VALDOSTA — On Ty McCain’s spare room door, there’s a sign that reads “Man Cave.”
The sign was a gift from his dad, a former preacher and Georgia Bureau of Investigation Drug and Task Force employee.
The contents behind that door, however, are anything but what one would expect in a typical man cave.
The walls are lined with Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland photos as well as frilly hats and big, blonde wigs. There are sequined clothing in every corner of the small bedroom, and the vanity dresser is covered in Sephora palettes and makeup brushes, and a playlist complete with female pop icons purrs in the background.
McCain’s man cave is actually his drag room, and it’s where he transforms into Tina Trueluck at least once a month.
“It’s very lollipops and gumdrops,” the 23-year-old said. “It’s very positive and happy energy.”
In this room, McCain prepares for the one year anniversary of the Ketchup and Mustard Drag Variety Show, a monthly drag show that happens in the most unexpected of places: Downtown Valdosta
It takes five hours to get the look right. It is blonde, glamorous and a bit boisterous.
Even though he’s running behind, McCain exudes the confidence of the women plastered all over his drag-room wall.
It wasn’t always this easy, though.
Coming out as a drag queen was harder than coming out as gay for McCain.
Originally from Statenville, a town in Echols County with just over 1,000 people, the singing drag queen feared coming out to his parents.
“I was terrified to come out to (my dad) especially,” McCain said. “He was the epitome of what you think of homophobia. He took it the best out of my family, though.”
It was important for McCain’s family to be supportive of not only his sexual orientation but of his passion for drag.
One family member in particular inspired him to do drag.
“I have to give credit to my great-grandmother,” McCain said. “Growing up, I loved to play with Barbies. I liked makeup and all feminine things. With my dad being in church, they weren’t comfortable with it, so they would throw it all away. She would go through the dumpsters and grab my Barbies and take it back to her house.”
His great-grandmother would even sew him dresses, and they would have fashion shows in her living room.
To honor her, he used her maiden name in his drag name.
“Had it not been for her, I wouldn’t be Tina Trueluck,” McCain said. “She was just such the embodiment of positivity, and that’s where I get it from. Even in my drag room right above my mirror, I have a picture of her and her husband when they were 16 at the county fair.”
McCain is the only singing drag queen in Valdosta, bringing down the house to hits such as “Fancy” by Reba McEntire and “What Dreams are Made of” by Hilary Duff.
“All month long, he’s practicing,” said Sean Cucinella, McCain’s partner. “You have to find the right song, and you want to create a theme. It’s a lot of work behind the scenes.”
Tina Trueluck debuted at Hamburger Mary’s in Jacksonville, Fla., and received first runner-up during an amateur competition.
A little more than a year later, McCain was asked to join the first Ketchup and Mustard show by Andrew Rogers, its creator, and he’s been doing it ever since.
“It just floored me to see that (Andrew) saw a hole in the community as something that needed to be filled,” McCain said. “Even Glo wasn’t as packed as Bleu Pub is. That’s the magic of downtown — people like weird and eclectic things.”
A year later, McCain’s family has been to every one of his shows at the Pub.
Even his dad, the former preacher and GBI employee, grabs a booth hours before — always in a cowboy hat — to watch his son transform into Tina Trueluck.
Ketchup and Mustard
On a typical Saturday night, Downtown Valdosta starts to quiet down.
Businesses are closed or about to lock up. Less and less people are out and about walking downtown’s several blocks.
In the Toombs Street parking lot, however, plenty of cars can still be found until the early morning hours.
People are congregating near and inside the Bleu Pub, which by 9 p.m., has become standing room only while music blares through big speakers at the front of the restaurant.
The packed house isn’t here for some local alt-country band. It might be one of the only businesses open at this hour, but the Pub isn’t typically this crowded.
It’s the monthly Ketchup and Mustard Drag Variety Show that has people turning out hours before it even begins, with a diverse crowd waiting for the 10 p.m. show to begin.
Currently, it’s the only recurring drag show in Valdosta.
“It was a very big decision, and it took a lot of guts for me to decide that’s what I wanted to do,” said Andrew Rogers, the Ketchup and Mustard creator.
Having grown up in Lake Park, Lowndes County is home to Rogers.
