Drag queens are teaching a Black “Her-story” Month lesson in Boystown next week in a show celebrating black women in history.
The Black History Month celebration starts at 9 p.m. Feb. 19 at “Black Girl Magic,” a monthly drag show starring a lineup of all black performers at Roscoe’s Tavern, 3356 N. Halsted St. Queens will pay tribute to important black women with a diverse showcase that captures the breadth of talents and creativity within black drag.
“We’re celebrating black women who have made a difference in a way that’s very fun and entertaining,” said The Vixen, a “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum, South Side native and one of the founders of “Black Girl Magic.” “It’s a place to have fun while appreciating what black women and black culture have given the drag community, pop culture, entertainment and the world.”
The show features fellow “Drag Race” alum and Chicago native Dida Ritz, as well as upcoming “Drag Race” stars Milwaukee’s Jaida Essence Hall, and Heidi N Closet from North Carolina. (The new season of “Drag Race” premieres Feb. 28 on VH1.)
Chicago performers Lucy Stoole, Bambi Banks-Couleé, Miss Toto, Sapphire Feliciano, Olaysia, Cinna Marie and Sasha Love round out Roscoe’s Tavern’s lineup.
Each performer will honor an important black woman in history with a six-minute drag performance that’s both fierce and educational. Previous “Black Girl Magic” shows with similar themes have paid tribute to women ranging from Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman to Janet Jackson.
Banks-Couleé said she’s planning a number about Madam C.J. Walker, who became America’s first female self-made millionaire by inventing a line of African American hair products.
“She basically healed the scalps of thousands of black people in America because no one was making hair products for us,” Banks-Couleé said. “It’s a fun challenge to make this informational but also entertaining.”
Stoole said she’ll pay tribute to Josephine Baker, the iconic American-born French entertainer and civil rights activist who worked for the French Resistance in World War II and then fought U.S. segregation in the ’50s and ’60s.
“Growing up, I was so inspired when I watched ‘The Josephine Baker Story’ with Lynn Whitfield,” Stoole said. “I was so obsessed with her story and how she transcended what was supposed to be possible for black women at the time.”
Stoole starred in the first “Black Girl Magic” in 2017 along with The Vixen, Ritz and Shea Couleé, a Chicago queen who also went on to star in “Drag Race.”
At the time, it was a revolutionary, one-night-only show at Berlin Nightclub that was so successful it turned into a recurring party. It was the only show in Boystown at the time that centered on black queer people.
“There are amazing black queens who have worked in this city forever, but it was unheard of for a show to have more than three black girls,” Stoole said. “The energy was electric. It created a sisterhood.”
The Vixen said she conceived “Black Girl Magic” to create a space where black LGBTQ people could feel welcome and express themselves freely in Boystown, a neighborhood with a long history of casual racism that neighbors are still grappling with today.
“Growing up in Chicago, Boystown is like gay heaven, but I always heard black gay boys say they were intimidated or didn’t feel welcome in the neighborhood,” The Vixen said. “But if you go somewhere and don’t feel represented, you should represent. That’s what Black Girl Magic is.”
Since then, the show has grown immensely, drawing large crowds monthly at Roscoe’s, one of the largest and most popular bars in the neighborhood.
Banks-Couleé said “Black Girl Magic” has paved the way for people to create more spaces for black queer people in Boystown, such as her show “The Unfriendly Black Hotties” at Splash Chicago. Other recurring nights that center around black queer people include “Molasses” and “Mom Jeans” at Berlin Nightclub.
“‘Black Girl Magic’ taught us that we can be the bosses we want to see in the world,” Banks-Couleé said. “It’s opened doors for more black drag queens, producers, artists and business owners in the neighborhood.”
“Black Girl Magic” has become a grassroots movement with chapters having popped up in cities across the world, such as downstate Champaign, Louisville, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles and even Paris.
This month alone, The Vixen is bringing Black Girl Magic to Atlanta, Minneapolis and Richmond, Virginia.
“This show is larger than me. It’s about empowering black queer people all over the world to take ‘Black Girl Magic’ and run with it in their own cities,” The Vixen said.