Thanks to stars like RuPaul, drag queens have climbed their way out of the night clubs and into the mainstream. But back in the clubs, drag kings are still trying to break through the glass ceiling into the queen-dominated show casts.


Rydyr is a St. Louis drag king who has been attempting to break through that barrier. In fact, “breaking the drag glass ceiling” has been one of the major challenges Rydyr has faced in his 10 years of gender bending performances.

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“I still haven’t broken it, but I try," he says. "It’s not regular glass, its bullet proof or Plexiglas or something.”


According to Rydyr, even approaching that proverbial ceiling has proven a difficult task for many drag kings.


“There are a ton of drag kings and nobody knows who they are,” explains Rydyr. “I mean the cool thing, though, is that there are queens—because queens tend to be the dominant, recognized form—that are like, ‘yeah, let’s do some drag kings,’ that are totally supportive. It’s just convincing, sometimes, [the show] directors. Like I will suit my show to what your audience likes to see. It’s just convincing them to just even let you in sometimes.”


Obstacles aside, Rydyr still manages to find places to perform: “I get that a king in general isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but the entertainment value of throwing something different into a show totally has its place at a lot of different venues,” he says.


Mirroring the diversity of their queenly counterparts, there are many different styles of drag kings. Performers can range from theatrical, potentially more flamboyant, kings to trans kings, who often go for a more masculine appearance.


“It’s actually really cool; we have a lot of different types of kings," offers Rydyr. "There are so many types of [kings and] queens and they fit everywhere into the community."


As a well known performer who has been recognized on more than one occasion in pageants and contests, Rydyr has enjoyed much success in his drag career and has branched out from just performing to hosting and even producing shows of his own.


“My stuff is just 'Rydyr Presents' [and] I look for variety in genres," he explains. "They’re still drag shows, but I like my shows to ideally have at least some kings, some drag queens, maybe bio-queens and male leads, performing as their identified gender. I also like to throw in a little burlesque, a little bit of club kid. So I focus kind of bringing a show that has a little something for everyone and is a little unique, but still embodies [a] drag show."


Rydyr also likes to provide opportunities for younger performers and is dedicated to offering amateur variety nights for up and coming entertainers.


"Whether they’re perfected or not, the energy of the younger entertainers is just—like ok, you have the energy and charisma—we can teach you everything else," says Rydyr. "They’re just fun. People are so excited to be there and be on stage.”

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That said, Rydyr wasn't born the polished king he is today. In fact, just two weeks after Rydyr’s friends decided he would make a cute boy, he was thrown into his first performance.


"I wasn’t as fabulous as I thought I was. None of us are,” he quips.


Enjoying his time on stage, Rydyr had unexpectedly discovered a new hobby that soon turned into an obsession. He'd also found a small family of performers as GlitterBomb Productions started to produce shows.


“One of the things that GlitterBomb has allowed me to do is sort of perfect, but also to walk the edge on creativity in performances, and [the] exploration of gender as performance,” he explains.


"There weren’t a lot of people to learn the art of male illusion from in the city,” Rydyr continues. "[GlitterBomb] gave me opportunities, and sometimes they were learning opportunities. It was a lot of self teaching and looking at what the girls do and adapting it to work for what I want to accomplish or how I want it to look. I’m a self-made fake man."


In a world dominated by queens, we often let the kings slip out of focus and many are still unaware that the artform even exists. Indeed, in an environment that is not always supportive of the craft, being a king has particular challenges.


As for younger performers, Rydyr suggests that anybody trying to break into the industry needs to take any and every stage opportunity that they can.


“Even if you’re not 100 percent, you will get better at something,” he says. “Every time you take that leap is an opportunity to up your game.”


If you haven’t had the pleasure, catch a show with this suave cross-dresser and see what a drag king can do. Rydyr performs throughout the Grove almost every weekend and hosts a show every Thursday at Woodies Bar and Grill. Warning: attendees may want to hold onto their socks as they may be knocked off.

 

 

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