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'Momma likes a little height,' but stilettos, tricks and wig glue take a toll on the health of Baltimore drag's dancing queens

John-John Williams IV, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Health & Fitness

That can create a vicious cycle. Performers whose routines include dazzling stunts are usually showered with cash. And acrobatic tricks popularized by contestants on “Drag Race” push local performers to raise the stakes.

Drag has been made further hazardous with the influx of vogueing, a high-energy dance originated by the Black LGBTQ community during the ball scene of the 1980s and depicted in the documentary “Paris Is Burning” and the Emmy Award-winning drama “Pose.”

Scott Murdock, 37, of Odenton, performs as Shaunda Leer, a 6-foot-10-inch glamazonian in heels. Murdock thinks it is only a matter of time before pushing the envelope could lead to death.

“With the influences, it’s scary to think about what will happen as people up the ante. It will eventually lead to something scary,” Murdock said.

During a Gay Pride Month party in June at the Baltimore Eagle, Murdock tore a hamstring performing a running split.

“I have done it several times before,” Murdock recalled. “I got through the number and after I got up the stairs, I could feel it. I thought, ‘This is not good.’ It took about four months to recover. I couldn’t move.”

 

He’s also suffered abrasions from tights that cut into his abdomen and thighs. There’s turf toe from years of squeezing his size 15 feet into stiletto heels. Countless times, he’s gotten weave glue in his eyes from attaching double lashes.

“I have health insurance. I have a 9 to 5 [job],” explained Murdock, who works for a health care company. “For these girls who are doing it full time, they might not have the ability to get care. They need to take that into account.”

The injuries are consistent with those of dancers, cheerleaders, and gymnasts, according to Dr. Geoffrey Dreher, osteopathic physician and assistant professor of orthopedic surgery in the division of sports medicine of the Johns Hopkins Department of Orthopedic Surgery. Additionally, many drag performers do stunts and routines in heels on surfaces that have little to no padding, he said.

“It ups the ante a good amount,” he said of performing in high heels. “It changes your center of gravity and puts your ankle and lower extremities in more danger.”

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