Drag queens return to the stage after a year of virtual performances

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Cheering crowds turned to silence, busy streets became barren, and New York City's nightlife went dark.

As essential workers headed to the frontlines, performers and artists were out of work and went into quarantine.

For drag queens across the country, the pandemic forced them to take their performances online.

Pissi Myles, Jasmine Rice LaBeija, and Bella Noche, three Tri-state area queens were not the exception.

"It was shocking to go from doing so much to so little," said Pissi Myles, a New Jersey-based drag queen.

"It was honestly the most shocking when it got to the summertime. All my pride and summertime gigs were canceled," Pissi said.

Despite their initial struggle to find work, the drag queens found a way to keep their audience engaged with virtual performances.

"The virtual shows are different," said Bella Noche, a Long Island-based drag queen. "You're your own lighting person, you're your own sound person, and you need backgrounds. Performing in front of a screen with just hearts and likes is not the same as applause and dollar bills."

Despite their online platform, the lack of interaction with a live audience took an emotional toll on some of the queens.

"The most difficult part for me was not being able to express myself for a live audience," said Jasmine Rice LaBeija, a New York City-based drag queen.

"Being in the apartment by myself almost had a negative effect because I would try to give like this positive energy out and nothing would come back in return," said Jasmine.

Now, more than a year later, as restrictions are eased and bars reopen, the queens are hitting the stage once again.

"It's unbelievable how happy and fulfilling it is to be back in front of a live audience after not being able to for so long," said Bella.

Pissy, Jasmine, and Bella are thrilled to be back performing for their adoring fans in person.

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Tune in to watch more Pride stories on 'Pride 2021: We Belong' on Channel 7 on Saturday, June 26, at 7 p.m. EST.
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