While many Troy students pursue extracurricular activities and part-time jobs, Jeffrey Shields, a freshman social work major from Piedmont, found a hobby that pays: drag.
Oxford English Dictionary defines a drag queen as “a man who dresses up in women’s clothes, typically for the purposes of entertainment.”
To Shields, aka Kandi Kane, it’s more than that.
“In the drag world, there’re so many cultures and ways of doing things,” Shields said. “It’s always changing and growing. Drag is not defined as one thing because it’s a literal living and growing art.”
Shields said he enjoyed the effect of going from being one person to a completely different one.
“My personality here when I am a boy is very blunt, very brash, and very to the point, but when I am Kandi, I’m a bitch.”
“He has his mood swings,”
said his co-worker Lasata Shrestha, a freshman biomedical sciences major from Kathmandu, Nepal. “He’s usually very happy and sarcastic and funny — kind of a person whom you either hate or you love.”
The upfront character helped Shields to take the spot of an insult pageant queen, which, according to Shields, is the drag queen who “gets paid to make fun of people.”
Originally, Shields was against the idea of drag.
“I was like, ‘I would never be one of the gays who do drag,’ and then someone offered me money, and money won,” Shields said. He added that he now gets paid anywhere from $50 to $300 a show depending on the venue.
He said he makes more money doing drag than at his daytime job of a supervisor at Moe’s.
“He’s really friendly with his employees,” said Amiya Biswas, a junior computer science major from Dhaka. According to Shrestha, Shields cheers up his employees when they are down and pushes them to work. Biswas also said she worked with Shields at Moe’s and knew he was a drag queen by the end of the first week.
It all started, according to Shields, when he was 18 in a Birmingham club called The Quest under a name created by his school friends — Kandi Kane. Shields describes his first show as a “horrible” experience.
“I looked so torn up,” he said. “I looked like a crack head they dragged off the streets and just bought some makeup somewhere; it looked like I went to Dollar General and threw it (the makeup) on my face.”
Before his first show, Shields also had his first experience with tucking through a lesson from his drag mother.
“And she’s said, ‘Calm down sweetheart, calm down,’ — she’s just old as dirt, she’s just under 300 years old in drag terms — ‘You just stuff it and tuck it, and you go.’ It was very awkward and very intense.”
Despite the awkwardness, Shields said he liked his first show because it was different from his everyday life.
“I’m from a very Christian background, so me being gay was already taboo, but when you throw in drag in the mix, it’s like no-no-no, not today, Satan,” he said.
Shields’ parents passed away in his teen years, but his aunt was supportive of his passion for drag.
“She goes wig shopping, makeup shopping, dress shopping with me,” he said. “She’s awesome.”
According to Shields, people’s reactions to his job range from a shocked “Oh my gosh, you do that?” to an enthusiastic “Oh, my gosh, you do that? I wanna come see you.”
Summer Davis, a graduate student in accounting from Troy, said she went to a drag show in Savannah, Georgia, with some friends and enjoyed the experience.
“It was pretty cool,” Davis said. “They swapped outfits a few times and walked the runway. I think it was a good time. We had fun.” Davis also said that the unique experience was the major appeal of the show. “Around here there’s not anything like that that I know of.”
All interested can visit the official Kandi Kane Facebook page to find the venues of future performances and follow Kandi Kane’s progress.
At the end of the interview, Shields said he didn’t feel the need to hide his occupation.
“It’s not something I keep secret,” he said. “I am proud of what I do, I make money doing what I do.” He also said he will carry on doing drag because the advantages outweigh the pain.
“Underneath it all, I am a 23-year-old man in a dress and makeup. I get paid to put on heels that hurt, I have to put things in places they shouldn’t go, and it’s just horrible at times, but the money and the fun, and the laughter, is what makes it worth it.”