Health Advice



'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

Factors such as sweat can cause additional damage.

“It [sweat] can help absorb the chemicals more,” she said. “If you are reapplying makeup, all of those conditions are not ideal. If the skin is broken, it can trigger an allergy if you are not careful.”

Many of the types of skin damage drag queens suffer are like those experienced by hairstylists and nail technicians, according to Lamb.

Lamb recommends limiting exposure — especially over long periods — to chemicals that may irritate the skin. She also recommends using makeup with as few ingredients as possible, as well as allergy testing.

“I don’t think we have too many prevention strategies other than avoidance, which can be hard,” she said.

Tape can tear skin or cause a rash when it’s used in the practice of tucking, in which a performer tapes their genitals to give them a female appearance.

Kyle Sharp, 28, of Waverly, is a popular drag performer who goes by the stage name of Washington Heights. He believes tricks aren’t necessary to be a successful drag queen. He relies on wit, charm, showmanship and comedic abilities to earn tips.


“You don’t have to do the big ‘wow’ factors to get money from people,” he said. “If you emote or feel the music, people will want to tip you more.”

Sharp, who has medical coverage through Medicaid, said that as drag has become more mainstream, there has been talk in the drag community about a need to unionize. But a lack of organization has prevented that from happening.

“Make sure your entertainers are paid properly and that if there is an injury, then there should be some type of compensation and a contract signed. There needs to be some kind of plan set, so that you aren’t stuck with paying the money on your own,” Sharp suggested.

The rush of being able to perform in front of others keeps Sharp dedicated to the craft — potential injuries and all.

“I have always grown up with entertainment. My grandfather was a magician. My dad was a wrestler,” he said. “I want myself or my show to help you forget your problems. It’s the entertainment of making people’s lives better two hours a week. That keeps me going.”

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