Each year, the premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race seems to generate greater and greater buzz, as the show spreads appreciation for the fine art of female impersonation to wider audiences and new generations. This year, with the delay of the seventh season premiere because of Drag Race judge Michelle Visage’s taping of Celebrity Big Brother, anticipation is as high as ever. But in Nashville, the excitement has been boiling since the announcement, late last year, that hometown queen Jaidynn Diore Fierce had been cast!
Play Dance Bar in Nashville already has one former Drag Race notable, The Princess, on cast, but Jaidynn is different. Jaidynn is a Nashville gurl: she grew up here, she went to school here, and she got her start in drag here. The arrival of a homegrown queen on the national stage is a sign that Nashville drag has arrived!
As most everyone familiar with Drag Race knows, RuPaul keeps a tight lid on the secrets of her upcoming seasons, and so Jaidynn couldn’t talk with us about her time on the show, but she was able to give us some insight into her life leading up to Drag Race. You might have supported her just because she’s from Nashville, but once you get to know her, you’ll support her because you love her.
Jaidynn’s path to drag, much Drag Race, has been anything but easy. “Growing up in Middle Tennessee as a gay male was probably just as hard as most other places, I would assume,” Jaidynn said. “I was called probably every derogatory term known to man, and it was hard dealing with it mentally and physically.”
Religious concerns and family issues compounded these social rejections. Despite being a locally, and soon-to-be internationally famous drag queen, Jaidynn is still very guarded about her sexual identity with family. “My family is everything to me,” Jaidynn said, “and though I am 26, I still have not come out to my family because of the fear of not getting accepted, and acceptance is what I've wanted my entire life…. Coming from a Christian based family, I was always told that being gay is a sin, and for most of my life I always felt like there was something wrong with me.”
For Jaidynn, coming to terms with religion and family, on the one hand, and identity, on the other, was not quick or painless, despite the advances society has made in recent decades. “My whole life I’ve always felt different,” Jaidynn explained, “and I always knew what I was really attracted to, but because of my religious background I always felt like I was living the wrong ‘lifestyle.’ Though I dated girls, and had heterosexual relationships, it never worked out for me. I always felt as if I was faking it and trying to force myself to live a so-called ‘normal lifestyle.’”
Ultimately, young Jaidynn’s goal was to “pass” for straight. “My mentality was to eventually get married to a woman, and have children and a family, just so I could finally feel normal,” Jaidynn said. “But as I got older I realized that in the end I would be not only wasting my time, but someone else’s as well. Someday, I do plan to have a family, and I am still planning on having children, but hopefully I will find someone that’s built just for me to spend my life with.” Ultimately, Jaidynn has also come to terms with her religious roots. “I will always be a Christian, and I know that love is not a sin.”
But even while struggling with sexual identity, Jaidynn was already engaging in the activities which would help her develop as a performer and, eventually, a drag star. “I’ve always been into theater, stage, and dance, even as a kid,” Jaidynn said. “I participated in stage plays, musicals, show choir, marching band, and even behind-the-scenes work, such as stage lighting and design. As long as I can remember, if there was a stage, I was determined to be on it!”
In 2007, on the night of her high school graduation, Jaidynn found the stage that would lead to national fame, even though she did not appreciate that at the time. “I saw my first drag show at…Play Dance Bar in Nashville, Tennessee. I was much more conservative at that time, and as I watched the show, I was confused, and I did not understand the art or creativity of drag at all. I felt like it was some type of clown showcase at first sight,” Jaidynn admitted honestly.
After that first encounter, Jaidynn kept coming to Play, but it wasn’t for the drag. “I just came to dance on the dance floor with my friends,” Jaidynn said. “I began getting into a style of dance called j-setting. My friends and I would have dance battles with other squads on the dance floor, and all was well until we were taking up most of the dance floor and we were told ‘No more group dancing.’”
That policy shift would have life-altering consequences for Jaidynn. It was at that point that Jaidynn actually began paying attention to the drag shows. “The more I watched,” she explained, “[the more] I began to understand the art-form.” With her performance background, Jaidynn grew intrigued. “I decided to audition for the amateur cast on Sunday nights and I made it! Shortly after, I became the karaoke host every Sunday night. Then I entered my first pageant, Miss Genesis, and won! It was one of the most amazing nights of my life and I will never forget it.”
