D Dynasty is a male illusionist drag king based in Seattle. His performances are a rare treat for those lucky enough to see them. Use the hashtag #DDynastysighting on social media if you happen to witness one of these special occasions.

Seattle Drag King D Dynasty poses with an orange, patterned shawl or blanket over their head. Photo by Keith Johnson.

What can people expect from one of your drag shows?

My shows have evolved to where I am typically not your family-friendly drag king. Come and be ready to be a human jungle gym. Come to the front. I’ll play with you. You play with me. We’ll have fun. 

Everything is very sexy and sensual. I’ve played at shows that are family friendly and I do cater to each show, but just know that for the most part, we’re going to have a good time together. I don’t want to say “seduce”, but it’s one of those things where I’m going to completely take you on this performance journey with me. Usually full adult, like 21 and up. Don’t be bashful. I usually have every host say, ‘If you’re not ready for this performer, this is a good time to go tip the bartender, because if you stay up front you may be a human jungle gym’. It’s always an amazing experience though. It’s always great to see how people react if they’ve never seen a drag king before. Their whole mind change is so much fun.

See D Dynasty in action at the 2020 Academy Awards Party.

How did you get started with drag?

I’m a part of a house, The House of Dynasty. The house mother is Regine Dynasty. I would always go to the shows, always help the Queens get dressed, and I thought, ‘I could probably try my hand at this’. It just didn’t feel like there were a lot of spaces where the opposite was happening, with drag kings. We had a lot of women come to our shows and ask what we do for the women. All these conversations would come up until one day my house mother was having a show out in Kent, and she was like, ‘I want you to just try this’. So maybe eight or nine years ago, they took my hand and showed me the basics of how to transform into a male persona. It kind of just went from there.

What were some of the challenges you experienced when launching your drag career, if any? How did you handle these challenges?

The first challenges were finding spaces where people wanted to have a king. With some spaces they got a king just because they booked the house and I was already with the group. There are a few recurring shows now in Seattle and Tacoma with kings, but there really wasn’t a consistent place for kings to show up and be able to have a space. I would perform at burlesque shows sometimes and that burlesque community was like, ‘Hey this is not burlesque, this is not what we want to see”. I had to have advocates in that particular art form say, ‘Yeah we create spaces for all people, and this is an art form that we want to have highlighted, so we’re gonna have this drag king come”. 

There are other things when it comes to the career part, like figuring out your makeup and some of the things that literally transform you into becoming this male, like ‘what does your beard look like’, taping; what kind of tape product do you use and is it going to leave a mark, is it going to stay. All these different things that come with it but for the most part it’s still an evolution and growth of what the art form is. Because of RuPaul, most people know what a drag queen is but usually…it might be the first time that an audience member has seen a drag king before and has no clue what it is. At the end of the day there aren’t too many problems, but it’s still an evolution of what the art form is.

“Yeah we create spaces for all people, and this is an art form that we want to have highlighted, so we’re gonna have this drag king come”

– D Dynasty, on creating spaces

What do you enjoy most about being a drag performer? 

All the different people I get to meet. I get asked to go to a lot of different settings. The different folks who are just like, ‘Wow, I never knew that I was gonna get that kind of an experience” or the people who saw me when I was just starting out [that are] seeing me now being like, ‘I am so impressed with the growth’. Just to see the smiles on people’s faces or the look of shock or the look of seduction or whatever it is. Those things are a great great honor.

I do community work too so it’s always a very interesting thing when I’m at a meeting or something and people recognize me as “the drag king”.

The love that’s given and the constant loyalty from people who believe in this art form and believe in creating spaces for historically or underrepresented folks to perform [is what I enjoy]. So that love means so much. It definitely keeps you going. 

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had as a performer?

I’ve had a few, but I was really honored three or four years ago to be the second drag king and first Black drag king to be an announcer for the Seattle Pride Parade. The first drag king to be an announcer was Cesar Heart, a wonderful person. Prior to Cesar, they hadn’t had any male illusionists as announcers. We know they had queens all the time or gay males, but there were no announcers that were kings at the time. A friend of mine that founded Dapper Down Productions, N.G. Langston and I were on that stage. That was an amazing experience and I started getting a lot of calls after that.

Another amazing experience was actually this year during pride. I was asked to do a panel and performance at a tech company that’s brand new here in Seattle. I was like, ‘Oh wow, now I’m getting calls to do tech gigs, that’s so cool!’, and so I literally came to their office with Ebo Barton and Donna Tella Howe, and it was just the three of us. It was their first time having performers come and be on a panel in their persona, and it was great. Those kinds of performances are definitely embedded in the brain. I gave them the same kind of spiel that I gave you, that my performances are not typically PG. So they asked me to find a number where everybody can feel welcome, and I was like “absolutely, I’ll change it up”. So it was a good experience for sure and a lot of them were folks that had moved here for tech related stuff and weren’t used to drag in general so there were a lot of questions, which was great. It was very very different, but exciting still.

What does your creative process look like when developing performances?

