How does a drag queen prepare for a show? Listen to loud club music? Sip drinks, or maybe even pound shots? Have glitter and costumes strewn across their floor? This may be true for some queens, but as for Sam Mount’s preparation ritual, you would be wrong. Soft electronic music played from a small speaker as Mount concentrates on applying just the right amount of Elmer’s glue to his eyebrows as he transforms into Miss Ophelia Up, his drag alter ego.
In the hours before Machine Nightclub’s Monday Drag All Star competition, a scene that closely resembles someone preparing for his or her workday unfolds. When he isn’t performing as Miss Ophelia Up, Mount attends Northeastern University. “As far as I know I’m the only chemical engineer drag queen,” he jokes.
Since joining the Boston drag scene this summer, Mount has performed in several competitions, though he has yet to win one, at Machine Nightclub, a popular gay club located in the Fenway area. He mentions he was the winner of a pork rind-eating contest held after his first competition. As a new member of the community, Mount says he hasn’t yet formed close relationships with other queens within the scene, and instead turns to YouTube tutorials and RuPaul’s Drag Race for advice and inspiration.
Pronouns are a tricky landscape to navigate when interacting with a drag queen for the first time. I was unsure of when, if ever, to use female pronouns with Mount when in drag, but rather than asking, I waited to see what his boyfriend and friends called him. It seemed as though once his wig was on and the look was complete, the shift from him to her naturally occurred. James refers to his boyfriend as “her” even when Ophelia was not in his presence.