RuPaul’s Drag Race is bringing a new audience of fans to Missie B’s on Friday nights

It’s Friday night at longtime gay bar Missie B’s. Chatty bartenders pour heavily for customers taking advantage of the three-dollar drink specials during happy hour. Tonight is the RuPaul’s Drag Race Watch Party and one of the hosts for tonight’s popular event, KiYanna Uchawi, orders herself a tequila and sprite with a splash of grenadine to help with pre-show jitters. 

The self-proclaimed “thick and juicy throwback queen of Kansas City” walks around the crowded bar, greeting fellow drag performers and customers alike. 

With just a few minutes before the show begins, the cohost of the evening and ‘big sister’ to KiYanna, Karmella Uchawi, walks up to the bar and orders a round of Fireball shots. 

Karmella is unmistakable—her beautiful, feminine makeup stands starkly against her full beard, which is now her signature look, “I try to be the prettiest bearded girl you’ve ever seen in your life.”

Going to a RuPaul’s Drag Race watch party at Missie B’s is like coming over to an Uchawi party, both queens tell me. “You can yell at the TV like you’re at your house and get you a drink. It’s never anything too formal because we’re sitting there and talking shit,” KiYanna says.

The Uchawis are the main emcees for the event but feature a rotating cast of fellow performers like Mr. Gay Missouri America 2021 winner, KC Sunshine, and Karmella and KiYanna’s drag mother, KiKi Uchawi, who have a round-table style commentary throughout the show. “While enjoying your favorite drag show on TV, you can also see some of your favorite local artists or some performers you don’t know yet. I think it’s helpful to kind of bring everyone together and experience drag in all aspects—on TV and locally,” Karmella says.

On commercial breaks, the panelists give their takes on the episode of Drag Race they are watching, commenting on the contestants’ looks with equal parts of crass humor and admiration. 

Karmella asks the audience what they think of the drag looks tonight, and everyone either shouts “toot” for the outfits that they like, or “boot” for the looks they don’t. KiYanna dances around the tables, holding a tray of free Fireball shots for the viewers, followed by the panelists giving away free merch items and more shots for the nightly raffle.

Karmella says the watch party at Missie B’s is unique because it gives the audience a chance to also learn about the art of drag from various drag kings and queens. The popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race has given local drag performers more opportunities to reach a bigger audience and form a community that might have otherwise not been exposed. 

Both of the Uchawis see their drag going beyond any expectations or limitations. KiYanna wants to bring soul to the world and remind people that there’s heart in artistry while being an advocate for people of color. Karmella echoes the sentiment—she puts a “touch of Black girl magic” in her performances, always working to incorporate her pride and her Blackness somehow.

Events like the RuPaul’s Drag Race watch party at Missie B’s help to form and strengthen the LGBTQIA+ community in Kansas City. “All drag in Kansas City is valid and different. Where I see us going, is just everyone kind of creating their own life for themselves,”  KiYanna says, “like, yeah, everyone has a seat at the table.”

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