The creative process really depends on what the performance asks for. So sometimes there are specific things, like I have a performance coming up in August that’s all about sweets. It just depends. For me and my drag, if they ask for two numbers, I like to use the same artists for both numbers. I try not to really embody them, but embody the spirit of what the song is trying to be and then put my D. Dynasty spin into that. I also try to give a taste for people who have maybe never had this experience before. For example there’s a nice little restaurant/bar in Columbia City called BackYard and they do these things called Sashay Away Sundays which are fun and fantastic, and sometimes they’ll ask me to perform knowing their audience is mostly gay males. They’re like “we’re not sure if they’re used to having drag kings, so be gentle” but it’s like “no being gentle, you gotta rip the bandaid off, it is what it is” so people will stare at me like “is that a guy? What’s happening here” and as soon as they see me perform they’re like “WOW okay, I’ve never had this experience before”. You can just see their thought process in their eyes. And then I had tons of people asking if they could come to my next show.

So the process is taking a chunk of what I think the audience might enjoy, what is the theme, sitting with the song, etc. I really love the artistry of the lip sync which is a big part of what drove me into becoming a drag king. No shade whatsoever, but I saw a lot of drag queens with flawless makeup, flawless outfit, but the lip sync wasn’t right. I can really hold in the culture that lip sync is really a very important part of being a drag performer. If the song is not right for me in my mind, I’ll skip that song and go to a song that I think people have heard several times just because I know I’ve got it to a point where it respects the artistry and the song and all these things.

Drag King D Dynasty pictured lip-syncing into a microphone. Photo by Keith Johnson.

What are some things you would like to see in the drag community in Seattle going forward?

The entire drag community is doing way better. As I was saying before, when people think about drag they’re thinking about queens. I know a lot of our queens who are well-known are opening their spaces to more kings to share the space with them which I think is fantastic. I think there are other places that do have recurring shows that notice that they don’t have a king, but they know kings are out there and wondering how to get them all there. 

I would love to start seeing us share more tricks of the trade. So like what I was mentioning before about taping and what products people use, what do you use to put on your facial hair, what kind of facial hair do you use, and sometimes those conversations only come up in the green room getting ready. So if we started opening those things up, like I know some burlesque groups, there’s like an academy or something like that. They do makeup and they do like “how do you keep your tassels on”.. they do all this training together as a community because these are important things. So those are the things that I would like to see. Of course people can go to YouTube, but that person to person interaction on what makes sense for different bodies, as a human to human thing. I would love to see those things a little bit more. Being a black king, there are some things that I can’t use or may not be able to use on my skin type or on my body type that maybe another king could use. We know that like tape doesn’t always come in darker colors, and all these things. How do we all troubleshoot? Because we may all have things we want to work on. Above all, I just want to say, invite kings to the table, invite us to the space. It’s gonna be a great time. 

Another thing is not to hog when I’m getting called, right, like sharing the wealth. It’s always my honor and duty to make sure that my fellow kings have a space to perform as well if they’re not getting called on a regular basis. That kind of sharing would be great to see happen more too as well.

“If the song is not right for me in my mind, I’ll skip that song and go to a song that I think people have heard several times just because I know I’ve got it to a point where it respects the artistry and the song and all these things.”

– D Dynasty, on the creative process

Who are some of those artists you try to support?

So one, this is not a local king but this person is definitely a sweetheart, is Spikey Van Dykey. They’re from Florida. They’re one of those world-renowned performers who’s come and hung out in Seattle a couple of times. Just an amazing person.

There’s Luce Fury, who’s a local non-binary performer that when I first started doing drag they had already been doing it, and now we work together on a regular basis which is great. There are some younger people that are coming out, I don’t have their names off the top of my head, but they’re looking for more spaces. There are also not a lot of spaces for kings or queens that are sober spaces. So a lot of kids who are under 21 that are interested in drag can’t always come to our spaces or can’t perform in the venue. So how do we make sure those babies who are under 21 or even just people who aren’t interested in being in a bar can still see us perform and have a good time just like anybody else?

What do you hope people walk away with after seeing you perform?

I want people to go home and feel loved and cuddly. I want people to leave with that tingle of like “I wasn’t ready for that experience and I just want some more, like I can’t wait to see another drag show”. Not too many spaces are open for us to do drag shows all the time. I think we have a pretty liberal scene but sometimes drag kings are not at the forefront of the mind when they think drag. They think queens, and of course, burlesque is taking the world by storm as it has and so a lot of people are thinking of those two genres on a regular basis and there’s a way you can incorporate other queer art on the stage as well. When people start thinking about how we can collaborate, that’s what I love too. So after seeing our performances, they think like “how do we work better together next time” that’s amazing. Those things are always treasured and greatly appreciated.

If you were a taco, what would be your toppings?

That’s so funny because I’m really craving tacos today. I’m pretty boring when it comes to tacos, like give me a decent pulled pork or something yummy on top. Some cheese and salsa, I don’t know, it’s not that exciting, but it’s delicious.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Just to hammer it in one more time, invite kings to the table. Regardless of what it is, invite someone who’s a drag king or even a non-binary performer to that space. ‘Cause you’re going to get something a little bit different than what you’re used to seeing. It just makes for a wealth of fun. Like I was saying, new experiences, when you see the audience leave from that space, the audience is just like, “Wow, I wasn’t ready for that, I didn’t know I was going to get that kind of experience.”

So, leaving people with lasting memories and that experience because you had that drag king, because you had that non-binary performer who is above all much appreciated to the community.

Call us, book us, you know we’re just as fabulous as a queen is, of course. We would love to be there.

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