The Holidays Are A Drag - With Vidalia Anne Gentry
Vidalia Anne Gentry, or VAG as she is known by some, is the drag alter-ego of Jared Davis. Vidalia Anne has been around Nashville’s drag scene for a while, first as a regular on the Church Street scene but more recently taking her brand of drag out into greater Nashville. In so doing, she given a queer gift to Nashville, opening up new spaces for queer artists and performers to create alternative fan bases and perform for different kinds of audiences.
Davis started doing drag as Vidalia Anne back in 2014, via PLAY’s open stage opportunities, and by 2017 was participating in national pageants. This opened the door to the opportunity to host trivia and karaoke at Tribe, as well as to perform at Drag’n Dinner and sometimes PLAY. In 2019, Vidalia Ann struck out on her own, establishing two successful, recurring events: GLITZ!, a queer party which happens every 4th Saturday at Old Glory and features drag performances, as well as GLITZ! Presents: Drag Brunch at Pearl Diver, which happens every 2nd Sunday.
Given that the holidays are a drag … and drag is one of our favorite diversions, we thought we’d explore some of Nashville’s off-Church drag opportunities and let our readers get to know Vidalia Anne Gentry just a little better!
How did you get into drag to begin with? What lured you?
Vidalia Anne Gentry: Having played piano and viola growing up, and being involved in competitive figure skating, I knew performing was something I loved. I have a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Viola Performance. When I moved back to Nashville in April of 2014 I was looking for a way to connect with the local gay community and really started to appreciate drag for the first time after romantically pursuing another local performer (i.e. going to ALL of their shows). When PLAY announced its new Open Stage for drag performers in December of that year, I decided, “I guess I’ll give it a shot.” Being on stage in drag gave me the performer’s high I was looking for, and I haven’t looked back since!
Vidalia Anne Gentry, photos by Cody Stallings Photography
How did Church Street facilitate your development in drag?
Vidalia Anne Gentry: The opportunity to perform in a venue designed for what I call “classic lip sync drag” really developed my drag quickly. Performing once a month at the start and then quickly moving to twice a month with the expansion of Open Stage, I never missed an opportunity to perform.
Vidalia Anne Gentry: After winning the local preliminary for Miss Gay USofA, I was offered the host/MC position for Tribe’s Tuesday night Trivia and Karaoke. That position really honed my skills on the microphone, and [I] started to develop my promotional and branding skills. Additionally, performing for near empty rooms at some early Drag’n Dinners developed my ability to perform in any venue, for any crowd.
How did you come to the point you wanted to perform beyond Church Street, and how did your ideas for shows take shape?
Vidalia Anne Gentry: I really started to feel unsatisfied working on Church Street in late 2018. I didn’t feel like I was being appropriately compensated for my time, skills, and effort, and I also wanted to play a bigger role in the production of shows and events.
Last December, Old Glory reached out to myself and a fellow performer about hosting and performing for their New Year’s Eve event … which was great, until I was reprimanded for performing at a venue outside of Tribe/Play/Suzy’s. Although I had some knowledge of an “exclusion clause”, I had never really seen anything official about that situation.
I felt like, as an independent contractor, I should be allowed to earn money for my craft when and where I wanted, and so when Old Glory reached out to me about starting a regular monthly event similar to the one we threw for NYE, I made the tough decision to leave Tribe in order to pursue other events and shows.
Who has been instrumental in helping those shows grow and succeeded?
Vidalia Anne Gentry: Joseph Copeland aka JoCo Shows is a fabulous DJ who has been my collaborative partner for GLITZ! since its inception. Joe and the GM of Old Glory, Emily Wilcher, along with the staff of Old Glory and Pearl Diver have been invaluable in helping me create these events where our mission is to create spaces and events to expand and support the queer and drag scenes in Nashville.
I also have the support of my boyfriend, another local queen who goes by the stage name Cya Inhale. He’s been a great sounding board throughout the development of the GLITZ! brand and has probably saved me from a lot of embarrassing missteps.
How are the off-Church crowds different?
Vidalia Anne Gentry: Old Glory, although queer friendly, serves a primarily straight audience, so we do serve a very mixed crowd ... although there are WAY fewer bachelorette parties than you’ll see on Church Street! As for Drag Brunch, I find the crowd to be made up of way more locals than I typically saw working at Suzy’s.
At GLITZ! in particular, we really encourage our audience to embrace their queerness and “serve a #lewk”. We set up a pink carpet outside the bar every month and have a photographer capture attendees’ #lewks. I feel like this encourages more of a “club kid” vibe with the crowd.
At times, the culture on Church Street seems very “don’t pull focus”...whereas, if you come to GLITZ!, we want you to SERVE as hard as possible and LIVE your best life.
What is your dream for your drag career currently?
Vidalia Anne Gentry: My dream is to cultivate and nurture an expansive and diverse queer scene in Nashville, as well as to help make Nashville a “drag destination city”. There are so many amazingly talented and entertaining queer folk in this city, and I think by doing what I can to create platforms and spaces for their talents to be celebrated, we’re really gonna start to see a drag renaissance here!
It’s the holidays and I know many in the community have had struggles with acceptance. In terms of your sexuality and your drag, has your family reacted to your career?
Vidalia Anne Gentry: I’m very grateful to have very liberal and supportive parents who have supported me both financially and by attending my shows. They’re generally more concerned with my happiness and success than they are with the path I’ve chosen to achieve those goals. I’m very lucky to have their support, especially having grown up in a part of the country where parental support of queer youth is often lacking.
The holidays a tough time for many. What do you and your friends do to help make the holidays a fun time of year, even for those who may have a hard time of it?
Vidalia Anne Gentry: Although the holidays aren’t a super tough time for me, they are for many of my friends. There’s a space at my house we call the “drag lab” that’s just a bonus room with a ton of drag materials crammed into it ... but it’s basically a hang spot for some of my queer friends. Hanging out and creating together has really developed a support system that helps all of us. We’re even doing a “friendsgiving” at my place this year ... but I’m no hero, I’m just providing the venue and cocktails!