East Meets West: Dragging it Across the Country- Getting to Know Tara Beladi
This article uses drag terminology. If you are unfamiliar, you might find this link helpful.
When I was barely 19, the club that got the most of my money was Club Renaissance (RIP), in downtown Kitchener. Thursday night the brilliant Ms. Drew hosted All That Glitters is Gold Drag show. Camp, incredible lip syncing, costumes, and passion- yaaas Kween!
I got introduced to a world which promoted the expression of individualism and creativity while blowing the roof off of norms and convention. The drag community has always been deeply welcoming, kind and joyful towards me. I respect those hard working babes and I send that receptivity and enthusiasm right back.
Drag culture is becoming more and more mainstream, and it should come as no surprise the scene is thriving in Vancouver. A few months ago I took in Story Telling With Drag Queens. The literature was the likes of old smutty magazines and conversations from Grinder. I love when an event caters to me. Favourite part? Getting to connect and make a new friend in one of the beauties who performed; Tara Beladi
Tara, whose “government name” is Jack, like me, is also a Van transplant (Vansplant?). Originally from New Brunswick, Jack has roots in the arts performing in musicals and participating in the Fringe Festival, Jack didn’t care about Drag, cross-dressing was fine; they were a performer, after all. “Being gay was all good, no one was awful, [but we] didn’t really talk about our feeling," he told me over a FaceTime call. "The East Coast is a bit more of conservative culturally more closed off space. I surface- level accepted myself; ‘I’m not that gay, not one of the girls. Certainly not ‘gay enough’ to be wearing a dress.’"
Cue a move across the country which brought about a culture shock, as well as internal revelations. The result: actual self-acceptance. Jack went to UBC and earned their Bachelor in Voice performance with a minor in Scandinavian literature, creating the course code for the program, thank you very much! Academia taught Jack a lot but so did a region notorious for its alternative, progressive culture. Permission was granted to express and be thanks to the visibility of celebration of trans people and woman eradicating themselves from prescribed gender norms. And what did the universe gift Jack with this curiosity and authenticity? Community.
Tara’s Drag Family consists of Queens, Kings, and Things. Tara’s Drag sibling Miguel, BFF, and former TA was the first to paint Tara’s face and shares a love of singing. Tara’s Drag Mother proper, Delica Cee though lacking in huge family resemblance, they share sensibility and performance style (with a choir background, who smells a theme?). Drag Brother, Dank Sinatra, shares many commonalities with Tara, while having a very established look, and is so adaptable and versatile. They nurture and support and love.
Jack had their people, but what of cultural influences? Hailing from a fandom background, they cite Avitar and the Last Airbender, Zooko and Fire Prince (aka things I had to Google) as influences, which blends character and cute. Tara has carved their way outside of the main styles of drag Pageant and Comedy, and let’s be frank, RuPaul’s Drag Race certainly raised the bar and skewed perceptions’ (my own included).
“[The contestants on Drag Race are] literally the best queens in America that have been working for years and have developed their skills," said Jack. "I struggle with words, I can’t be funny on command ‘you gotta pull out your gag’”.
Doesn’t mean Tara doesn’t slay- connecting is fuel. Eradicating loneliness and fostering bonds is the impieties. Audience interaction, looking people in the eye, sharing those moments. Tara isn’t the type of queen to be worshiped from afar, she gets right in your face with emotional honesty and holds your hand while you belt out a tune. The beautiful wholeness of Tara is unification- performer/audience, Tara/Jack.
Tara informs Jack while out of drag, Tara clearly couldn’t exist without Jack. “You can’t separate Tara from Jack, but Jack is Tara. It’s like Jack had all these shards in him, and Tara is the magnet that pulls it out. Not that the shards are bad, they just never really made sense,” said Jack.
At six feet tall and with a broad chest, high cheekbones, and a beard, you notice Tara in all her unified glory. “Everyone was just hitting on me [it's like] I don’t want to sleep with you, I just want to be your friend!’" said Jack. (If that isn’t the purest thing you’ve heard today). Strutting around in pants and jumpsuits (her THING) with 70s and 80s big bold prints, Tara’s journey, and community is personified.
What's next from this gem as they continue to love themselves and share that love? A Masters in Library Studies, more community outreach while celebrating diversity, and Drag Queen storytelling for kids. And we can't forget the power ballads- Avril, Alanis, Celine; watch out Tara Beladi is gonna lip-sync the shit out of you. A Canadian gal after my own heart.
To keep up with Jack and Tara’s escapades, follow them on Instagram, @shesterrible_