Eugénie Baccot

Documentary Photographer

May God Save the (Drag) Queen!

It's been 4 hours since Tony Soto locked himself in the back kitchen of an after-school activities center located in a trendy neighborhood of San Francisco. Magnificently applied makeup, perfectly fitted leopard skirt and blonde wig at bay, Tony, known under the stage-name The Queen of the Night, is finally ready. It's not 10:00 in the morning yet, but the Drag-Queen Story Hour can start.

Gradually little heads - overwhelmingly blond - take their places in the large reading room. While the youngest are barely a few days old, others are entering adolescence.

For an hour Tony reads stories to his captive audience. Stories about being different, about accepting oneself and the other, about community. Here there are no princesses, but rather ordinary heroes, women, transgender or minorities. The session begins with the tale of an African-American girl who wants to become a scientist, and ends with that of a young boy who has only one dream: to wear magic dresses.

Like Tony, more and more drag queens are abandoning their middle-of-the-night routines to prepare for these beautiful readings in the clubs of West Hollywood or Castro in San Francisco. "The goal is to capture children's imagination and play with the gender fluidity of childhood to give children glamorous, positive and uncomplicated role models," explains Michelle Tea behind the Drag-Queen Story Hour concept. The very first reading was held in the Harvey Milk Library located in the Castro quarter, a historic part of San Francisco. It was a symbol. Ever since, drag-queens have been reading, again and again all over the USA, from New York to Chicago.

(trans. of text by) Anne-Laure Pineau // freelance journalist //