Best Drag Shows brings music, dancing, lip syncing and, sometimes, brunch to Plano

Best Drag Shows. Photos Grant Stephens/

Drag is camp. Extravagance. Excitement. And party. It’s a festivity that combines music, dancing, lip syncing, makeup, costumes — and, sometimes, brunch.

Forget dinner and a show. On any given weekend, Dallas has a dozen drag brunches citywide. Rarely had these events made their way into the suburbs, until Best Drag Shows changed that, and made national news doing it.

When you walk into Plano’s Ebb & Flow for a show, you’ll likely hear Britney Spears, Rihanna, Sia, Cher, Ke$ha and other female musical powerhouses. Servers rush around with plates of brunch classics, such as bottles of champagne for mimosas, chicken and waffles and french-toast bread pudding.

Behind a sound booth made for the occasion, you’ll find Shane Allen, DJ and president of Best Drag Shows. Allen announces performers as they saunter out, each with distinct personas. For the uninitiated, it might seem an odd sight. But drag has been around for centuries.

“Honestly, it’s been around since before America has been around,” Serif, one of the performers, says. “Women weren’t allowed to be in theater, so men dressed in drag to perform for them.”

Today’s drag shows are characterized by extravagant displays of femininity in carefully crafted onstage personalities, often by the opposite sex. These characters typically lip-sync to songs by female pop artists while dancing around the room in platform heels.

Performers don sparkles, sequins, fringe, exaggerated makeup, wigs, over-the-top jewelry and the highest of heels for the couple of hours that the brunch lasts. And wardrobe changes are not off the table.

Performers say it’s about empowerment.

“Serif, to me, is the embodiment of every woman I’ve ever looked up to in my entire life, whether that be the X-Men or my mom or Xena Warrior Princess or something like that, this is female power,” Serif says. “And that’s all I want to do is respect that and embody the women that I looked up to my entire life.”

Best Drag Shows. Photos Grant Stephens/

For Serif, who grew up with a “super theatrical” mother, drag is an extension of the art that has always been a part of life.

“My mother ran a dance company, and seeing women in cool costumes was part of my life every day,” Serif says. “It was taboo for me to be part of it, so this is me living my childhood dreams, getting to do the cute stuff that my sister got to do but I couldn’t.”

Serif sees the way some of us spend everyday life as a performance, a weeklong 9-5 show.

“Everyone’s doing drag … pretending to be a professional but we know we’re wild on the weekends,” Serif says.

“Other people’s drag is a butch man showing his muscles with a flannel shirt on, and other people’s drag is a librarian going to work and being proper,” Serif says. “We all perform in different ways. Drag is just living and expressing in different ways the emotions that we don’t normally get to do in our day-to-day.”

Drag, perhaps, is better known by its misconceptions. Many who have never attended perceive it to be an LGBT-centered event, overtly-sexual or something exclusively for the young.

During a recent show, one of the queens shouted, “Let’s hear it for the millennials!” only to be met by one “whoop” from the back of the crowd. A quick glance around shows that many in the crowd are 50-plus. One regular patron is a 60-something straight woman named Becky.

According to Serif, there are straight people, fathers who have kids and moms among the drag queens.

“Drag is for all of us,” says Serif, who dreams of bringing the art to suburbs including The Colony, Plano, Frisco and Las Colinas, where this culture is misunderstood or inaccessible.

“It’s a world-renowned art form, so we want to bring it everywhere.”

Best Drag Shows. Photos Grant Stephens/

Star Michaels, a trans woman who became a queen before transitioning, says the show helped her to see what life might be like, and the art of drag continues to provide personal fulfillment. 

“Even still today, drag is something that combines a lot of my hobbies. It combines dancing, acting, wardrobe, fashion, makeup,” says Michaels, a professional makeup artist by trade. “This is not real life. This is fantasy. This is make believe. This is fun. This is camp. This is poking fun at things or maybe expressing a sexuality that people are too uptight to express themselves.”

In October, Best Drag Shows made national news when TV personality Sara Gonzales disguised herself to attend the show at Ebb & Flow. When one family brought their young daughter along to a show, she recorded it, starting an anti-drag campaign that brought protesters and death threats to Ebb & Flow and the Best Drag Shows queens. Now, the queens have police officers posted outside of the restaurant for their protection.

“To me, drag is love,” Best Drag Show president Shane Allen says. “In the aftermath [of shows] is this room full of love and acceptance for each other and for everyone there.”

Acceptance for the art is visible in every show. At one of Ebb & Flow’s first shows after the media incident, Barb Johanssen’s family came to watch.

Barb is a bit different from the other queens at Best Drag Shows. While drag traditionally plays on dramatized femininity, Barb’s characters are typically outlandish. Whether it be a trailer park mom or an elderly woman, she commits completely, aided by a purse full of props.

When she entered the room with Daisy Dukes and a cigarette in one hand, cheers came from one side of the room, where her family donned matching T-shirts in support of their loved one. Her mother cried as Barb gave the oddest drag performance of the morning.

“It was incredible,” says Sabrina Brackett, a 64-year-old woman who recently attended her first drag show. “It’s just the epitome of fun. You want to just let your thoughts go away and be in a different world? Come to a drag show.” P

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