“She grabs the world by the balls.”
That, y’all, is a direct quote from one of Denver’s most candid drag queens, Kai Lee Mykels, in describing her drag persona. “She is an empowered Joshua Brown.”
Otherwise known as the ‘good Christian woman,’ Mykels has made her mark on Denver’s drag community. After a four-year stint at the iconic queer bar, Charlie’s, the Kai Lee Mykels Show now takes center stage at X Bar every Sunday.
With nearly a decade of performing under her belt, she has circuited her way through Texas, Wyoming, and Colorado becoming a well-known queen in our neck of the woods, and making appearances at events such as Wyoming’s “Rendezvous,” a five-day queer campout in Laramie that involved Mykel’s having to put on her full drag makeup in the middle of the woods. Being able to do this attests to how far Kai Lee has come since her first performance in Austin, Texas—a performance that involved awkward heels and Rihanna’s 2007 hit “Shut Up and Drive.”
While Brown prefers not to relive his first experience in drag, it was an eye-opening moment, especially for someone growing up in eastern Texas—home to one of the biggest Southern Baptist Churches in the country.
“If you’re nervous, that means you care about what you’re doing,” he said. Pushing through this performance, he has continued to develop his craft over the years.
Today, drag has made an impressionable mark on contemporary media thanks to shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and a society that’s more accepting, and even desiring, of unconventional identities. When Brown first began performing, the internet lacked the highly-digitalized makeup tutorials littering Facebook and Instagram we see today. Without these step-by-step guides, it was difficult to gain access into this seemingly fringe community. By simply messaging people on Facebook asking for help, Brown soon found his way within the drag scene and began honing a signature look—one evocative of an old -school aesthetic.
“Old-school drag was to over-exaggerate femininity, and drag is constantly changing, as it should—as any art form should. Drag has no boundaries,” he explained.
Regardless of this evolution, Kai Lee continues to don extreme blush and contour lines, despite other queens occasionally making fun of this outdated look.
While there’s competition and judgement inherent in any type of performance, Brown notes the relatively large encouragement prominent in Denver’s drag scene. No matter which end of the spectrum one exists on—from fishy queens (a term used to describe a queen who is extremely feminine) to androgynous or abstract queens—the community supports one another. With the majority of negative comments or hate happening via social media, she’s appreciative to see how quick other queens are to encourage one another.
“We throw shade at each other, but it’s out of love. If I don’t love you, I don’t talk to you. If I’m throwing shade at you, that means I like you.”
Since Trump has taken office, Brown notes a tightness in the community—both the drag scene and society more generally. Luckily for Brown, drag has given him a platform to speak out about social injustices, and Kai Lee will.
At any one of her shows, you might hear her urge the audience to get active in the political environment by calling those in office, whether that be their Senators or their House of Representatives.
“I always speak up,” he continued. Mixing civil issues with comedy, Brown’s use of humor successfully entertains her crowds while aiming to make a difference.
Being a long-standing queen, Brown has grown accustomed to getting along with disruptive audiences. Especially within Denver’s queer community, people who see The Kai Lee Mykels Show consistently know not to talk back or interfere when she’s onstage. He takes pride in how he has trained spectators over the years.
“Don’t disrespect us. This is our job; we don’t come to your salon, burger-joint, or magazine and try to do your jobs for you. We do our own job; respect us,” he stated.
Not catering to anyone, Brown’s unapologetic style of performance is desperately needed within the contemporary social climate.
Other than incorporating political statements, performing in drag is also a personal source of power for Brown. In describing himself, Brown claims he’s an “introvert and an extrovert.” As a somewhat socially shy person, his drag persona helps him harness confidence both on and offstage.
Teary-eyed, Brown claimed that after discovering drag, his life was changed.
“Kai Lee has helped me become stronger and realize that I am a beautiful person, that life is really beautiful. You have to step outside of that shell or box sometimes to empower yourself.”