By Katie Arvia
LANSING, Ill. (September 21, 2022) – Thanks to the rising popularity of TV shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race (and its many international spin-offs), We’re Here, Queen of the Universe, and others, drag performances are more and more popular around the world — and the Chicagoland area is no exception. Enter Lindsay Henderson, a Lansing native who performs as drag alter ego Glimmer Mantis in Chicago clubs. Henderson grew up in Lansing and moved to the city in 2013 to pursue a degree in acting and voiceover.
Henderson’s drag career began in 2020 during lockdown, where they performed “digital drag,” which involved creating videos to be streamed for a virtual audience. Henderson described performing in drag for the first time as “wild,” citing that it made them feel exposed in the best way.
“What made me want to start performing drag is that I had become jaded with revolving my life around the concept of living as a working actor, and I wanted a new way to express myself,” Henderson said. “Many of those spaces do not celebrate fat, short bodies like mine, or my lived experience as a trans/non-binary person. I applaud those who are also like that and are doing the work to push the industry to be more inclusive.”
Becoming Glimmer Mantis
Henderson’s drag name, Glimmer Mantis, comes partially from one of their favorite video games, Spyro the Dragon (“‘Glimmer’ is the name of a level”) and partially from Henderson’s love of bugs and creepy things (“I wanted to evoke being pretty and gross, cute and dangerous”).
The journey that led Henderson to becoming a drag performer began in middle school: “I’ve known I was queer since I was at Memorial [Junior High School], so that already was a huge influence on my exposure to gay culture.”
Henderson said they were a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race as a teen and has always had a passion for makeup artistry; that plus their performance background helped establish a solid foundation for Henderson’s journey into drag. There are many drag performers that Henderson looks up to, including Bob the Drag Queen and Laila McQueen of Drag Race fame.
“Bob made me realize that drag doesn’t have to be too serious. Having fun, exercising kindness, and being yourself can take you very far in life and very far in this industry …[and] seeing Laila’s growth after Drag Race was astounding and reminded me that drag can evolve over time,” Henderson said.
The Chicago drag scene
In addition to more well-known performers who have been featured on Drag Race, Henderson said the local scene is inspiring as well: “Chicago drag is so dynamic; you have everything from drag kings to pageant queens to drag things in between.”
Henderson said that one performer in particular, Valerie Valentine, inspires them with an alternative drag competition called Ghoul School. The premise of Ghoul School is that competitors use creepy, gothic, shocking, or otherwise over-the-top aesthetics to win over the crowd every week.
“I’m also incredibly inspired by the drag kings and things of Chicago drag who are doing work to make drag shows more inclusive to those of us who aren’t as commercially recognized as drag artists. With the success of Drag Race came a mass public exposure to a narrow lane of what drag can be, and I encourage anyone who’s a Drag Race fan who wants to expand their drag exposure to go see some Chicago drag shows, particularly at Berlin nightclub.”
Performance on September 24
Henderson will be performing on Saturday, September 24, at a secret location in Humboldt Park with over 20 other drag artists. Tickets can be purchased on eventbrite.com (direct link) for $16. The show is 21+, and proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required. Performances will be inspired by films such as Everything Everywhere All at Once, Hereditary, Uncut Gems, and others.
When Henderson isn’t performing in drag or working as a certified optician, they enjoy spending time playing video games, drawing, or writing short stories. As for the future, Henderson hopes to continue working their way up to become a solid member of the Chicago drag community. They would also like to host or co-host their own show. Henderson also said they would love to learn how to produce drag shows to help friends execute their ideas.
“What’s interesting and exciting to me about drag and the drag community is that it has always been and always will be about stretching our perception about what gender can look like,” Henderson said. “Drag is and isn’t a statement. Like, sometimes it’s just fun and stupid; other times it’s making commentary on aspects of society.”