About two dozen people were inside FUBAR in Copperas Cove last Sunday at the scheduled start time for the one-year anniversary of the weekly drag show held at the sports bar.
Hostess and MC Mkiiah Mykels circulated through the bar, telling those already there that the show would be delayed by a half-hour so more people could break away from their Mother’s Day activities to come to the event.
“We knew it would be hit or miss because it was Mother’s Day,” FUBAR owner Cody Speer said just before the anniversary show got underway, “but we were going to do it anyway.”
Getting to this anniversary may have seemed a very remote possibility a year ago. Mykels began doing drag a little more than three years ago, moving to Austin from Bay City, Texas.
“I discovered drag from watching TV,” Mykels said Sunday night after the more than two hour show. “I saw RuPaul and I just ... wondered what it would be like if I tried to do drag.
“My city was too conservative and way too small to ever do anything drag-related there,” Mykels said. “So I moved to a bigger city...in the summer of 2016, and that’s when I started doing local bar pageants and local competitions, just building my name and reputation.”
Mykels moved to Killeen in 2018 and was hosting another drag show in Harker Heights when she came to FUBAR last year to perform as a guest. When the performer who was hosting needed to bow out, Mykels took over.
Both Mykels and Speer say getting the weekly show on its feet was a bit rough in the beginning.
“I think our biggest obstacle in Copperas Cove was just getting the residents...to be okay with it,” Mykels said. “A lot of people have stereotypes of drag queens...in their minds that aren’t very accurate, they’re kind of dated.
“We used to have people come out and (say) very mean things to us, threaten to do mean things to us. And I think just by people coming out week after week...and seeing that the queens are nice individuals, that we’re all professional, that we all do this as a job and for income...I think people started to realize that drag is a form of entertainment.”
About 40 people were gathered at tables and chairs around the stage when the show finally kicked off just after 10 p.m. The crowd was mostly young and very engaged, cheering and clapping for each performer during their acts. Around 20 more would come in before the show ended just after midnight.
Audience member Naomi Hodge has been coming to the Sunday night show since October. She doesn’t feel having a drag show in a small community like Copperas Cove is a big deal at all.
“We all have fun,” Hodge said, “it doesn’t matter if it’s a drag show or a regular club night, I don’t feel there’s anything different about it.”
Mykels encouraged the crowd to cheer for their favorite performers throughout the night and to offer them tips. Folded bills were gathered by the performers, who interacted with the crowd as they lip-synched or danced during each set.
The drag queens who performed varied in experience level, from polished pros to newcomers hoing their acts. A few were members of Mykels’ “drag family.”
“It’s a very special thing within the community because there’s a lot of kids that’s face rejection and hate, just mean and negative things from their own families,” Mykels said. “You take them under your wing, you help them out, and from there on you build a family.”
Mykels credits the influence of the VH-1 show “RuPaul’s Drag Race for opening people’s eyes about the hard work and unique culture that drag performers are a part of. And Mykels has a guarantee for fans who come to see her performances each week.
“I will be on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’” Mykels said. “And when I make it, I will be representing FUBAR in Copperas Cove, because it is my home bar.
“It has always been a dream of mine.”