Flint, MI —For Dakota Cox, being part of the drag community is more than feathers and sequins. For her it is everything.
“When you’re a person who is LGBT, when you’re young, sometimes your family doesn’t accept you or you don’t have people you can lean on,” Cox said. “So finding that family within the gay community…I was just so overwhelmed because I never felt welcomed in certain circles. I didn’t fit a part of any picture or puzzle. Once I found that family, it meant everything to me.”
Finding her family in the drag community and knowing who she could lean on was a feeling of finally being free Cox said.
On Sept. 26, 2022, she joined others from the drag community for Michigan Drag Brunch’s 300th performance at 501 Bar & Grill for two sold-out drag queen performances.
Cox, a member of the Diamond family, tore the room up with her performance to Doja Cat’s newest song, Vegas. She had the room standing with applause and there wasn’t a single person in the room without a smile on their face.
The event planning was primarily organized by Tanisha Townsend, manager of events, who has been with Michigan Drag Brunch for four years. She has been working alongside the owner, Trevor Straub, with shows in Grand Rapids, Flint, Bay City and Ohio.
“We reach out to venues and see who would be willing to bring us on,” said Townsend. “I love the queens. We have east side and west side queens performing across the state. Today we have six queens here. We never tell anyone what to expect. They’re all in for a treat, just get ready for the time of your life.”
Straub, who is also show director, studied arts and performance professionally in Los Angeles and New York City. After his relationship with his boyfriend grew more serious he decided to move to Michigan to create a better lifestyle for his family.
“I just want to continue to break the boundaries of drag here in the state of Michigan,” Straub said. “I think it’s important that we expand the art form to its fullest potential and educate thoroughly. We don’t need to judge anyone on the little that we know, we need to invest our knowledge and always meet others with kindness and love. We need to get to know one another. I think drag creates a really fun and unique opportunity for me to connect with someone I might not have crossed paths with otherwise.”
Jamie Isaacson, one of the front house managers for 501 worked with Straub and Townsend to have the show at 501.
“I was so stoked for today. It was great working with Trevor and smooth sailing getting this event going. I have never seen a show like this before. It was so exciting,” said Isaacson.
The show lined up two performances from each queen along with a few games. Once brunch was over, several of the guests lined up outside to take a photo with the queens.
“I say live life to its fullest,” Cox said. “Do exactly what you’ve been wanting to do, do what you have been dreaming of doing. The time is now, we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Now we have so many different alleys and extensions of things from social media that are really helping uplift and bring visibility to the community.”
In addition to performances, MI Drag Brunch also works to decrease stigmatization and build support for the LGBTQA+ which continues to suffer from ongoing marginalization. Money is also raised to help support As You Are Youth Collective (A.Y.A.), a Grand Rapids-based organization focused on homelessness. According to the Williams Institute of Law at the University of California in Los Angeles, 20 percent LGBTQA+ experienced homelessness before the age of 18. Additionally, 17 percent of LGBTQA+ adults have experienced homelessness in their lives.
A.Y.A. Youth Collective creates safe spaces for youth in crisis to belong, be themselves and build a future. The organization creates support circles for people ages 14 to 24 facing homelessness or instability.
Cox said she believes in her work as a queen and as an advocate for the LGBTQA+community.
“Now is the time,” Cox said. “If you are gay, If you’re a lesbian, if you’re bi, if you’re trans and you feel like you don’t have a place where you’re at right now, this is the time to really break free and do what you feel like.”