A Queen’s Story : A Peek into Indy’s Drag Scene

Photos by Maddie Scarpone

Meet Stevie Cobain. She is strong. She is unstoppable and most importantly, she is sickening*.

Inspired by iconic female musicians from Gaga and Ke$ha to Madonna and Janet, her eye for fashion is keen and her sense of confidence is untouchable. For the past year, when she isn’t performing on stage or uploading looks to her Instafeed, she juggles school, work and her mental health.

Stevie is not just your average girl of glitz and glam, she is a queen of the Haus of Stoner, a drag family of 10 different queens with 10 unique stories. For Stevie, it all started at the age of 19 when a friend invited her to a Bianca Del Rio show, winner of Rupaul’s drag race season six.

“I had never been to a drag show before,” says Eric, the recent Ball State graduate behind Stevie’s grand persona. “We went and it was a comedy show, I absolutely fell in love with it. After that I started watching Rupaul regularly and that’s how I really got into drag.”

The next step in Eric’s journey to drag was the name. Featured on season eight of Rupaul’s Drag Race was a queen by the name of Naomi Smalls, a name which combined both supermodel Naomi Campbell and late rapper Biggie Smalls into one. Following a similar guise, Eric asked the question, “If I were to be a creation of two celebrities who would it be?” The answer didn’t fall short: Stevie Nicks and Kurt Cobain and just like that a queen was born.

Stevie Cobain is fierce, bold and everything Eric wants her to be, however, it was no walk in the part to be where they are today. A craft had to be honed, connections had to be established. It was a full investment, both financially and emotionally, and it still is.

“You can’t just wake up one day and be like ‘I want to do drag,’ put it on and go out and do a show,” says Eric. “It’s a lot more work than that. It does take practice and just kind of repeating the steps over and over again. When it comes to resources, drag is expensive. I don’t care what anyone says, you could only shop at goodwill and it’s still expensive. That’s when you have to know how to make stuff unique.”

For Eric, drag is an incorporation of authenticity and pop culture references. The ultimate goal is to show not tell, by making a reference apparent enough to understand, yet not too much that it drowns out your individuality and becomes impersonation. Eric allows their originality to shine through Stevie with their eye for fashion and the way they are able to pair things together in comparison to how others may.

Along with personal confidence and a selective sense of fashion, Eric also believes that what distinguishes Stevie from other queens is the use of her social media platform to spread political awareness.

“I view drag as a very political statement and I try to be very political as much as I can through my drag,” said Eric. “If you look at my Instagram captions I like to troll a lot, but I also like to be very politically aware even if it has nothing to do with the photo, like ‘here’s a political issue going on, you guys should know about it, but also look at this really great photo of me.’”

Even off social media Eric remains aware of social injustices, especially within the drag community. With drag becoming more mainstream, it has gained the interest of many different individuals, however, there are limiting narrow views that exists among many older drag queens of what drag should and should not be.

“It’s not just for men to dress up as women and it’s not just for women to dress up as men,” said Eric. “You can do whatever you want in drag. It’s about breaking gender stereotypes and that norm. I think people have those outdated views of what drag is supposed to be and I think people need to just listen more, be more educated and be willing to accept non-traditional drag queens.”

In the Indianapolis drag scene in particular, Eric has noticed transphobia as wells as negative views towards non-binary queens with both Eric and their Drag mom, Avery Knight, being non-binary themselves. Eric also shed light on the discrimination queens of color face.

“People are not giving queens of color the respect that they deserve, which is also to me so frustrating, because if it weren’t for the Black and LatinX LGBTQ+ community, we wouldn’t have the drag that we have today,” says Eric. “If I could change anything, I wish everyone would learn their history and just be more accepting within our own community. For a community that claims to be so accepting, I think there’s hypocrisy in it.”

In the midst of the the turmoil, hard work and sleepless nights, it is still undeniable that drag has provided a safe haven for Eric and even second family. Eric is excited to spend Indy Pride with The Haus of Stoner this June as well as going to shows and hopefully getting booked.

For aspiring queens, Eric recommends putting yourself out there, making sure you’re having fun and not taking yourself too seriously. When Stevie takes the spotlight, Eric has the confidence to express their true personality in addition to having an overall good time, which has helped both Eric and Stevie grow in ways that are unimaginable.

“I think being in drag weirdly enough allows me to be myself more and I feel like it helps me to express who I actually am a lot more and that’s where I get my personality from,” says Eric. “While Stevie is like a character, she’s still a part of me and who I am. I feel like in drag I am able to express the feelings and emotions that I wish I could always express and you can’t knock me down. You can’t tell me that I’m not looking good. You can’t because I’m going to prove you wrong no matter what.”

Keep up with Stevie and the Haus of Stoner through Instagram!

*Sickening (adj.) : Looking very good, over the top, fierce, fashionable