Austin notes. “It’s sort of like ‘America’s Got Talent,’ in that we all want to see them get better at the craft.”
Potential Drag Wars competitors should be aware of a few basics before they enter: First, bring a CD with just one song for the DJ to play. Secondly, because dressing space is limited, performers should come dressed and ready to go on stage. Lastly, go to your Facebook page and promote the fact that you are going to be performing at Monkey Business. Audience participation is how the weekly winners are chosen, so get your peeps to come and support you.
Austin notes that there is no cover for the weekly contest and from 9:30 to 11 p.m. all well drinks are $3 during the show. For more information about Amanda Austin and Drag Wars, visit Facebook.com/MonkeyBusinessBar.