A warning: transforming into a drag queen might cause psychological changes and real world fashion side effects. Dancing on stage decked out in stiletto boots, flowing locks and full makeup, you’d never guess that Brock Webb ’09 has spent the previous week wearing nothing but sweatpants.
“You put on the hose and tights and the skin-tight dress and the tight coat and … my personal fashion just like goes down,” Webb said. “It’s like, okay, a shirt and sweatpants. A lot of cigarettes. Usually a bath.”
Fashion woes or not, this two-time QPOC drag show veteran will once again be gracing the stage again this Friday night at 10 p.m., performing for your donations to the AIDS Project of Central Iowa.
In previous drag show performances, Webb has done routines to “Kiss Off” by the Scissor Sisters and “Believe” by Cher.
“The first time was very much like ‘Oh, well, I’ll do this,’ and I was terrified and just kind of threw everything together last minute and didn’t have choreography whatsoever but I still did it and it was fun,” Webb said. “The second time with Cher it just kind of got so built up in my head beforehand that by the end I was just like okay, it has to be great.”
As this drag show is his last, Webb will go big by returning to his roots and performing “Ooh,” another Scissor Sisters track. Unlike the first rendition, though, Webb planned this one far in advance. “I actually started my costume in January and I’ve been working on it off and on since then so this is going to be the big one,” he said. “I’ve also learned how to do real drag queen makeup.”
Drag queen makeup is a complicated and detailed art. “[It’s] about seven layers of foundation in about four different colors and you add it in all sorts of contours on the face like highlights underneath your eyes and on the top of your cheekbones going up and then shadows underneath your cheekbones and on your forehead to kind of give it a more feminine shape,” Webb said. “It takes a long time.”
The makeup will supplement Webb’s costume, which has been under construction for quite some time. Though he made his first two drag costumes from scratch, using purchased fabric, his costume for this year is an amalgamation of his own clothing and some Goodwill purchases, with his own creative touch.
“I have a coat that’s actually my coat, a men’s coat, just this really big gray rectangular blob and I cut it into different pieces and re-sewed it together so it’s a much more feminine shape, like it’s much more curvy now and it’s got princess seams in the front and the back,” Webb said. “So now I’m just going to like sew sequins on all over it and pair it with a stretchy dress that I found at Goodwill.”
And the shoes. You can’t forget the shoes. Webb must prepare himself for the four-and-a-half inch stiletto boots that he plans to sport on Friday night.
“When I first got them I walked around my house. I also walked from my house [at 8th and Main] to Lonnski’s and that was a bad idea; I was so dead afterwards.”
Webb, who tops out at 6’4”, admits that trekking downtown in four-and-a-half-inch stilettos did attract some attention.
“Walking by Pizza Hut there was like these two, old, pickup-truck-driving men with like plaid shirts and they’d look at me and keep talking and then just like look again and look at me for a while,” Webb said. “It was funny.”
Though Webb may stand out in broad daylight in rural Iowa, he encounters a totally different environment backstage at the drag show, where cross-dressing is just another part of the night.
“Once we’re backstage together everybody is kind of just like running around and screaming at each other like ‘Oh my god I love your wig I love your shoes I love your outfit, oh my god can I borrow that for mine?’” Webb said. “We’re very much a community here.”
Though this is Webb’s last drag performance at Grinnell, it won’t be his last time donning makeup and sporting spikey heels. In addition to occasional high-heeled struts to Lonnski’s or VooDoo Lounge performances, Webb looks forward to potential performances in Iowa City.
“There’s talk of this summer getting a group together—since I’ll be here still—and going on a Monday or Wednesday to a gay bar, Studio 13, in Iowa City,” Webb said. “They have like twice-a-week drag competitions there and you win like a $50 tab at the bar or something.”
So if you see a tall figure roaming the streets of Grinnell this summer in scrappy clothes and high heels, know that he’s just preparing for a show. Drag queens need to feel like drag queens on the inside, too.