Drag queen says his 10-year-old son gives him the strength to truly embrace himself
A single father has been spurred on to pursue his passion for dressing up in drag by his 10-year-old son, who’s encouraged him not to give up.
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A single father has been spurred on to pursue his passion for dressing up in drag by his 10-year-old son, who’s encouraged him not to give up.

The boy has even said he’d take over his dad’s show as a mini-me when he passes away!

John Bryant (34) from Kingston, Canada, is the co-owner of Showgirls Entertainment and Canadian National Showgirl Pageant. He first got into drag seven years ago.

“As funny as it sounds, I saw a couple of drag queens performing and thought, ‘I can do that!’ ” John says.

However, he had no clue how to apply make-up and his first attempts weren’t always a success.

“I was a hot mess,” he says. “You could tell I was a man right away, but at least I tried.”

But, inspired by another drag performer, he persevered – and soon his comedic alter ego, Lily Devine, was born.

“I’ve always loved gardening and flowers, so I got Lily from the flower and Devine came from [drag legend] Divine,” John explains. “But because of trademarks and copyrights I had to change the name a bit. Seven years later it just stuck and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Despite getting positive feedback when he’s on stage, John – who’s a single parent to 10-year-old Nicholas, from a previous relationship – has received criticism from certain quarters, including his son’s school.

Most parents at the school don’t consider his drag-queen lifestyle appropriate for a parent and some have even questioned his gender identity.

However, Nicholas absolutely loves Lily Devine and sometimes mimics her in John’s wigs and heels as a joke.

When John tries out make-up and outfits he always asks his son for his opinion. And whenever John feels like giving up on his dream, Nicholas is there to spur him on.

“He’s grown up around it so it doesn’t faze him at all,” John says. “I always ask him his opinion on how I look when in drag or just playing around with make-up. He’s even been to some shows behind the scenes or to watch the youth shows we’ve done.

“There’ve been times that I wanted to pack it in and give up, but he’s always right there.”

It takes John three to four hours to transform himself into Lily – and for him this has always been the best part of being a drag queen, John says. “My favourite thing is the transformation. It’s one of the most basic things yet very complex.”

Speaking about how Divine and fellow drag artist RuPaul inspired him John says, “Divine was how I wanted to represent myself – a no-holds-barred-type performer just going for the biggest shock.

“And as for RuPaul, how she was able to turn taboo subject like drag into an international sensation.”

Citing all the criticism he’s received, John says being a drag-queen dad can be difficult. But he chooses to educate rather than judge people for not understanding his passion.

“Although it makes me angry at times, depending on the severity of the comments, the only thing any of us can do is educate the individual.

“Despite wanting to explode, it’s 2019. We can’t go around being so sensitive to others for their blindness in certain areas because they don’t know or just don’t understand.

“In the end, where does that get us? Back to square one and possibly with more issues than in the beginning. If we want a change, we have to be the change, evolve, and go with the flow.”

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