4th Annual ‘Drag Eye for the Straight Guy’ Promises to be a Night of Inspiring Transformation
This year’s ‘Drag Eye for the Straight Guy’ promises to be a night of inspiring transformation as four straight men become stunning Drag divas in a competition for the crown of “Miss Bear to Make a Difference.” The fundraiser, supporting the Matthew Shepard Foundation, is presented by Lushus La’Rell and sponsored by Molson Coors and 9News.
The night isn’t just about the remarkable difference some iridescent glitter, a quick swipe of lipstick, or a pair of killer heels can make. It’s also about getting out of your comfort zone and into the limelight, to find inner-strength as you strut across the stage and defy expectations.
The contest is as much about striking Drag makeovers as it is about making a powerful, internal transformation.
“Every year I look forward to the contestants learning more about the community, and maybe even about themselves,” Judy Shepard said of the event.
After being enlisted by a colleague and former contestant for Drag Eye, Westminster High School teacher Matt Gillette asked himself “when in the world, when I’m sitting there at eighty years old, am I ever going to be able to say that I performed a Drag show? I should do this.”
For months, Matt practiced in front of the mirror, asked for pointers from his girlfriend, and received critical guidance from his Drag Mom, LaLa Shearz- a local Drag legend who he now calls a friend- over countless coffee dates and rehearsals.
“The Drag Mom’s role is to take these poor, unsuspecting men and bring them into our world of Drag and show them exactly how this is all going to come off,” Drag Mom Gabbriella Butt’zin told 9News this week. “After the shocked face, we get to work.”
There was still some self-doubt. “I was freaking out,” Matt admitted of the uncertain months leading up to his Drag debut. “I was really nervous all the way up until the day and then the craziest thing happened- all my nerves went away.”
As they stepped onto the stage in their sequined, emerald green dress, dripping in jewelry flickering under the lights, their anxiety began to dissolve and something deeper inside clicked.
“My persona really took over and I just felt really comfortable up on the stage,” Matt recounted. “I truly felt like LaLa Teach You,” a name they selected to resemble their Drag mother’s.
Suddenly, LaLa Teach You was striking poses on the stage. “I really enjoyed it,” Matt added.
LaLa crossed the stage again that night, to accept a bouquet of flowers and the coveted title of “Miss Bear to Make a Difference.” The support from the community was overwhelming.
When Matt left the nightclub for the classroom the following Monday, his students were desperate to see footage of their teacher transformed. “They ate it up,” he admitted.
“It is amazing the amount of support that this younger generation brings,” he continued. “They’re open to new ideas and accepting who their teachers are, who their peers are, and people in the community are.”
While he hung up his sequined, emerald dress, Matt says he is a more confident person because of the night he wore it.
“Regardless of how we identify, as human beings, we all struggle with how we can express ourselves and still feel loved and accepted from the people that we come in contact with,” he said. “I really do feel like this has kind of helped me break out of a shell and now be able to put my genuine self out there for people to be able to experience.”
‘Drag Eye for the Straight Guy’ still comes in the midst of relentless attacks against the LGBTQ+ community.
“Every day we wake up and we’re shocked at what’s happening on the news and what’s happening at the national and state levels,” Matt said. “It takes people that maybe aren’t identifying with that community, but helping to support that community, for us to really make these positive changes,” he continued, saying it’s a responsibility for all of us “to make the United States and Colorado and Denver the best place to live for all citizens. I think that all really starts with us, as straight men, getting out of our comfort zone.”
Matt will be more comfortable as he gets back up on stage to mark the end of his reign and perform a final swan song at the 4th annual ‘Drag Eye for the Straight Guy.’
“I want everyone to know that I am coming out hard because this is my last time up on stage,” Matt said of their highly-anticipated final performance.
“The new contestants are going to have the bar set high,” he warned. “Expect a full blown woman up on that stage ready to give it to you.”
This year’s contest will take place on August 12th at 6 pm MST at Tracks Nightclub in Denver, Colorado.
Learn more about the unique fundraiser, buy tickets or donate to support this year’s contestants. Proceeds from the event will directly support the work of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.