What home didn’t have for the 22-year-old was a prevalent gay scene. It especially didn’t have drag.
In 2015, Rogers started bending the rules just a tad. He put on heavy eye makeup, fishnets and a pair of black heels to play the part of Frankenfurter in a local showing of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the former Red Door Records and Cinema.
“My first realization of this being cool and wanting to do it was Frankenfurter,” Rogers said. “He was so confident that no one was going to question him. That really struck a chord with me when I was less sure of myself.”
It was the cult classic character — and scary movies, which are Rogers’ favorite — that inspired him to build his own caricature.
Vladentine was born, complete with graphic makeup that’s a nod to his inspiration and pantsuits that bring a unique, androgynous feel to the local drag scene.
Vlad’s look was an over-the-top aesthetic of himself, and Rogers kept performing until there was no place else to go.
Last February, he took charge in putting together his own drag show, and Ketchup and Mustard was created.
“It sounds like it’s kind of easy, but it’s a lot of work, especially finding people,” Rogers said.
The name Ketchup and Mustard was fitting because the drag show took place in Bleu Pub, and its first show premiered in March 2018 with local acts.
There were traditional performances with Britney Spears tracks and death drops — a dance move where the performer dramatically falls to the floor — but there was also a singing queen, a bearded queen and even a drag king.
The first show had about 50 guests, which was more than Rogers had seen at past shows.
It has only grown since, and Rogers has a steady list of performers he has counted on for 13 shows now, even bringing in out-of-towners and new performers with amateur competitions.
He has opened the show to those outside of the LGBTQ+ community, including straight women in the drag show, such as Valdosta State University student Mariah Hutcheson’s Queen Thickie, who has performed twice at Ketchup and Mustard.
“This community is so accepting, even though I’m not a traditional drag queen,” Hutcheson said. “It’s so empowering and awesome to be surrounded by these people who are just being themselves.”
The show doesn’t just preach inclusivity when it comes to its performers. Rogers has worked hard to make sure the show is open to everyone, from VSU students to 50-year-old couples who are just looking to have a good night out downtown.
With Bleu Pub packed to the brim every month, he said it shows his intentions are working.
“I always make it a point at shows that if people want it to happen, then they need to come out and support it,” Rogers said. “People that have wanted it to be have come. We’ve built up a community.”
A Year of Drag
As of its March 30 show, it has officially been here for a year.
“(A year ago,) I was complaining that we didn’t have a place to do it,” Rogers said. “The manager of the Bleu Cafe at the time suggested we have it at the Pub. A lot of places won’t have that kind of thing because it’s drag.”
Drag isn’t new to Valdosta, though.
It was done at Bliss Nightclub & Lounge a few years ago before the show shut down, as well as Glo Ultra Lounge, the only gay club in town, before it closed.
There’s the occasional drag event that pops up during South Georgia Pride or at VSU, but it isn’t nearly as frequent as previous shows.
However, Rogers was going to make it stick through social media promotion, giving viewers a variety of acts and making it inclusive to everyone.
“I’m trying to keep it open,” Rogers said. “It’s pre-conceived as some dark club or grimy thing, but it’s just entertainment. Kids can enjoy it as well. Most of the time, it’s just someone dancing to whatever is popular on the radio.”
The drag variety show observed its first birthday with its classic performers: Tina Trueluck, Squanderella, Brenda Brawny and of course Vladentine.
New faces included Queen Thickie and a special guest all the way from Athens, Alex Suarez.
There weren’t nearly enough seats for the amount of bodies in the cramped space of the Pub. Nonetheless, people stood, or danced, while songs by Rihanna and Madonna blared through the speakers, and the drag queens, kings, faux and bio drags performed in anything from sparkly clad bodysuits to masculine construction hats.
The restaurant stayed pack for the two-hour show, and it ended with a surprise finale of Vladentine’s favorite number, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen.
“If somebody is there for their first time, they might see me perform and think it’s cool and stay for this,” Rogers said. “I want it to change people’s minds with something so small and fun. You’re having a good time, so you might see me in a different light afterward than you would have before.”
Katelyn Umholtz is a reporter with the Valdosta Daily Times. She can be contacted at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256.