Drag N’At: Orion Blaze Browne

Drag N’At will be doing performer profiles, focused on the local PGH drag scene. Some of our folks have left us for other states, but they will always be Pittsburgh performers in our hearts.

I met Orion at a random show my ex-wife had suggested I check out, specifically to meet him. My ex had seen him at a show, and just knew I would want to get to know him. Turns out she was right. *L* Orion has always been a wonderful and creative performer, always pushing himself to do more, to do better. He is one of the founding members of Hot Metal Hardware, a local drag performance troupe that started out as all drag kings, but now includes all kinds of drag performance. Orian has held many titles over his drag career, including Mister Gay Pa US MI 2011, Mr. Pittsburgh Pride DK 2012, Misster Link 2012, Mr Cattivo 2013, and Mister W.O.W. 2013. QueerPGH talked with Orion about his own journey in drag.

QueerPGH: How did you get started?

(Orion, now 30 years old, ‘saw his first drag at Pride in 2003.) Years later, in 2009, I went to my first drag show at an 18 and up bar in Uniontown, P.A. That’s when I first felt the call to the stage. My partner (at the time) was against me doing drag. So, after we broke up and I moved back to Pittsburgh, I started looking for drag kings in the area. I took to Myspace (yes, I’m that old) and finally found a king in Binghamton N.Y. who was willing to teach me how to be a king. In February 2010, after 2 months of practicing in my living room, I drove 6 hours to meet him. He showed me how to bind my chest with duct tape and apply facial. That night, he put me on stage. When I returned home, I met two kings (Kevaughn and D.J.) in Pittsburgh and started performing monthly.

QueerPGH: Who or what inspired you to get on stage?

My inspiration to get on stage was pure curiosity at first. But, looking back now, I think it was the want to express myself as a man. I was so much more comfortable and confident when in drag.

Do you have any drag idols?

Orion: My drag idols are actually drag queens, and not kings. Queens like Kristina Kelly, the late Erica Andrews, Arione Decardeza, and Nina West, just to name a few. I’ve always wanted to do what they do with makeup and costumes, but in a male presentation. Axel Andrews, a male entertainer, is the only ‘king’ idol I have. I love the glitz and the glam of the old school drag.

QueerPGH: What do you feel are some common misconceptions about your art?

Orion: For me personally, I believe the misconception in my drag are that as a transman, there are a lot of people who feel I shouldn’t be doing drag because I am a man on and off stage. This is one reason I prefer to call myself a male entertainer instead of a drag king or male illusionist. As for drag kings in general, there are a lot of misconceptions I have come up against, most popular being that kings aren’t as entertaining as queens and kings are just lesbians in jeans and t-shirts. I always strive to prove both of those wrong and change the minds of not only drag queens and show directors, but also audience members who have never seen a drag king.

QueerPGH: What would you recommend to people who are interested in Drag Kinging as a first step?

Orion: I believe the first step to becoming a drag king is learning to lip sync. That to me is the hardest part. If you are not lip syncing on point, the entire illusion gets lost. Costuming, makeup or facial hair, and binding are simple to learn and will evolve with experience.

QueerPGH: Where are your favorite places to perform?

Orion: Since I’m semi-retired and don’t perform very often anymore, it’s hard to pick a favorite place to perform. However, in the past, larger stages like Pride, or college shows I’ve done have definitely been some of my favorites. It’s a true adrenaline rush to look out and see a sea of people just dancing and singing along with your performance.

This article originally appeared on QueerPgh.com. This article is preserved as a part of the Q Archives project. Please consider donating to help preserve Pittsburgh’s Queer history.