Kenneth Johnson, drag perfomer


Kenneth Johnson | ART/BTS

Urbana-based drag performer Kenneth Johnson shares his passion for hair, make-up, and high-energy performance.

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Photos courtesy of Kenneth Johnson

Growing up, I was kinda like the quirky, different kid. I knew when I was really young that I was gay but the first time that I saw an actual performance, actual drag queen, was kinda like a wow moment. These are all people that are like me. We all have something in common. I’m not alone. I’m not the only one that feels this way or is this way or whatever. It kinda made me realize that that was something that, I was like, “Hey, I could do that.” There’s a lot of misconceptions, even within our own community, the gay community. When you say you do drag they look at you like, “Oh, so you’re a drag queen,” type of thing, like it’s a negative. There’s no correlation to me doing drag to if I’m more masculine or feminine. I’ve never had the desire to be in drag six or seven days a week and I like being me. I’ve always been creative. I sew most of my costumes, but I’ve never been formally taught. To me the creativity, just having stuff out and about or seeing something, can kinda make you be like, “Oh hey, I should do something to that.” I’m one of the people who likes the loud, vibrant hot pinks, neons, the greens, the purples, the glitter, the rhinestones. Drag to me is going up and over the top any chance you can get. If I’m gonna put it on, I’m putting everything in the box on. As far as performing, I turn that on, it turns into a totally different person. I think the confidence that I would like to have on an everyday basis really comes out when I’m doing hair or doing makeup or performing. I think that as long as I’m making somebody look beautiful, giving them confidence or making them happy in some aspect, I plan on doing that forever. In drag or even in life, you never stop learning. You keep striving to be better, to have better costumes, to have better hair, to have better mixes, to be a better entertainer. To me it’s an art form because it’s my chance to be… Angelina Jolie or Beyonce or Jennifer Lopez or whoever else without being those people. I don’t think that drag is for everyone. Not everybody has to agree with it or like it, but you can’t take away what I do onstage and the stuff that I put into it and the heart that goes into performing and to me, I’m like, “I’m a rockstar,” so that’s the way I see it. My name’s Kim Johnson. I’m from Urbana Illinois and I am a drag queen and the performance name I go by is Calleja Carmichael.