The sound of laughter was heard over the chorus of the Hokey Pokey as excited families amassed for the first Drag Queen Storytime hosted at Second Star to the Right bookstore. Held in the store’s backyard, the event was packed with families taking up every available space. People lounged on blankets on top of the grass or stood pressed arm-to-arm with their neighbor.
“We want to provide a nurturing environment where people are comfortable being who they are and expressing who they are. We’re a gathering place where you can just be yourself,” Dea Lavoie said. “We share this world together and we need to be accepting of each other. Kindness is so important.”
Dea and Marc Lavoie are both educators who co-own Second Star to the Right. They brought their love of reading and passion for children and poured it into their store. Their daily themed-storytime highlights the importance of exploration and celebrates being who you are. It celebrates the diversity in the way children may dress and act and encourages them to look beyond gender stereotypes. It teaches children to celebrate who they are.
Second Star to the Right isn’t the first to have Drag Queen Storytime. Dea Lavoie credits the desire to make this event happen after reading about the New York Public Library’s Drag Queen Story Hour. The opportunity to stage Drag Queen Storytime came to Dea Lavoie through one of her customers, Heather Hughes. Hughes is an educator and cast member of a stage show called DragOn. It is about a drag queen who faces her own journey of exploration, self-discovery and acceptance. Through Hughes, Dea Lavoie found herself able to communicate with the drag queens at DragOn and invite them to perform at her bookstore.
Loud and Proud Queens: Reace Daniel, Anthony Adu, Zarah and Shirley Delta Blow stood at the stage in their bright makeup, accessorized with glitter. Zarah started storytime with Hokey Pokey before reading Pete the Cat and the Cool Cat Boogie. The engaged crowed sympathized during the sad moments and cheered at the good ones. Once Zarah was finished, the clapping caught the attention of several passersby. Their presence was welcome.
During storytime, Hughes sat onstage with her daughter next to the Queens. The Queens are also cast members of DragOn. All of the Queens have backgrounds as educators as well. This background helps them engage the kids at the show. Members of the crowd surrounded the queens with questions, photos and compliments.
“It helps us entertain children’s minds,” Daniel said. “In order to inspire them, engage them, and get them to create something with us.”
Interaction between the queens and the crowd especially the children, was full of energy and high spirits. Each queen read two stories with gusto that revolved around a central theme—be who you are.
“We get stuck in comparing ourselves with everyone else instead of just being who we are,” Delta Blow said. “I think adults learn that lesson much too late in life.”
The concept of “dress up and play” and “creative play” gives more opportunities to instill imagination and creative thinking into the minds of the younger generation according to the queens. Drag Queen Storytime gave both children and adults the chance to celebrate uniqueness in others and move away from labels. Mothers, Molly Gallegos and Stacy Davis brought their children for just that.
“It shows them that they don’t have to fit into a certain box,” Davis said, “they can like dragons and princesses.”
Dea Lavoie said that events like Drag Queen Storytime not only provide examples of acceptance and learning, but they’re fun and entertaining. Acceptance as a whole might be a lesson learned later in life, but to Dea Lavoie this event shows how ready the community is to change that. Delta Blow teaches third grade by day. She felt events like Drag Queen Storytime allowed people to recognize the beauty and uniqueness in someone else.
“Uniqueness breaks down those barriers between people,” Delta Blow said. “A world full of unique people brings us closer together than a world full of cookie cutters where everyone’s the same.”
Having four fabulously dressed women on stage reading children’s books may seem odd to some. However, it does help deliver a unique and diverse message— Embrace who you are, be comfortable with yourself, celebrate being human and glitter goes with everything.