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The True Cost of Drag with Jaylene Tyme

By ATB Financial 11 June 2024 4 min read

The art of drag goes back centuries. Its complicated history is believed to have theatrical origins, but at its core, drag is an art form that celebrates and uplifts the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Today, drag is celebrated across the world and right here at home.


A world of possibilities

Jaylene Tyme, a two-spirit and transgender performer, has been doing drag for more than 32 years. She has performed across Canada, inspiring countless people. But growing up on a farm in Saskatchewan, she struggled to find her own identity. As a Sixties Scoop adoptee, she was separated from her brother when she was only three years old. By the time she was four, she’d already lived in five different homes. 

When she moved to Calgary in the early 1990s and went to a club for the first time, her eyes were opened to a whole new world of possibilities.

“I never forgot that impact, what it meant to be in a safe place where you could be yourself,” Jaylene remembered. “When I first went into that queer space and seeing drag on the stage being celebrated, having people there cheering and laughing, seeing the smoke hit the beads and the sequence on the stage, I just thought, ‘Oh wow, this is like magic.’”


Investing in drag

Being a drag legend is not cheap. 

In addition to the time commitment – Jaylene spends at least 10 hours a week prepping for performances – the cost of drag has dramatically increased over her three decades in the business. Today, an entire drag look – including makeup, hair and outfit – can cost upwards of $2,000.

“All of our tools are an investment,” Jaylene said. “Just like anything, if you invest in it, you will get money that way. Our tools of the trade are the makeup we wear and the clothing we wear. The more your brand is of consistent excellence, then you're going to be consistently paid.”

“It costs a lot of money to look this cheap,” Jaylene laughed. 


Financial literacy in the drag community

Planning for her future – financial or otherwise – was never really a thought for Jaylene. “I didn't actually think I would be alive to witness the real freedom drag brings to so many people,” she said. “When I was coming out, a lot of my community was being affected by the HIV and AIDS epidemic, and we were losing a lot of our community members. We were just trying to get through our day sometimes, so [finances] weren’t something that was a part of our fabric.”

Now, Jaylene can see change happening. Planning to buy her dream home? Why not? Saving for retirement? Absolutely. 

“We are helping people find the resources,” she said. “We are having the discussions where the only limit is your imagination.”


Allyship in action

Support for the drag community goes beyond those who are actively involved in it. Everyone can be part of positive change, but Jaylene believes it’s important to recognize that allyship must be tied to action. 


Three ways allies can support the drag community

Beyond attending drag shows and events like the Edmonton Drag Festival, allyship can come in many forms – both big and small. Jaylene’s top three ways for allies to support the community are:

  1. Add your pronouns to your email signature. Enabling conversations around gender pronouns in the workplace is one simple (but major) step towards creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace.
  2. Know what resources are out there – and share them. Do some research on resources in your community, and if someone is looking for support, you’ll know where to direct them.
  3. Hold yourself and others accountable. Don’t be afraid to call it out if someone makes an inappropriate comment, even if just to gently let them know this is a safe space and those types of comments are not welcome. “We have to come together to create unity and safety so that people can be their true selves,” Jaylene said.


The impact of drag on queer communities 

When Jaylene started out in drag, things were very different. The community was very private and many considered it “taboo” to be a part of it. But today, it has expanded into many different spaces on the world stage – from television to fashion and everything in between. The art of drag is now celebrated in many places around the world, and Jaylene believes there is a lot of power to that.

“We are able to reach more people and really essentially save lives,” she said, noting that she and many others are now able to see a future for themselves and plan for it financially. 

“There are so many people who need to know there is a space for them,” Jaylene continued. “When you are young and you are looking to figure out who you are and how you fit in the world, it's really challenging if you don't see diversity in our communities.”

“Drag helped me find out who I was as a person.”

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