Fresno State students and locals are cheering on season 14 contestant, DeJa Skye, on the popular show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
From 1940 to 1960, people could be arrested for dressing as the opposite sex. Today in Fresno County the drag scene has become larger and more impactful than it’s ever been.
Every Friday night at Splash Fresno, an LGBTQ+ bar and nightclub, Cara Coronado hosts a viewing party for locals to watch their friend and fellow local turned star, DeJa Skye, on VH1’s hit show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
“What do we think about DeJa’s last outfit? Toot it or boot it?” Coronado asked the crowd of 50 people.
“Toot it!” The crowd cheered back, eager to show their support, love and enthusiasm for DeJa Skye.
After applying three times for “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” DeJa Skye said that she feels that she is truly ready for this season and sees it as a major accomplishment.
Although this is DeJa Skye’s mainstream debut, performing in drag isn’t unknown for her as she’s been doing this for 10 years. It was the second season of “Drag Race” that convinced DeJa Skye that this was what she wanted to do.
DeJa Skye was 20 when she first performed in drag at Aldo’s, a Fresno bar and nightclub that held local drag shows once a month in 2011.
“My first performance was to the song ‘S&M’ by Rihanna, with two backup dancers who were my best friends at the time,” DeJa Skye said.
As a choreographer for cheer and dance that came easily to Deja Skye, but lip-syncing was a new challenge and a must for drag queens.
“I was performing and I forgot to lip-sync half the song. I was just dancing and I was like, ‘Oh, move my lips!’” DeJa Skye said. “It was funny – my first time was not natural, it was weird.”
It no longer hinders DeJa Skye, who has been crowned a “lip-sync assassin” on “Drag Race.”
When it comes to the local drag scene, DeJa Skye describes Fresno’s scene as small and lacking visibility.
“Fresno is a Republican area, and I’m glad we have safe places like gay clubs because we didn’t use to have that,” DeJa Skye said. “We have a lot of talent.”
Some of that local talent includes DeJa Skye’s inspirations and drag sisters.
Cara Coronado has been performing in drag for eight years, during which she met DeJa Skye.
“I’ve known DeJa for nine years, and I would describe our friendship as hilarious, chaotic and loving,” Coronado said.
DeJa Skye’s success thus far on the show is not a surprise for Coronado or the rest of their fellow drag community in Fresno. Coronado said one of DeJa Skye’s strengths as a performer is her ability to make an audience member feel special.
“It’s about time. I’ve always known since day one that this girl was going to be a star,” Coronado said.
Whether DeJa Skye is performing, hosting or just being herself, Coronado said it’s impossible to not notice how comfortable she is in her own skin.
“I’m not a person who puts on a character. When I put on a wig, I’m talking to you the same,” DeJa Skye said.
Locals and Fresno State students who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community have been greatly inspired by DeJa Skye’s openness, as well as her body positivity and encouragement to embrace body types.
“When I was a young gay person, I didn’t have anyone to look up to. I was the only gay person at my school. There was no one in the media locally that I could look up to,” DeJa Skye said.
“Now I get messages that say, ‘By you embracing your curves and embracing who you are, that makes me feel powerful and it makes me want to be a better person.’ To hear that I am empowering someone to be themselves is amazing.”
Mikaela Magaña is in the master’s program at Fresno State and identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Magaña recalled several nights she would watch DeJa Skye perform at FAB Fresno, another local LGBTQ+ bar and lounge and described DeJa Skye as authentic, genuine and proud of who they are.
For Magaña, seeing a local on the big screen isn’t just entertainment – it’s a step forward for the LGBTQ+ community.
“DeJa Skye is representing queer voices of color in the Fresno community, which most of the time isn’t highlighted because we live in a place that focuses a lot on agriculture and is more conservative,” Magaña said. “They are helping to further queer voices, and they’re helping to combat this stigma of the Central Valley of not being creative or a fun place to visit.”
Since DeJa Skye’s debut on “Drag Race,” other local fans of the show have found a favorite this season.
Trinidad Lopez, a senior studying dietetics, has been a “Drag Race” fan for over two years now, having emotionally connected to drag soon after watching the show.
“I love seeing someone not being scared to express themselves and not follow what society usually tells us to do. I felt very emotional, to see someone do what they like and not care about what others might think based on the appearance of what they do,” Lopez said.
DeJa Skye’s biggest piece of advice for students who are interested in trying drag? Just do it.
“Do it full force, and make sure you’re doing it for you. Do drag because it’s your art, and don’t try to be like anyone else.”