Q&A: This Queen Reigns Supreme
Written by Allison Kay Bannister. Photo: La Reine Divine, by Elise Kutt.

What’s better than sitting at Global Infusion on a Monday morning sipping a chai? Getting to share that moment with Marcus Thomas Johns, a/k/a La Reine Divine, a local drag queen who’s been performing for nearly a decade. 

With drag on the rise all over, from local brunches to festival performances to RuPaul’s Drag Race watch parties, we wanted to talk about what it’s like to be a part in it all.

Here’s a snapshot of our convo!

When did you realize you wanted to become a drag queen?

Before I knew I was gay, I was with a friend flipping through the TV for something to watch, and we landed on RuPaul’s Drag Race. It seemed like so much fun. For the longest time I said I wanted to do it, but didn’t, until one night, about eight or nine years ago, I took part in an open drag night in Kalamazoo. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I got into it and that first show that I did, I loved. But, I set a goal for myself: If in three years of doing this I wasn’t performing at Rumors, then I’d be done. I did several shows around town, then I finally got booked at Rumors—and 30 of my friends showed up!

What goes into putting on a performance?

It’s all about you. Whatever makes you feel comfortable. For me, I’m not young and spry anymore, but I can still do flips and tricks and jump off tables and stand on bars. 

What are some of your favorite songs to perform?

I’m a big Whitney Houston fan and in this town the one song that I’m known for is the Thunderpuss mix of “It’s Not Right, but it’s Okay.” I have stepped away from it a bit, though, because I don’t want to overdo it. I’m a big Beyoncé and Tina Turner fan, too. 

Drag has gotten more popular, but also more controversial. What do you think about that?

Drag has always been a thing; we watched Mrs. Doubtfire, Tyler Perry, Martin Lawrence… and that’s drag. I appreciate what’s happening with drag and that it’s becoming kind of a household name. Yes it’s controversial, but it’s because people just don’t understand—especially in our political climate right now, there are a lot of ideas about drag queens that just aren’t true. It’s more of letting the world know. One, drag queens exist. Two, the LGBT community has been here a long time, but now they’re becoming more seen.

For me, initially, drag was like an escape from my anxiety and depression, which really saved me. And then I also realized in doing drag that the strongest people in my life have been the women. My family, the women I met in college, the women I have as friends… there’s no one stronger than a woman. So, yeah, I’m portraying them out of respect and admiration. I don’t think that’s why everyone goes into it, but when I do drag I think about women who have been pillars in my life. The men in my life are strong, but no one has to be stronger than a woman. 

What is the hardest part of being a drag queen?

Sometimes, after a long show of entertaining people, my social battery goes pfft. But people want to talk with me afterward, so my battery could be at zero, but I’m an entertainer, and they deserve for me to talk to them. I feel like I still have to socialize and keep the character on. Even two weeks later someone might see me and want to talk about the show. My social battery may not be at zero anymore, but I’m just not in that persona. I love it and I love that they remember me and I’ll be very welcoming, but sometimes when I’m out of that mindset, I have to find a way to put myself back in that energy. People love La Reine, but they don’t get to know Marcus. That can be draining. I’m a person, too. So, yes, I’m La Reine, but I’m also Marcus, so remember that. 

What is most rewarding?

For one, finding Beauty Beyond Drag, a company here in town that’s been around for five years. I worked with them for their first show, and all of their shows are for charity. Just to give back to a community that’s given so much to me—even if it’s not necessarily the gay community; just the community in general. Giving back is the most important part. And being able to make someone’s day. There’s nothing I’d rather do drag for than those two things. 

Why is it fun to attend a show?

As a drag queen who’s been performing for a long time, I still enjoy going to drag shows and the fun part for me is the exaggeration, the beauty, and also being interacted with. It may make you uncomfortable, but the minute you get to interact with a drag queen, you realize they’re just like you. Plus, the crazy costumes that you get to see in drag are not something you’re going to see every day on the street. You see the effort and the time they put into their craft. Going to a drag show is a whole new world. I can tell you, just go and have an open mind. 

What do you wish more people knew about drag?

We’re human. We love the same. We have the same insecurities as everyone else; this is just an opportunity to get away from those. We’re not terrible people. We’re not after your kids. If people can get past the negative connotations of being a drag queen or being a person of the LGBT community, if we can sit down and have a conversation, people would get to know that we’re normal human beings. I just like to put on a wig every now and then!

Where can we see La Reine on stage?

I’m usually performing pretty often. After Lowell Pride, on June 1, I’ll be at “Night of 1,000 Lady Gagas” hosted by Bettie’s Pages in Lowell. For other upcoming shows, follow me on Facebook at Marcus Thomas Johns (La Reine Divine) or on Instagram at the_la_reine_divine