San Francisco is known as a haven for drag culture, and parts of the East Bay, even people at Berkeley High School (BHS), have started to get involved in drag. Although less common, some teenagers have begun to express themselves through drag as well.
Nova Duchateau, a junior at BHS, performs in drag under the name Mysta Meanor. He started doing it before freshman year, at the end of the pandemic shutdowns, and explained the effect of drag on his life. “I think that drag is a great way of showing self-expression, and making your wildest dreams come true,” Duchateau said.
Duchateau has found that at BHS there isn’t a widespread drag culture. He explained how he engages with drag at BHS. “I have friends, especially a lot of AHA (Arts and Humanities Academy) seniors who like to watch Drag Race,” Duchateau said. “So, I talk to them about that sometimes. When I have a show, I try to get as many of my friends to come. I also talk to teachers because some teachers know students who have done drag in the past.”
Miriam Stahl, an art teacher at BHS, explained how she supports her students. “I just encourage the art form and the creativity that goes into the makeup, outfits, and the names,” Stahl said. “It’s one of the many ways that you can express creativity through color and craft skills and play with gender.”
Since BHS doesn’t host any events, Duchateau has found other ways to engage with the community. He performs on occasion, usually lip-syncing and dancing in drag. An event that he performs at is called, “Rollin’ with the Homos,” which is held every last Sunday of the month. Participants dress up in drag and skate around on some form of wheels.
“I’m usually like the only one who’s my age unless I bring friends,” Duchateau said. “There’s usually some parents who have their kids who are six or seven. Every once in a while, there’ll be teens, but usually (there are only) maybe one or two other (teenagers) out of probably over 100 people.”
There are other all-age drag groups that hold events at climbing gyms and drag brunches in San Francisco. Events called “drag story hours” are held for younger kids, where drag queens get into costume and read to little kids. Stahl has donated her books to them and encourages them to continue. She said, “For little kids, there’s nothing cooler than somebody walking into the library with a lot of glitter on and wild wigs and outfits to read stories. For some reason conservative or radical right-wing politicians think that somehow (story times are) going to corrupt children.”
Duchateau believes that drag queens or kings under 18 have a positive impact. “It’s shows like hey, we can do this too,” Duchateau said. “It separates drag from people’s assumptions about it that say it is hyper-sexualized. I’m literally wearing a wig, makeup, and dancing to a song. Like, it’s not gonna hurt people. It feels like it shows the reality behind it.”
Duchateau elaborated on why the culture is so small at BHS. “It takes some guts and a vision to have the confidence to go out and do (drag) themselves, as well as showing up to events that only have adults attending,” Duchateau said. “I also feel like many people just don’t know how to start.”
Another BHS student, Xaro Kaufman, shared they didn’t know of a large drag presence at BHS. Kaufman got involved in another way. “My connection to drag is through my uncles and cousin and we all watch RuPaul together,” Kaufman said. Personally, some of my fits are drag-ish or inspired by icons like Raja, and Frank-n-Furter from the Rocky Picture Horror Show.” TV shows are another way BHS students can get involved in drag culture.
Duchateau shared his vision for the BHS drag community. “I think it would be great to have a drag club here, that could organize drag shows for students to view and possibly to raise funds for issues around the world,” Duchateau said. “As well as maybe teaching people some basics and the history of drag.”