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Drag Darklings and Burlesque Bats: 7 Performers Who’ll Break Your Heart and Wreck Your Panties

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The world of performing art is vast enough to hold every possible combination of interests. We’re sure there’s someone out there already booked to perform their Neo-Harajuku-Rat-Pack-Interpretive-Dance number. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that there’s a delightful collection of queer ghouls (“Queerdos” if ya nasty) whose dark sensibilities shape their stage acts into delights for the spoopy crowd. Be it drag, burlesque, or something in between, these performers challenge our concepts of beauty, gender, sexuality, horror, and good taste.

Arran Shurvinton


Photos Credit: Arran Shurvinton

While this British performer sometimes dresses in traditional drag, they’re perhaps best known for their lifelike (deathlike?) Nosferatu impersonation. Their act “Nosferatu: The Phone Call” lifts the audience with humor and crushes them with a monster’s heartbreak. When you can engage viewers simply by sitting still, you know you’re doing it right. Arran stays in character over on his Facebook page: while posting about new photographs, Noss Noss (as his Count Orlok homage is affectionately called) notes, “I WENT TO SOUTHAMPTON TODAI AND HAD SUM LOVLY PICTURGRAPHS WITH A NICE MAN CALLS SCOTT I CANT WAIT TO SHOW THEM TO YOU YOU WIL DIE”.


Deb Leigh Nightshade


Photos credit: Deb Leigh Nightshade

This Seattle based queen is the founder of the darkling-filled performers collective House of Urban Legendary. Known as “THE Zombie Drag Queen” who serves “dead fish,” Deb Leigh mixes rockabilly glamour and monster movie horror on the regular. Check out their “Love On The Brain” piece; talk about gore-geous. In their audition video for season 9 of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Deb Leigh describes their “crazy talent” as “Dying, [then] coming back to life,” and elaborates on how becoming a drag queen helped them come to terms with their identity.  Ms. Nightshade may not have made the show, but they’ve made their creepy cute way into our hearts. You can find them on Instagram and Facebook.

Mina Minou


Photos credit: Mina Minou

A burlesque babe from the East Coast, Mina Minou recently added her femme fierceness to Babe Coven’s Be Witched burlesque show. Mina is a queer activist, artist, and performer with a love for dark kink. Her pieces are powerful and beautiful. And did we mention she’s been known to perform while wearing a pentagram harness, pasties, Isis wings, and a bat head mask? Please, m’am, could we have some more? You can follow Mina via Facebook and Instagram, or catch one of her live shows.

Mystery Meat


Photos credit: Mystery Meat

Atlanta drag king Mystery Meat has something old, something new, something borrowed, and something fuckin’ weird– just how we like it. Avant garde, sexy, and feral all at once, this glitter gutter punk stretches the boundaries of drag with every performance. Check out their Disney number if you want to explore deeper themes of gender and expression while being fabulously entertained. Mystery Meat follows through on every performance with fantastic characterization and a signature androgynous look. Their Jekyll and Hyde piece isn’t just a shticky Halloween gimmick. It’s art. You can follow Mystery Meat on Instagram.

Nyx Nocturne


Photos credit: Nyx Nocturne

Mistress of gender fuck, Nyx Nocturne rocks the stages of New York with their blasphemous, sexy, kinky performances. They explore the dentistry fetish in a piece that works opposite most burlesque– they add clothing throughout the number, sliding on gloves like most performers would slide them off. Their Sign of the Cross piece pushes all the right buttons, and we’re loving it. Nyx is a part of the Brooklyn Drag Collective Switch N’ Play, and continues to blur the lines between burlesque and drag, straight and queer, dark and light. You can visit their website for more of all the good stuff.



Photos credit: Phantom

Drag king Rita Olivera has a class to themselves. With flawless makeup and costuming, impeccable lip syncs, full physical embodiment of every character– Phantom is a true performer in every sense of the word. They’ve done performances based on some of our favorite creatures of the night, from Jack Skellington and Edward Scissorhands to Pinhead and Pennywise. Throw in original stylings like this gorgeous Day of the Dead piece and it’s easy to see why crowds love Phantom. We’ve got more than a little crush ourselves. For more proof that kings can hold their own on the drag stage, you can follow Phantom on Instagram and Tumblr.

Vander Von Odd


Photos credit: Vander Von Odd

Winner of the Boulet Brothers’ Dragula: Search for America’s First Drag Supermonster competition (get your snacks ready. You’re gonna want to binge watch the entire thing), Los Angeles creature Vander Van Odd is a nightmare of the best sort. His “Primitive” piece is sexy and disturbing, turning the modern vampire trope into something more predatory, feral, and other-worldly. Blasting from relative obscurity into the mainstream of drag, Vander’s appeared on WOWPresents shows alongside familiar names like Kim Chi. We’d be surprised if Vander didn’t eventually show up on Ru Paul’s Drag Race, and if that happens, you know who our money’s on. But Vander is much more than just a pretty face. After winning Dragula, Vander devoted the first video on his YouTube channel to discussing the gay purge in Chechnya. A young queen with a dark but brilliant future, we look forward to following Vander into the unknown. You can follow him yourself on Instagram and Facebook.

Featured images by Arran Shurvinton, Deb Leigh Nightshade, and Mina Minou.

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About The Author

Editor-in-chief Alex Moehagen is a crafty and queer artist and writer who lives with her miniature pet Yetis in the frozen Northern Wastes. She's also the owner of Little and Grim Soap Company, the manager of The Poisoners Guild, and thinks boredom is the only sin. You can stalk her over on Instagram.

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