The Denver drag scene is one rife with talent. There are performers who represent almost every aspect of the city’s drag scene. When it comes to kings, one of those signature performers is Onyx Steele.
A legend in the local scene, Onyx started drag in 1998 at age 13. He was drawn to drag by his sister and her friends.
“They would go to drag shows, and I wanted to be a part of the community. I saw it as a way to really become involved and have a voice,” Onyx stated. He saw drag as a socially acceptable and creative way to be an advocate for the LGBTQ community.
Onyx often gets called “a classic king,” but sees himself more as a rebel king, out to have a good time with as many people as possible. “Whether it’s throwing a dance party in a parking lot or playing games in a bar, he just wanted everyone to be themselves and enjoy life together,” he says of the drag king character he has created and become.
Onyx fights for the little guy and doesn’t back down. His shows often take a strong political stance, but you can see his fun side in the campy and comedic numbers he enjoys performing. His drag persona isn’t static, though. It’s still changing, which comes with the art form.
When it comes to Onyx in drag versus out of drag, he cares just as much about activism, but is less outgoing out of drag.
He sees drag as a mask, something to stand behind that allows him to be more outgoing.
As far as activism goes, Onyx has personally put a lot of effort into bettering our community. He is a founding member of Rainbow Alley, a safe space for LGBTQ youth located in The Center on Colfax, and continues to support them. According to Onyx, “Rainbow Alley was a program designed to be a youth-run, youth-led organization offering mental or physical health, housing, jobs, and other community need-based resources, a place for queer kids to be free to be themselves after school and on weekends.”
He also runs the Denver Dyke March and throws other fundraisers for various LGBTQ nonprofits, such as The White Rose Scholarship. Onyx also works closely with The Transformative Freedom Fund, a nonprofit brought to life by his drag brother. This fund helps with the cost of transitioning, such as name changes or hormones.
Onyx really enjoys the current drag scene as a whole. He likes how it covers plenty of niches “from witchcraft to regular, campy drag bingo.” He says it’s positive to see more drag kings in the community. He does believe the drag community has lost sight of fundraising with shows, though.
Onyx will be performing at Aurora Pride for the third time this year. He is a big fan of Aurora pride, especially because he was born and raised there. He also likes how the focus is more on the people than just one corporate sponsorship. Come see him in action on August 3 at his hometown Pride celebration.
Photo courtesy of Onyx Steele