By Rebecca Drew
THIS SINGLE dad has been spurred on to pursue his passion for drag by his TEN-YEAR-OLD SON who encourages him not to give up and has even said that he will take over his show as a mini-me when he passes away.
Co-owner of Showgirls Entertainment and Canadian National Showgirl Pageant, John Bryant (34) from Kingston, Ontario, Canada, first got into drag seven-years ago after seeing some drag queens perform and thinking he could do the same.
Having never experimented with makeup before, John’s first experiences of doing his own makeup weren’t always a success but he persevered after gaining influence by drag performer, Harris Glenn Milstead who performed as Divine and RuPaul, and his comedic alter-ego, Lily Devine was born.
Despite receiving positive feedback when he is on stage, John, who is also a single parent to his 10-year-old son, Nicholas, from a previous relationship with a woman, has been subjected to criticism from those, including his son’s school, who don’t consider his drag queen lifestyle appropriate for being a parent and have even questioned him about his gender identity.
However, Nicholas, absolutely loves Lily Devine and sometimes mimics her in John’s wigs and heels as a joke. When John is testing out his makeup and outfits he always asks for his son’s opinion and whenever John feels like giving up on his dreams, Nicholas is there to spur him on and has even said he will take over the show when John passes away.
“As funny as it sounds, I saw a couple drag queens performing and thought, ‘I can do that!’. Needless to say with no guidance or knowledge of makeup I was a hot mess. You could tell I was a man right away, but at least I tried,” said John.
“I’ve always loved gardening and flowers, so I got Lily from the flower and Devine came from Divine, but because of trademarks and copyrights I had to change the name a bit, seven years later it just stuck and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
“Oh my, my son absolutely loves it. He has grown up around it, so it doesn’t faze him at all, he’s even wore my heels and wigs to mock me. And of course, leaves both of us laughing hysterically.
“I always ask him his opinion on how I look when in drag or just playing around with makeup, he’s even been to some shows behind the scenes for a visit or event just to watch the youth shows we have done.
“There have been times that I have wanted to pack it in and give up, but he’s always right there saying it makes you happy because it makes him happy, but this is probably because he likes being spoiled afterwards and because he gets to see everyone perform.
“He has actually said quite a few times that he is going to take over the show when I die and be my ‘mini Lily Devine’, out of the mouths of babes.”
Although John’s acts are normally comedic, he does like to switch it up by performing ballads to keep his fans on their toes. John spoke about this and how he has overcome the criticism he’s received for being a drag queen dad.
“I’m more of the comedy type, so I do lots of stand up and songs that I can twist into something funny,” he said.
“But at the same time, I know when to dial it back and do a performance to make people cry, smile with joy, or even completely shock them because that specific performance is something they never see me do like a ballad. I like to switch it up every so often, it keeps things interesting.
“Absolutely I have received criticism and I’m sure it’s the same for anyone else in this lifestyle with children. I’ve been asked if it’s because I want to be a woman and I’ve had issues with the general public and school officials because of my chosen profession.
“Although it makes me angry at times, depending on the severity of the comments, the only thing any of us can do is educate the individual. Despite wanting to explode, it’s 2018 soon to be 2019; we cannot go around being so sensitive to others for their blindness in certain areas because they do not know or just don’t understand.
“In the end, where does that get us? Back to square one and possibly with more issues than in the beginning. If we want a change, we have to be the change, evolve, and go with the flow.
“Even I mess up at times, because I do not understand or I’m not educated in certain areas because it is out of my ‘norm’. You have to learn to ask the right questions. Expect an answer in an either positive or negative aspect. We are human after all.”
It takes John anywhere between three to four hours to transform himself into Lily and still to this day, transforming into her is his favourite thing about being a drag queen and he spoke about how Divine and RuPaul have inspired him.
“Although it’s one of the most basic but yet can be very complex, my favourite thing is the transformation. Even now after all this time I am amazed by the subtle changes that turn into major changes to look like someone completely different.
“I still have a hard time getting ready with others because I find myself watching them rather than doing my own makeup.
“Divine was how I wanted to represent myself, a no holds barred type performer just going for the biggest shock and as for RuPaul, how she was able to turn such a taboo subject like ‘drag’ into an international sensation.
“Just be yourself and when faced with negativity, don’t fall into that trap depending how the person is reacting to you. You have to educate the person if they are willing to learn.
“Others do not depict how you live your life and many of them you may not see more than once in your life time so their opinions do not matter.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/lilydevine84