Everybody loves a good drag show.
Performer Patrick McGratten channels the likes of Mariah Carey, Katy Perry and Whitney Houston as he transforms into his Sparkle Emotion persona to dance and lip synch on stage.
McGratten remembers Red Deer’s show during the Central Alberta Pride events last year.
The venue was packed with people from all walks of life and from both gay and straight communities.
“It was really cool to see that here in Red Deer,” said McGratten. “There has not been a lot of (public) drag shows in Red Deer. It was nice to be in (one) of the first.”
McGratten, along with his fellow drag queens, are hoping to wow an even larger crowd at the Drag-Apoca-Lips at The Vat on Friday night. It coincides with this weekend’s Central Alberta Pride events.
“Watching a drag show is a good way to step into a fantasy world,” said McGratten. “We are not being ourselves. We are getting away from our problems to entertain people so they can get away from their problems. It’s just eye-opening to see the artistry. It’s not just men in dresses.”
The beauty of drag, he says, is in the transformation and fantasy.
“I think a lot of people have the idea that if (men) do drag they want to be women,” said McGratten. “I don’t. I have always been an androgynous person. I like being a male. I like being who I am. I get to be glamorous.”
He started performing as Sparkle Emotion in 2009, within a few months of telling his friends and family he was a gay man in Saskatoon. A dancer and performer with 20 years under his feet, McGratten saw the experience as another avenue to perform. He is currently the assistant artistic director at Red Deer’s Dance Traxx Studio, which is owned by his sister.
Friends had taken him to a show and encouraged him to get up on stage.
“It was going to be a one-time thing,” said McGratten. “I did it and I fell in love with it. And it took on a life of its own. I was doing it every weekend. I ended up working as a drag hostess (at another club). Every single weekend I was in drag there getting paid to do it. It doesn’t happen that often. It became a second job but it took on a personality of its own.”
His stage name is a play on the Sparkle Motion dance group in the Donnie Darko movie. He has since performed in many clubs and shows in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
When he moved to Red Deer a couple years ago, he was surprised at how he was treated. While he only dresses in drag for shows, he does not keep his night job a secret.
“All the dance parents have welcomed me with open arms,” he said. “I am very open about it because I don’t want the students or anyone to stumble upon it online. I think being open is the only way people can accept you because if they find something like that it makes it look like you are hiding something.”
While the pride events in Red Deer aren’t as big as in other cities, he knows that every small step is a step forward toward greater acceptance.
“It’s about taking small steps,” said McGratten. “Any small step is a good step. It doesn’t matter how extravagant it is. Saskatoon started out with 50 people in 2001 and now it’s grown to 3,000 and it’s huge.”