Scott Robinson has always had a love for the stage, performing in musical theater when he was in high school and college. When he was 19 years old, he went a Louisville club where he saw his first drag queen performance.
“I thought, ‘This is kind of cool,’” he said. “I started watching the shows. Then I started doing amateur night.”
Scott said owners of the clubs that featured drag queens wanted the performers to have feminine names. Some of the other entertainers had started calling him Seville. Recalling his love of cars, he thought about the class and elegance of Cadillacs and put the two words together to come up with his stage name: Cadillac Seville.
When he’s performing as Cadillac Seville, Scott develops an entirely new persona.
“You’re a different person,” Cadillac said. “You can do different characters. You can go out and be someone totally different.”
Cadillac says some drag queens are very shy when they are out of the spotlight, but when they put on their makeup and costumes and take to the stage, they become confident, outgoing entertainers.
“It brings the inner self out,” Cadillac said.
Cadillac serves as the event coordinator at The Bar Complex in Lexington. “I do all the events – everything that has to do with the show,” she said. “Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday we have a regular drag show. We try to make sure when you come and see a show, it’s kind of theater-ish. We do single numbers, we do group numbers, we do productions.”
In addition to working at The Bar, Cadillac also has a beautician’s license and occasionally does hairstyling. She has served as the entertainment director for the Pride Festival for the past three years. She is very active in her church, Bluegrass United Church of Christ.
Lexington has always had a sizeable drag queen population, Cadillac said.
“There are all kinds of documents and information about drag here in Lexington that goes way, way back, even in the ’20s, ’30s and’40s,” she said. One of the best-known local drag queens was Sweet Evening Breeze (birth name James Herndon), who was prominent in the early 1920s.
Cadillac has been perfecting her act for more than 30 years.
“When I was younger, they always thought I was a real woman,” Cadillac said. “I still am kind of more on the feminine, real-looking side. I think I’m kind of glamorous.”
While many drag queens go all out, even having surgery to look more like a woman, Cadillac has only had a little work done on her face, “just to keep looking fresh.”
There several different aspects of drag, Cadillac said. “A lot of people perform every weekend and there are people that compete in pageants,” she explained. “They’re just like regular beauty pageants.”
There are local and state preliminaries, and winners can go to the nationals. “Exactly like the regular pageants, except they’re men,” Cadillac said.
Different systems have different criteria for participation. “There is a Mr. and Miss Continental from Chicago,” Cadillac said. “That means drag queens can have work done, meaning breasts or facial stuff. Then there’s a Miss Gay America, in which you can’t have any work done.”
Competing in pageants is not cheap, but it can be rewarding. “People spend lots and lots and lots of money competing for all these big titles and sometimes you can win lots and lots of money, like $10,000 or $15,000,” Cadillac said.
One major expense for both stage performers and pageant contestants is costumes.
“You can buy all kinds of stuff that’s sequined and flashy online,” Cadillac said. “Sometimes queens all over the country sell or trade dresses. I’m trying to learn to sew.”
Another big expense is makeup.
“When I first started, I would go to the drug store and try to buy makeup, but today it’s all theater stuff,” Cadillac said. “We have to wear a little bit heavier makeup because it’s the stage and there’s all the lighting. We use theater foundation, theater powder, and it’s very expensive.”
Cadillac will be 55 years old in April. “Everyone asks me if I’m going to retire,” she said. “But once you’ve done [drag] all these years, it’s hard to stop doing it. You do it and you do it and it’s just in your blood. I say I’m going to retire, but then I don’t know.”
Cadillac would like to be a mentor to young people interesting in doing drag.
“We don’t have many new younger people coming up these days,” she said. “If I ever retired, I would help promote the younger people and help them get involved and start if they wanted to perform.”
Cadillac says drag shows are “a really great fun form of entertainment.” “We want you to come and have fun and laugh and enjoy the show,” she said.