‘Be Gay [Do Crime]’ concert series spotlights drag as an art form


Amaya Lobato | Staff Photographer

Performance during the “Be Gay [Do Crime]” drag concert series.

By Jessica McKenzie, Culture Editor

Patrick Mayoral, a sophomore acting major at Point Park University, describes their drag style as a love letter to Pittsburgh pop culture. 

“I love taking reference from historical events in Pittsburgh,” Mayoral said. “I’m pulling from my real life, and I’m making art based on what I experienced and interact with.”

Mayoral performs as Miss Demeanor during their drag concert series “Be Gay [Do Crime].” The show debuted last June and has featured a myriad of drag performers across Pittsburgh. The last concert took place on Friday at Mr. Smalls Theatre in Millvale. The series returns on April 14 with a prom-themed concert.

Mayoral said the series’ first show happened by chance when a show slot opened at the Thunderbird Cafe and Music Hall due to the cancellation of a national tour. 

“I was already bugging the Thunderbird to see if we could have a show there. And with two weeks and no budget, they gave it to us,” Mayoral said. “We printed about 400 flyers …and posted them everywhere. Tickets were super dirt cheap, like $8, for that one because it was really just about packing the room for me.”

As Mayoral approaches a year and a half as a part of Pittsburgh’s drag community, they gathered six performers to fill a two-hour time slot on Friday. The performances included a comedically sped-up rendition of Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” by drag queen Scarlet Fairweather and a cast-wide dance number to Beyonce’s “Summer Renaissance.”

Mayoral said “Summer Renaissance,” the show’s closing number, is their favorite performance because there’s a bit in the number that Mayoral takes from a real-life experience. In their early days performing as Misdemeanor, their dad called them in the middle of a show.

“In the middle of nowhere, my phone started ringing and the drag queen hosting the performance, Cindy Crotchford, picked up the phone and said, ‘Oh, your dad’s calling you,’” Mayoral said. “So I talked to him and said…’Yeah, okay, I’ll do that. I love you. I gotta go. I’m just out with friends,’ And then I hung up the phone on stage because my dad didn’t know I was doing drag at the time.”

During Friday’s concert, Miss Demeanor hosted the entire show and had some of their own performances, including singing “Yesterday” by the Beatles. One of their costumes was a jumpsuit which they said was inspired by Pittsburgh steel mill workers.

Mayoral said they started “Be Gay [Do Crime]” to promote widespread appreciation of drag as an art form, as well as to build upon Pittsburgh’s already blossoming drag community.

“I’m a strong believer that drag is going to change our perception of societal expectations, societal norms and all that,” Mayoral said. “To me, drag is the art of creating a more heightened version of oneself using theatrical techniques such as makeup, hair, costume, lighting, sound.”

Ms. V” Van-Cartier, a drag queen and “Be Gay [Do Crime]” performer, was heavily influential to Mayoral when they first started out in drag. Mayoral attended many of Ms. V’s shows, and Ms. V acted as a mentor to them. She had a lot of experience with drag because she was based in New York City before moving to Pittsburgh.

“One day we were just talking and we went out to lunch,” Ms. V said. “I just told [Miss Demeanor] that the biggest thing is staying true to yourself, but also being humble. Learning from the people who are on the scene, successfully running shows, if they’re giving you positive feedback or even negative feedback, listen to it, they know what they’re doing.”

For “Be Gay [Do Crime],” Ms. V performed erotic dances to “10:35” by Tiesto and Tate McRae and “My Bed” by Leah Kate. She said as someone who does drag performances for a living, she is constantly reinventing her stage presence and personality as a performer.

“[Drag] is something that’s constantly changing as you grow,” Ms. V said. “It can be hard to make money, pay your bills, and then on top of that you have to constantly reinvest back into your craft because, in this industry, you have to constantly have new content, new material, and new looks in order to keep growing and expanding.” 

Because of the constant need for expansion in the drag queen industry, Ms. V said there’s no right way to do drag. This idea is evident when experiencing all the different performances in “Be Gay [Do Crime].”

“The cast is so diverse. There’s such a wide array of performance styles and makeup styles and overall costuming and styling,” Ms. V said. “It’s all very different and I like that. Everyone that comes to the show is gonna get a taste of what true drag is, which is literally anything and everything.”

“Belair” Banks, a drag performer, said she feels that her drag queen’s outgoing personality is not drastically different from her off-stage personality. As a performer, she said her drag personality embraces her Black identity while being unafraid to explore new musical genres such as rock and country.

“I’m very much into WWE and wrestling, so my name is a combination of two famous female black wrestlers, Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks,” Belair said. “They’re both… not afraid to express their culture and be themselves. A lot of what I do is Black positive… Whether it be the outfits, the numbers I do, the references I make or the different things I include in my mixes.”

Belair said certain members of the drag community have a strong bond, so they refer to each other as having familial relationships. Belair and Miss Demeanor met the first time Belair did a drag show, so they know each other as drag sisters.

“A drag family is there to nurture you whenever you first start out, and teach you the ropes about marketing and performing. You have a mother, it’s just like a regular family structure and everything like that,” Belair said. “Miss Demeanor is my sister because we came up around the same time … We’ve bonded over drag essentially. It’s a family at the core of it all.”

Mayoral said by creating “Be Gay [Do Crime],” they hope to contribute to the ever-evolving drag industry. 

“I’m excited to see how [drag] changes art, how the rest of the world interacts with theater, film and television. How it changes what our idea of a man or woman is, how we can protect and how we can help people become more comfortable with themselves and ultimately love themselves,” Mayoral said. “It is an art form first.”