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Get to know Veranda L'Ni and fellow Cleveland drag queens and kings

“Drag is one of the most creative art forms in the world," according to Cleveland drag performer Veranda L'Ni.

"First off, makeup. I mean, we have a blank slate with our face to create whatever look that we're trying to go for, whether it's a character, whether it's something theme specific. It allows us to be that creative," she said.

L'Ni hosts regular drag events around Northeast Ohio from brunches to story hours to evening performances.

At the 9 in Downtown Cleveland, L'Ni invites other queens and kings to share the Alex Theater stage.

Erica Martinez
Jean-Marie Papoi
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Ideastream Public Media
Cleveland drag performer Erica Martinez backstage at the 9.

Erica Martinez is one of the longest tenured drag performers in Northeast Ohio and dedicated to the craft.

"It's expensive to look this cheap," Martinez joked. "It takes a lot of money to do drag. I've spent thousands and thousands of dollars. But if it's something that you love and you're passionate about, I love this. And this is my life. It always will be."

Macho_still2.jpg
Jean-Marie Papoi
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Ideastream Public Media
Cleveland drag performer Macho Grande onstage at the 9.

The Cleveland king in this group is Macho Grande.

"I tend to find that occasionally I am the only king, and that might be a good thing. I won't say it's a scarcity thing anymore. I think there is a dramatic increase in kings in Cleveland. I think that we bring an entire different gender perspective. We just need a space to perform," he said.

Maja Jera
Jean-Marie Papoi
/
Ideastream Public Media
Columbus drag performer Maja Jera performs onstage at the 9.

Columbus performer Maja Jera discovered the drag scene after college and often joins this local crew.

"I found a sense of community. I found a sense of purpose for myself as well as for others. I found friends," Jera said. "I found my partner through drag, and I can't be thankful enough for drag, giving me more than a college degree could give me."

With the current political climate, L'Ni said drag performers need to support their colleagues.

"We all tend to work with each other and care for each other," she said.

A native of Akron and graduate of Kent State University, Jean-Marie Papoi has been working in the field of video production for 15 years. Since joining Ideastream Public Media in 2016, she's enjoyed filming and telling the stories of community members throughout Northeast Ohio.
Dave DeOreo is coordinating producer for Ideastream Public Media’s arts and culture team.