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A proud campus queen

Freshman Daniel Jackson embraces the drag lifestyle at CU

By Aris Sherwood
On May 6, 2019

Castleton University musical theater major Daniel Jackson is often seen around campus in drag, inspired in part by the musical ‘Rent.’

The culture of the drag queen is becoming more well-known in today’s society. With the idea of mocking femininity and the rise of the LGBTQ community, stepping out into drag is not uncommon. You may even find a queen right on this campus, sauntering the halls of the Fine Arts Center, pink go-go’s to boot.

Daniel Jackson, a freshman Castleton University student, came from East Dorset, Vermont to study Musical Theatre as one of two musical theatre majors. You’ve probably seen Jackson walking around campus, strutting around in his pink go-go boots and various bow-ties, hair slicked back so not even a gust of wind can move it. He is open, warm-hearted, and unapologetically himself.

Jackson enjoys many things- singing to Broadway songs, swiping through tinder, and becoming a drag queen.

Growing up, Daniel Jackson knew he was different.

“Subconsciously I knew I was outside of the norm when I was young child and I wanted nothing more than to be Judy Garland. I wanted nothing more than to have those ruby slippers and be her,” Jackson said with a giggle.

Jackson credits his entire being and personality to something many people may see as unconventional- the musical Rent. The musical, that premiered on Broadway in 1996 and written by the late Jonathon Larsen, is about a group of misfits living in New York City in the late 1980’s, that struggle with identity, HIV/AIDs, and paying their rent.

“That’s when I could start putting pieces together that something here is different, this isn’t like everyone else, and what’s happening on stage is what’s happening internally with me,” Jackson said.

The character Angel, Jackson says, is his first time seeing a drag queen.

“I was like ‘wow, I wanna play that part,’ and I was like ‘okay cool, so in order to do that I have to do drag, so let me study up on it so that future me can be ready,” Jackson said. “But as I was studying and getting deeper I was like ‘wow, this is something that is really cool, something I kind of like.”

“I think the moment I knew that drag was definitely a calling for me was when I put on the first pair of heels and I was like ‘oh wow, this is fun,” Jackson said.

He praises drag because he can do things that he wouldn’t normally do as a male, because it’s part of a character.

Jackson says he gets mixed reactions when he is in drag. Some men give negative reactions, as they see a man dressing as woman is wrong. Other men show respect to drag queen Jackson, as they could never do it.

Jackson also talks about the down-side of drag. Many people have an idea of what drag queens are because of RuPauls Drag Race, but that show is inaccurate, Jackson said.

“What people need to remember is that it isn’t all what drag is, it’s components of it, but it isn’t all. So a lot of people just assume that drag is just a guy dressing up as a woman, but what drag really is, is kind of escape from reality and mocking societal norms, it’s kind of like having the biggest joke in the entire world,  because I’m a man in a wig, and a corset, and heels lip-syncing to ‘It’s Raining Men,’” Jackson said. “It’s like a joke, like society thinks we can do this but really we can do this.”

Another downside of drag is that, as it becomes more mainstream, a lot of females will use drag queens or treat them as token items.

“It’s this sort of crazy thing, like wow it’s nice to know I’m appreciated, but you’re appreciating me for reasons that can only benefit you rather than ‘wow this is cool, I admire what you do,” Jackson said. “We’re not all sassy and flamboyant, and people need to recognize that what you see on TV is a stereotype.”

You don’t need to be one type of person to do drag, you don’t even have to be gay.

When finding the courage to step out in drag, Jackson again attributes Rent.

“A lot of my confidence comes from Rent, because the whole message of the show is you can be dead tomorrow, so you have to live for today,” Jackson said. “So every morning I wake up and think ‘alright, this is the last anyone could ever see of me,’ so I wanna walk out in the world and know that I gave it my all, and I want people to know that nothing can hold me down.”

“Time doesn’t stop… so why waste it being afraid to do something when you can just grab life by the horns and run,” he said.

As for others who may be struggling in finding the courage, Jackson has some advice.

He wants them to take their time, do their research, and to take care of themself.

“Life is short,” Jackson said. “So why waste it being someone that you are not when you can be exactly who you want to be.”

For his future, Daniel hopes to someday be on Broadway, find an everlasting partner, and continue his drag career and maybe even be on Drag Race.

And to his younger self?

“Know that something good is coming your way. As much as you don’t like where you are in certain places, there is something on the horizon that’s major, waiting for you, Jackson said, and after a long pause, Jackson concluded by stating “that major moment is gonna be the breakthrough, that’s what’s really gonna help you skyrocket.”

    Jackson’s favorite quote is from legendary drag queen, RuPaul; “Life’s a buffet, most people are starving.”

    “It makes so much sense, like why go to the buffet and not eat? Be the buffet!” Jackson said with a laugh.

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