“Drag is whatever you want it to be,” said 2017 Slippery Rock University graduate Brandon Gilchrist. While he was a resort recreation, hospitality and event management tourism student at SRU Gilchrist performed in the SRU drag show all 4 years on campus and was one of the only students to do so.
Gilchrist, otherwise known as Miss London Shanel got familiar with drag in Vegas in 2014 when he went for a summer. When Gilchrist went to his first show in Vegas he thought, “OMG I can totally do that.”
“I went to the thrift store and bought a two-dollar dress, makeup from the Dollar Store and Walgreens, and got an old wig from my cousin’s neighbor,” Gilchrist said.
Gilchrist’s drag persona is Miss London Shanel. Gilchrist said that he originally looked on a drag queen name engine but wanted his name to be unique. “I always wanted to be a popstar, but I can’t sing but I can dance and perform,” Gilchrist added. “There’s so much you can do with drag and there’s so many different queens and elements of drag that I didn’t even know what existed and what kind of image I wanted to put out as a drag queen.”
“London Shanel is a high fashion and pop starry diva who is every man’s wife and every girl’s wannabe, who you want but can’t afford because she is so high-class,” Gilchrist said.
When you first think of a romantic, high fashion, and remarkable city, Gilchrist thought of London. Shanel is a different spelling of “Chanel” that represents the high brand person that Gilchrist is.
“[London Shanel] is humble, trendy, edgy and different. If you wanted to compare, she is Miss Jay Alexander, Tyra Banks, Beyoncé, and Naomi Campbell,” Gilchrist said. “[These are] people I admire and I took elements from them.”
Gilchrist performed in the drag show put on at SRU originally to meet people because he was new to Slippery Rock. After his first performance on campus, people started to know who he was. The second year, Gilchrist had a fan base, people knew who he was and enjoyed seeing him on stage. Along making friends with the other drag queens, Gilchrist added, “Me doing it every year was me representing my school and what The Rock has to offer in the LGBTQ community as a student and as an alumni.”
While a student at SRU, Gilchrist performed at Blue Moon in Pittsburgh every Wednesday night. During summer he went down to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. to model and do some photoshoots. Gilchrist has also performed in Vegas and started more of his drag career with shows in North Carolina.
“My first song was Beyoncé’s ‘Grown Woman’.”
“[Performing] for me, it’s the pure enjoyment of seeing others enjoy what I’m doing and see my art form,” Gilchrist said. “The compliments afterward show how they really enjoyed the show. I want people to feel like they paid top dollar to see me perform when the show is theoretically free.”
Every show is different, but “new compositions can help you start building a fan base. It’s really important that you hone in on your skills and talents, especially with drag,” Gilchrist said.
Gilchrist has always been interested in drag but never knew what it was. “I thought drag was one straight cookie-cutter type situation [but] it’s being able to be someone else for a period of time to enhance the life of others. Drag is an endless pit of creativity.”
To this current day, Gilchrist continues to perform in drag shows and share his love of the art with others. “It was a wakening moment for me and taught me a lot about myself as Brandon.”