The more success Jaidynn enjoyed, the more seriously she took the art. “Soon this hobby of mine became more of a passion,” Jaidynn said. “I began working really hard on hair, makeup, and my overall look. I bought my first sewing machine and started learning how to make my own costumes. I would stay up in the middle of the night practicing my makeup, and sewing and hair styling.”
Where did Jaidynn learn to craft her unique and refined look? “I was able to get some tips and tricks from some of the local entertainers,” Jaidynn said, “but my main source was YouTube. Still to this day, I watch tutorials for hair, makeup, and sewing. Though I have a long way to go with my overall look, I am proud of how far I’ve come in a pretty short amount of time.”
As her career progressed, pageant win followed pageant win. “The next pageant was Miss TN USofA, and I won that, and the most recent one was Miss Nashville Gay Pride. Every win for me was a humbling experience that I will never forget.” All that recognition and all Jaidynn’s hard work eventually won her a full-time job as a cast member at Play Nashville. “I was ecstatic! But,” she admits, “my ultimate dream was to be America’s Next Drag Superstar!”
In all, Jaidynn auditioned three times for RuPaul’s Drag Race. “The first time was two years ago,” she said, “season five! I spent a lot of time with my audition video and editing, and I was really sad that I didn’t make it.” But Jaidynn, who is persistent and well known for being a hard worker, was not deterred. “The second time I auditioned, I put even more time and effort into my video and I still did not make it.”
Ironically, the third audition was the one with which Jaidynn was least pleased. “This time,” she said, “I wasn't able to put in as much effort, due to working so many hours and I wasn’t as happy with my video this year, but I made it! When I finally found out that I [had been chosen], it was the happiest day of my life! I went straight to my sewing machine and began to work on creations for the show, and I’m so excited to get the opportunity to show the world who I am!”
One of the hardest parts of being on RuPaul’s Drag Race for any queen is the secrecy involved: the shooting season for the show is well known, and friends and fellow queens alike are always looking for clues. “Oh my GOSH,” Jaidynn exclaimed, “trying to hide everything was a challenge!” How did she do it? “I had multiple lies! One was I had a hurt knee, which is partially true: I have had knee injuries in the past. The other one was that I was visiting family in Texas.”
Jaidynn even had someone on social media keeping her cover tight. But in the end it all almost fell apart. “I thought it was ruined,” Jaidynn said, laughing, “when one well known Nashville drag queen happened to catch the same flight coming from L.A. to Nashville. I was questioned to the full extent!”
Once she was back in Nashville, the questions persisted, but life basically went back to its normal routine for Jaidynn. “I went back to my day job and then continued my night job at Play,” she said. By the time the announcement was made, everyone in town with ties to the drag community was speculating that Jaidynn had made the show, but for her part Jaidynn was always firm in her denials.
Now that the cat’s out of the bag, though, Jaidynn’s star is already on the rise. “I have bookings coming up,” she said, “and I’m so excited about this journey! I’ve never really been able to travel in my life very much. I’m excited to get to see places and sights and sounds that I’ve never seen or heard before. It’s a dream come true! I plan on meeting lots of people and experiencing different cultures and countries as well!”
And Nashville will be well represented everywhere Jaidynn goes. Play co-owner Joey Brown can’t speak highly enough of Jaidynn, and he feels that the Drag Race phenomenon will take her far. Some of the girls quickly burn through their fame, but Brown said, “Jaidynn, just being who she is, she’ll stay in high demand. She’s a hard worker, and a genuinely nice person. Fans love her…everyone who meets her does.”
Jaidynn has many goals for her post-Drag Race career. Beyond all the traveling and continuing to hone her craft and learn new skills, she said, “I would eventually like to do a single and a music video, and show the world that plus size girls are IN! We are just as *fierce*, fun, and beautiful as everyone else!”
And for all those doing—or thinking about doing—drag, Jaidynn has a message: “Never give up on your dreams and goals! I was very close to not auditioning and I became very discouraged. If you want it, work hard. Dedication is key to fulfilling your dreams and goals in life!”
Even Jaidynn doesn’t think of herself as having arrived. “I still have a long way to go as far as working on my drag,” she admitted, “and I will never stop working and improving my skills in this art-form. It is very important to always be willing to listen, and continuously improve yourself, and you will succeed!”
Nashville looks forward to cheering for its hometown queen as RuPaul’s Drag Race gets back underway!
You can follow Jaidynn on Instagram and Twitter at @jaidynnfierce, and of course keep track of season seven at www.logotv.com.