Youth Drag

Young drag performers hit the stage in Halifax

The Youth Project and Halifax Central Library presented 2nd annual youth drag show

Nikki Teenn performs in the Youth Drag Show at the Halifax Central Library.   Jayde Tynes

Framed by a rainbow backdrop and colourful balloons, Nikki Teenn lip syncs to the song Kill Shot by Amaany Clarke in a sparkling purple jumpsuit.

The large crowd at the second annual Youth Drag Show at the Halifax Central Library roars its approval.

“I remember the first time I got on stage, it was such an adrenaline rush; I get a rush now, but not like that first time,” Teenn said.

At 28, Teenn was one of the more experienced performers at Thursday’s event, a partnership between the Youth Project and the library. Eight youth, including one as young as 12, performed in front of seasoned drag queens Shayla Shenanigans, Kowyn and Elle Noir, who provided feedback and support.

Donna Nicholson, youth co-ordinator with the Halifax Central Library, said the idea to host the drag show came from youth who visit the library. The goal of the event was to provide youth with a chance to perform and express themselves in a supportive and safe environment.

“The library has partnered with the Youth Project for many events and this was another opportunity to work with them, to give the youth what they were asking for,” said Nicholson.

Nikki Teenn prepares her costume backstage at the Youth Drag Show.   Jayde Tynes

Nico Callahan has been performing as Teenn for 10 years. Originally from Winnipeg, he wanted to be a drag performer in his early teens, but he had to wait until he was legally allowed to enter bars that hosted open drag events.

“When I first performed I looked so bad. I had a $30 wig (and) garage door shadow, which is having the same colour from the lid to the brow and big red lips,” Callahan said laughing. “But it is fun to look back at those times and see how much you have grown.”  

Nikki Teenn performs a lip sync to “Kill Shot” by Amaany Clarke.   Jayde Tynes

Callahan was motivated to perform by those he calls his “drag mothers,” older drag queens who take young aspiring performers under their wing and provide them with moral support. One of the most instrumental “drag mothers” in Callahan’s life is a performer known as Poison Ivy.

“I was lucky to have someone to take me under their wing,” he said with a smile.

Callahan wants more youth to have positive experiences exploring drag as he did and believes the Youth Drag Show provides that.

“It’s so kids can see that they are not the only one. I remember being young and feeling like I was the only one, that I was the only person that was different,” he said.

Elle Noire, self-proclaimed drag mother, believes youth-accessible events are important so young people know there is a place for them to be themselves.

“We need to show the youth that it is OK to be who you are, and you will actually be celebrated for it,” said Noire.

Youth Drag Show panellist Elle Noire says youth should celebrate who they are.   Jayde Tynes

Angela Munroe attended the event with her 11-year-old son who she described as a makeup enthusiast.

“It was amazing and everyone did such an amazing job; my son wore his makeup and he says it was the first time he felt not judged,” said Munroe.

The crowd cheered and clapped their hands every time a performer walked the stage.

Callahan said there is nothing like being on stage.

“It is such an adrenaline rush because the stuff I do as Nikki I could never do as Nico,” he said.

Video shot and edited by Lothian Taylor