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Creating Gina Touché: An interview with a "drag thing"

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Photo courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

Her glitter beard glimmers under the theater spotlight, almost as bright as the laughter she garners from the audience. She describes how for the past ten years as drag personality Gina Touché, she has acclimated to the fact that cleaning said glitter out of unexpected nooks and crannies on her body is now just a part of her life.

Her Southern wit cracks like a whip when she responds to audience members' jovial reactions. If not for the performers adorned with varying styles of wigs and, in some cases, faux breasts, you might think you were at a comedy show.

This performance isn't a vanity project, however. It's about creating a space for "expression and feeling safe" in Skagit County, where Christopher Sadler, as Gina, has succeeded in spreading the love as an event organizer and, in his own words, as a "drag thing."

"I don't really fit the mold of drag as what society believes it to be. So me and my family, we're 'drag things.'"

When Sadler speaks about his family, he means the collection of performers he has united under the Touché umbrella. He calls them the Touché family and organizes drag events to create a stage for what he affectionately calls Gina's "children" or "spawn."

Photo courtesy of the artist  

So who is Gina Touché?
Sadler is originally from Louisiana. "I'm from a rural area," he said in our recent interview. "I grew up on a dirt road, which is still a dirt road, and I was flamboyant from the get-go."

"[Being from Louisiana] just made me a stronger individual, because moving that far away from everything and coming to a place where you only know a couple of people here...took me on the path to becoming Gina.

"I've always been a singer, since I was two. I've always been in choir, and I've always had stage fright. Then Gina came along. And it [gave me] the confidence that I didn't have as me, as Christopher."

"Gina Touché is obviously my alter ego," Sadler said. "My Southern sass with a glitter beard slapped on, and the hope to inspire joy. That's what Gina is. Gina's inspiration is to create joy."

Sadler has been practicing drag since age 16 and officially began his journey organizing performances when he was a member of the Rainbow Alliance at Skagit Valley College.

At the time, he was watching RuPaul's Drag Race when inspiration struck. "I was like, I don't know why we don't do something like that. Here we have money. We have the space, we obviously have a want for something around here. 'Cuz nothing ever happens in Skagit. So I asked the advisor if I could put on a drag show, and the rest is history."

As for the glitter beard, Sadler said, "I tried the female aesthetic the first year we did The Skagit Drag Show, and it just wasn't really my vibe. One year Langley had Pride, and they did a Saturday night soiree. That's the first time I ever wore a glitter beard, my pantsuit, and a headpiece. It made me feel a certain kind of way. I just felt so liberated as an individual. And I was like, this is it!"

Personally, as someone who identifies as Nonbinary, I felt immediately drawn to Gina's ambiguous and androgynous style. And she showcases performers of all kinds, including drag kings. Her shows are not a queens' club; it's a space where people can explore sides of themselves that may fall outside of the gender spectrum. Gina and her family contain multitudes, and seeing that so proudly exhibited on stage can be an affirming experience.

"Yeah," Sadler agreed. "And that's really the whole energy of The Skagit Drag Show. The energy is to break down that barrier of what everybody believes drag is. Because they believe it's men being women, and they believe it's in a bar with a bunch of drunk people. We've completely destroyed that whole idea... with our show."

Photo courtesy of the artist  

Loyal to his roots
By performing at Monroe Pride or in theaters, and even hosting a bingo night at a retirement home, Sadler isn't afraid to get truly involved in these rural areas. When asked whether he's ever been nervous about performing in more conservative-leaning communities, he said, "I come from a place where I had three Gay bars that I could easily go to at any time. So when I worked here, and there were no Gay bars, I was like, "Ooh, I don't know what's gonna happen here in these cornfields.'"

But he has no intention of stopping. Sadler comes from a rural area, so he's adamant that he'll remain loyal to his roots. He plans to eventually create a permanent venue, an LGBTQ+ sanctuary for those who want to be entertained or need a place to feel safe and accepted in Skagit County.

"I'll keep doing this show, which has opened up so many opportunities, as long as my mind and body allow me to do it. And if [I can] expand that elsewhere, the goal is to get a facility here in the Skagit area, so that we can have a permanent location and do more things in the community without having to worry about finding a venue. Then we'll have a permanent safe space for people as well."

Sadler's love for the community is outstanding. And Gina's the hero that LGBTQ+ people in Skagit County need.

If you find yourself wanting to help "manifest" Gina's vision, instead of only offering up Thots and Prayers (the title of one of her shows), consider getting tickets to her October 1 show at 6 p.m. at the Lincoln Theater in Mt. Vernon. Tickets are on sale now at https://lincolntheatre.org/live-virtual-performance-skagit-drag-show/.