Pride Sundays highlights drag queens in Galentines Drag Show


Photo courtesy of Andie Balenger

Drag queens and staff at the Landmark Inn pose after the Galentine’s Drag Show on Sunday, Feb. 13. Drag queens in back row (left to right): Shelby Cummins, Victoria Lynn, Cass Marie Domino, Mercedes Benzova, and Loretta Love Lee. Pride Sundays event organizer, Jaime Bedard, sits in the front row, center.

Andie Balenger, contributing writer

At the beginning of the new year, a past tradition of the Landmark Inn was brought back to life. Convening within the Crow’s Nest, the Landmark Inn’s modern food and cocktail lounge, members of the LGBTQ+ community are encouraged to gather for “Pride Sundays.” Through the collective work of hotel employees, the Crow’s Nest now offers a safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community to gather, connect and hang out every Sunday evening.

“[Pride Sundays] is kind of like a party but specifically we have a space for the LGBTQAI community up here,” Jaime Bedard, bar manager for the Crow’s Nest, said. “We created a space that’s specifically for the community to come, hang out and know it’s a safe place.”

While Pride Sundays are specifically tailored towards LGBTQ+ individuals, all members of the local community are welcome to join in on the festivities. Meeting from 4-9 p.m. every Sunday on the sixth floor, Pride Sundays is a family-friendly event that encourages conversation and inclusivity. 

Since its first gathering on Jan. 2, however, the average number of event attendees has been less than anticipated.

“Turnout has been a little hit and miss and I think it is because people don’t know that Pride Sundays exist,” Bedard said. “We do have some regular attendees, but right now we just want to get the word out in the community and have people know about it.”

While the past Sundays have been more laid-back, the organizers of Pride Sundays have potential plans to hold more specific event nights in the future. 

“Depending on what happens maybe we will start hosting certain events. We have thought about a poetry reading, but right now we are kind of open to any ideas,” Bedard said. 

However, as drag queens flooded the Marquette scene this past weekend for the Cocktails and Kisses Drag Show at the Masonic, Bedard was given the opportunity to host the first large-scale Pride Sundays event: A Galentines Drag Show. 

“I think it is amazing,” Bedard said. “They actually reached out to me, and they said ‘Hey, we’re going to be in town. Can we do our thing here?’ and I was like ‘Oh my god this is my dream.’”

With showtime starting at 6:30 p.m. and runway seats quickly filling, drag queens Loretta Love Lee, Victoria Lynn, Shelby Cummins, Mercedes Benzova and Cass Marie Domino mingled amongst the event attendees, sparking up conversations with all. 

Loretta Love Lee, NMU alumni and full-time drag artist commented on her roots in the Upper Peninsula and what it means to be a drag queen. 

“I went to college at NMU and got my bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. I got my start in drag at Michigan Tech University’s amateur drag show, and performed annually in the show,” Loretta Love Lee said. “As performers, we get on stage, glam ourselves, put smiles on people’s faces and just embody our inner selves that everyone should be able to get in touch with and feel comfortable with.”

The host of the Galentines Drag Show, Cass Marie Domino, discussed her personal journey of evolution through drag and her advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community.

“I started doing drag when I was 17, so I’ve been performing for over 30 years. In my younger days, I was more of an avid performer, but I am very blessed to continue getting opportunities to perform,” Cass Marie Domino said. 

Cass Marie Domino, a transgender woman who had her full surgery about 15 years ago, describes herself as a “survivor of many things.” Cass Marie Domino openly shares that she lives with HIV and has overcome substance abuse issues, now being completely sober for 22 years. As a survivor, Cass Marie considers herself to be an advocate for the transgender community and all who are battling with these same issues.

“I love performing. I don’t know what I would do without my queens. They are the ones who embraced me from a young age,” Cass Marie Domino said. “My message to the world is that we are all born in a space and a place on this earth that we get to call ours no matter what gender or skin color you have, wherever you’re from, or whatever sexual orientation or identity you feel. You belong here.”

Wisconsin native, part-time drag performer and studio manager of a tattoo shop in Madison, WI, Victoria Lynn promotes body positivity and inclusivity through her drag.

“I am definitely here as an advocate for the big girls. I am a six-foot-3-inch, 250-pound man in my daily life, but when I am in drag you cannot tell me I am not a woman. I am dealing my fantasy,” Victoria Lynn said. “You can be beautiful at any size and any shape. I am large and in charge, and I have a voice that I want to use. That’s what drag is for.”

Shelby Cummins, another Upper Peninsula drag queen, commented on her local start with drag.

“After attending the Pride festival and seeing all these queens, I was like ‘Oh my goodness, this is amazing.’ And then, three years ago I said ‘You know, I’m going to do that,” Shelby Cummins said. “So I did Northern’s amateur drag show, and while I, unfortunately, didn’t win, I just knew that this was fun. I have wonderful people to show me the things I need to learn and it’s just absolutely wonderful.”

The Galentines Drag show consisted of ten lip-sync performances, two for each queen. With Cass Marie Domino as the emcee, the room was buzzing with excitement as the queens strutted up and down the runway to hits like “Believe” by Cher and “Ex’s and Oh’s” by Elle King. Through their revealing of artistic garments, intricate dance moves and playful interactions with the crowd, the queens provided an unforgettable night for those who attended the Pride Sundays event.

“I love drag because it’s family. Performers all respect each other because we all have that similar thing,” Loretta Love Lee said. “We all do drag, we all know what it is like to be in drag, to be loved in drag and to be hated in drag. That’s something that people who don’t do drag don’t ever get to feel, which is what I love about it. It’s just family.”

After the success of the Galentines Drag Show at the Landmark Inn, Bedard hopes that the group will be able to start hosting the drag queens quarterly, possibly every three months. 

“I know the queens would like that, so hopefully we can keep doing it,” Bedard said. “I think it is great because these queens have their own following and will tell everyone about [Pride Sundays] and the drag scene of Marquette.”