Updated: Aug 8, 2018
I arrived at Jonathon’s townhouse located in Seminole Heights, a historic neighborhood located in central Tampa around 4pm on a Wednesday. We chatted for a bit downstairs and then headed upstairs to the “Drag Lab”. Imagine the Drag Lab as a dedicated room that has everything you need to transform into a drag queen plus a few extras, like a vintage Barbie lunch box and a still in the box My Little Pony collection that hangs on the wall. There are shoes, glitter, jewelry, wigs, glitter, hair fascinators, a lot more glitter, makeup, baby powder and of course, a big pink glittery sign that says Sparkle.
Moving between the Drag Lab and the bathroom, Jonathon will spend the next four hours transforming into Adriana Sparkle. Which I have to say is quite a sight to see. Over the past two years he perfected the process learning makeup techniques, body proportions and the art of wig making. He told me that he had to learn to use a cartoony graphic approach when applying his eye makeup to help. open up his eyes, and all his outfits are altered or custom made. “You can’t just wear woman’s clothing right off the rack.” As his transforming progressed, I witnessed Adriana begin to emerge, first with mannerisms and then with sassiness.
Not only does it take a lot of time, but a bearded drag queen is also very controversial. There are not many bearded drag queens and even fewer professional ones. Jonathan becomes Adriana Sparkle to celebrate femininity and strength, and to empower women with polycystic ovarian syndrome by raising awareness of who’s symptom is facial hair. He draws inspiration from Harnaam Kaur, aka “The Bearded Lady.” After being bullied from the age of 11, Kaur decided to embrace her condition and now is a model and campaigns for body positivity.
When I asked how he got started, He said, he’s was a fan of Drag, and is a big believer that if you are a fan, you will get off the sidelines and try it. Two years ago Jonathon did just that for the Queen of the Night competition at Club Liquid in Ybor. After only his second appearance, he booked a gig and Adriana Sparkle was born. He says that being on stage is exhilarating, nerve-racking and rewarding to have people laugh, smile and forget about their shitty day! When he is in drag he can say things that he won’t normally say and it unlocks this box of whit that he normal doesn’t have.
I asked him how he came up with his name and he said Adriana pays tribute to Adriana Lima, whom he thinks "is the most beautiful woman alive right now." And Sparkle came from PJ Sparkles, an early 90’s movie about an orphan girl spreading joy and magic to nameless children by showing them what love and laughter feels like. The movie was just a way for Mattel to sell a doll, but the impression it made on Jonathon motivated him to want to bring that same joy to people.
You can see Adriana Sparkle every Wednesday night at 11:00pm hosting The Fresh Start: Drag Showcase at Iberian Rooster in St. Pete. It is an open mic forum, which allows all levels of drag talent to preform without judgement. The show has become know as more of a punk underground drag show with a brash sense of humor and a little more freedom than your typical drag show. You can find acts ranging anywhere from soft glitzy ballads to grungy hard-core rock.
I want to thank Jonathon for allowing me to be a part of this intimate, and elaborate transformation, and the privilege of photographing such a personal experience. Thank you for the opportunity to write this blog, I will always be grateful!