Drag show veteran shares his experience performing for students

Photo: Allegra Morgado

Whether it’s the clothing, the makeup, or just the desire to express oneself, people are drawn to drag for different reasons.

For Michael Reynen, it was his love of theatre that got him started. In his fourth year in the University of Ottawa’s chemistry program, Reynen recalls going to a drag event in his first year and being enthralled by it. After seeing how much fun it was to watch, he decided to give it a shot himself.

“When I was in high school I did a lot of theatre and I hadn’t been getting my fix, so I needed something (more), and this fit the bill,” he said.

His stage name is Annie Thinngowes, which he describes as “kind of a play on words and tongue-in-cheek,” as well as a way to pay homage to Broadway’s musical Anything Goes.

Annie was one of the many performers at the U of O Pride Centre’s drag contest and variety show in the UCU Terminus on March 11, part of the student federation’s Campus Pride Week.

Her first number was inspired by Yzma, the villain from the Disney film The Emperor’s New Groove. For this she wore a purple dress and head wrap, and lip-synced to a scene from the film. This performance got a lot of laughter from the crowd, which Reynen said is one of his favourite elements of doing drag in front of a large audience.

The look for Annie’s second number was inspired by 1920’s flapper style, but with a modern twist. Reynen said he used black tones for Annie Thinngowes’ aesthetic to make it sharp to stand out from the crowd.

No matter what the look Reynen wants for Annie, he said getting ready for any performance of hers is very time consuming. For a full face of stage makeup, it takes Reynen an hour and a half to become Annie Thinngowes.

“First I started just doing the eyes, because that’s the part I screw up the most, so if I can do that before anything else goes wrong, that’s great,” said Reynen. “Then it’s the general face, the contours, and once you’ve got all that done then you’ve got the process of using the duct tape, which is not as painful as it sounds, it’s just a little annoying.”

Reynen said it’s important for the school to engage its students with Pride Week. He said he tries to help out every year by volunteering and participating in as many LGBTQ+ events as he can. He was particularly impressed with this year’s “The A-Team” workshop, which focused on asexuality.

However, as great as the Pride Centre has been for him, Reynen said he has had mixed experiences when it comes to inclusivity for those who belong to the LGBTQ+ community on campus.

“Even when prepping for these events I just use a washroom and I just start painting everything, and people will come in, they’ll see me starting to paint and then they’ll just leave, and so it hurts a little bit,” Reynen said.

But he did say he’s hopeful for a more inclusive future at the U of O. “As long as we take steps, even small steps, towards a more inclusive university as a whole, that’d be great.”

This is Reynen’s fourth year performing during student events, including drag shows during 101 Week and other events with the Pride Centre.

“I’ll admit that it isn’t the most impressive resumé,” he said, “but it’s been a blast anyway.”

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