A philanthropist drag queen and a ‘drag bitch’ walk into a bar, and other classic fairy tales
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful queen who lived in the Fraser Valley. She loved to sing and dance, and spent most of her time giving back to her community. Fans would come from near and far to see the queen perform sold-out shows.
Oh, that’s right, I meant a drag queen.
A little birdy told me about a philanthropist drag queen who does shows in the Fraser Valley (also known as BC’s Bible Belt). Naturally, a story like this cannot go untold, and I had to find out more.
So let’s start over. In a faraway land called Abbotsford, B.C., there lives a man named Shane Stark. He is an Educational Assistant at a local high school where he helps special needs and at-risk youth.He also works at a homeless shelter in Mission, and in his spare time, he moonlights as a drag queen. Or more specifically, a drag queen named Anida Tythole.
“[The name] Anida Tythole just stuck cause it was campy and crude and it’s perfect. It’s me.”
Shane became interested in the industry after dressing up in drag one Halloween. “I’m one of those gays,” he says with a laugh. “Halloween is the big one where most gays dress up like drag queens and then it turns into more of a full-time thing from there.”
After going to a few shows, he thought to himself, “Damn, I could do it better than these bitches!” Shane had no background in dancing or singing, but when he took to the stage, he knew it was meant to be.
“I got on there and I was like ‘Oh my god, is this what it feels like to be a complete narcissist? I’m sold!’” he says. “I started doing it more [and] within the first year I was nominated as Entertainer of the Year of Vancouver and then from there it just took off and now I have my own shows.”
But, before he could truly get started, he needed a name. He and his friend, who he refers to as his “drag bitch,” were driving home from a show and trying to come up with some cheesy, punny names.
“Anida Tythole just stuck cause it was campy and crude and it’s perfect. It’s me,” he says.
The first show Shane did was at a bar in Abbotsford. He was trying to raise money for a mission trip to Romania.
“It sold out and we raised like $3 000,” he says.
He was shocked and decided to keep doing shows to raise money for local charities. Now, he does raffles at his shows to raise money and donates a lot of his tips too.
“It all goes to the Fraser Valley Youth Society which is an organization that supports LGBT youth … in the Fraser Valley.”
Raising money is a big part of drag, he says. “It’s really kind of a fundamental thing for drag queens, actually.”
Shane has his own monthly show called Tucked and Loaded at a bar called The Stage, in Misson, B.C. His most recent one took place on March 16 and all 160 tickets sold out beforehand.
“That’s the third one that’s sold out,” he says proudly.
Shane books performers and hosts the show, and his “drag bitch” makes the posters and edits the songs.
“I schedule all the queens, I book the DJ, I create the setlist,” he says. “So it’s my show completely.”
The experience has been rewarding for him in many ways.
“It’s the new trendy thing. Even at work, I walk past the [students] and they’re watching Netflix and they’re watching ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race.’
“First, I have raised a shit ton of money for charity, which is super cool. That’s obviously the big one for me,” he says. “But the next one is just watching my career grow.”
Shane wasn’t expecting the success he’s experienced. He was born with a condition called Radial Dysplasia.
“I have really short arms, like I actually don’t have a wrist or anything,” he explains.
But that doesn’t slow him down and he doesn’t need a fairy godmother or a pumpkin carriage to turn into Anida.
“I do my own makeup and I’m self-taught,” he says.
He did pick up a few tricks from well-known Vancouver drag queens such as Ray Sunshine, a professional makeup artist who owns a theatre-makeup store and teaches others how to paint their faces.
Shane started learning to do his own makeup long before drag makeup tutorials could be found all over YouTube.
“It’s the new trendy thing. Even at work, I walk past the [students] and they’re watching Netflix and they’re watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’m like ‘Oh, I worked with that queen, I know who that is.’”
Shane was happy to discover that the drag community is so willing to help each other out. Even so, he says, there are no shortage of cliques. Building relationships in the drag community in Vancouver was difficult, especially because he doesn’t live in the city.
“But now that I have a show that pays money, the queens definitely don’t complain,” he says.
Doing drag in the Bible Belt isn’t my idea of a fairytale, but Shane’s experience has been surprisingly positive.
Anida Tythole plans to reign over the Fraser Valley for a long, long time.
There is a Fraser Valley Pride organization now, and Shane frequently does free shows for them. One time, he forgot an eyelash for a performance so he went to the Abbotsford Superstore in full drag to pick some up and was surprised by people’s reactions.
“I didn’t even get the weird stares or anything, it was funny,” he says. “It’s so mainstream that it’s not a big deal anymore. No one seems to care.”
However, there are still some pervasive misconceptions about drag, including that drag queens are transgender.
“That is definitely a misconception. I do not want to be a woman, I love my penis a lot — despite what I do to it when I’m in drag,” Shane says with a laugh. “You don’t have to be a feminine person to do drag.”
Shane has been doing drag for ten years and has no plans to stop.
“I might be 80 and still doing drag!”
His advice for aspiring drag queens is simple: “Paint your own face, know your words, actually lip sync, and try [to] build connections in the community. Go to shows, go meet the other performers, [and] get involved.”
And, so, there you have it. Shane, a.k.a. Anida Tythole, plans to reign over the Fraser Valley for a long, long time. He’s got a jam-packed schedule of drag shows and volunteer work, and that’s just the way he likes it. Throw in a cosmopolitan or two and I think it’s safe to say he’ll live fabulously ever after.