If a guy isn’t inspired to become a drag queen outright, then he might need a little convincing. For Brian Meland, all it took was a good cause.
As an office manager of Beyond Pink, which offers post-breast mastectomy and lumpectomy products and services at its North Sioux City location, it’s a no-brainer for Meland to help a fundraiser for the June E. Nylen Cancer Center of Siouxland. Even if it means dressing in drag and performing a lip syncing number in front of a big crowd at Doxx Warehouse Bar.
“I always believe in helping out in the community and giving back,” said Meland. “This is a way to do it and still have fun doing it.”
Meland is one of six contestants in the Tuck Cancer benefit, which aims to teach those select few Siouxland mean what it’s like to be a drag queen for the night. Although he has experience in impersonating male characters like Pee-wee Herman, Stuart Larkin of “Mad TV,” Beverly Leslie from “Will & Grace,” Herbert from “Family Guy” and President Donald Trump, Meland said he has never dressed in drag to appear feminine.
Friends Joe McCulley and Elizabeth Bartels assisted in giving Meland a sneak preview of what’s to come at Tuck Cancer on Friday (March 2) at Doxx. After nearly two hours of makeup work at Ulta Beauty last week, Meland eventually transformed into a high drag woman, complete with tri-colored hair, purple lips and an eye shadow job that would make Mimi Bobeck jealous. McCulley and Bartels said he bore a striking resemblance to Linda Tripp, made infamous by the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.
The makeover process was carried out mostly by Bartels, who works as a salon manager at Ulta Beauty. In addition to it being the first time Meland was dolled up in drag, it was also the first time Bartels had applied high drag makeup, which aims to accentuate and exaggerate feminine and drag queen tropes into larger than life features. As expected, it was a lot of fun.
“And it was also kind of nerve wracking because a lot of my friends do drag and have been doing it for a lot of years, so when they do their faces they just look super perfect and pristine,” said Bartels. “I know he wasn’t supposed to look like that, but as a hair stylist and as a makeup lover and a huge fan of drag, I still wanted him to look OK.”
Throughout the makeover, Meland, Bartels and McCulley took turns trading friendly insults to each other. Meland was often at the mercy of Bartels, who was all too eager to make her friend look like some kind of caricature. McCulley, who has years of experience performing drag as Martina Shakers, said these interactions closely resemble that of an actual makeup room during a drag competition -- though he alluded to the real interactions being a bit more shocking.
Now that Meland has tested his patience with female drag, is there a chance he’d make the switch from male entertaining? “Oh hell no,” he said. “It takes longer and I like what I do as a male entertainer. But I’m happy to do this for a benefit and for a good cause.”
Luckily for Meland, McCulley and Bartels didn’t subject him to the full drag treatment and only limited the preview to how he might look like from the neck up during Tuck Cancer. However, contestants will have a team of specialized beauty consultants and drag queens to make sure they’re dressed for and looking the part.
Afterward, Meland and the like will be tasked with performing a song of their choice for tips that will be donated to June E. Nylen Cancer Center of Siouxland -- Meland has already decided that he will lip sync to “So What” by Pink. The contestant with the most tips will be crowned the winner of Tuck Cancer.
In addition to the six confirmed contestants’ numbers, several regional entertainers -- Mr. National Showman 2016 Matthew Steele, Miss Nebraska National Showgirl 2015 Anita BisQuette, Miss Nebraska United Sates 2017 Persephone Shakers, Miss Jones Street 2015 Giselle Jacobs and Miss Iowa USofA Classic 2017 Miss Martina Shakers -- will perform for tips.
After his drag makeover at Ulta Beauty, Meland’s new appearance caught the attention of passersby. One curious customer asked about it and was told of the Tuck Cancer benefit. To which she said, “I should make my husband do this!”
Which is kind of the point of Tuck Cancer – to introduce people to drag and educate them on this form of entertainment. Organizing the event is McCulley, who was inspired by a similar event that occurred last year in Des Moines.
“The people in charge of it there are coming to Sioux City,” said McCulley. “They were at The Garden Nightclub [in Des Moines] and they had hundreds of people there. They went on a pubcrawl that was part of it, so it was a way bigger production than what we’re doing. We’ll start small and we’ll build.”
The day of the Sioux City fundraiser, Doxx will be equipped with a stage and catwalk for Tuck Cancer contestants to strut their stuff. Much to McCulley’s surprise, some contestants are getting pretty serious about their upcoming drag competition. McCulley said Pauly Andersen, owner of Doxx Warehouse Bar, and his drag partner are going so far as to actually rehearse their number.
“I found out when I was down there the other day that they’re actually wearing leotards,” said McCulley. “That’s a pretty brave move for a man who has never done drag. It’s him and a buddy of his. They’re doing like three songs put together in a mix and they’re dancing in heels. They’re practicing a couple times a day.
“I cannot wait to see what they look like.”