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The Man Behind the Man-Bun

Drag king Hugh Dandy thrives in the limelight.

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Hugh Dandy (photo by Angelo S. Ortiz Vela)

Nobody puts the “Hugh” in Houston like Hugh Dandy. With his chiseled cheekbones and sky-high man-bun, he’s the epitome of manliness. But don’t call it cocky—he just has that je ne sais quoi that turns the audience on. Read on for a glimpse of the performer who brings Hugh to life.

Preferred pronouns?
He/Him in drag, She/Her or They/Them out of drag.

Hometown?
A small town in Illinois that’s a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri.

Drag birth date?
Spring 2014.

Does drag play into your gender identity?
Yes. It’s fun to watch others either find themselves through drag, or find validity in their gender identity through drag. Drag has given me permission to explore my identity in a safe way, in a safe place, and at my own pace. There are no rules about gender for drag.

How did you first get into performing?
My alma mater, Webster University, held an annual drag show that invited students to perform alongside some seasoned professionals. I attended the first two years of the show as a spectator, but by my junior year I was itching to try. I was very frightened to go up on stage by myself, so I grabbed a friend and we dressed up as some male characters we made up on the spot. Thus, Hugh (Huey at the time) was born. It was so much fun that by the next morning we were planning what we were going to do for next year’s show.

Challenges as a drag king?
Representation is very important. Not having drag kings in the mainstream media hurts most kings. Whether that be a show director who is hesitant to book you “because you’re not what my audience wants to see” or audience members not always knowing how to react to your drag, simply because your drag is different than what is shown on TV or promoted on social media.

What was it like taking your performances into a digital format due to COVID-19?
Performing to your phone in your apartment is so different than performing onstage. Without an active audience reacting to my moves and outfits, I didn’t think I would be doing it for very long, if I’m being honest. I struggled, especially during the first couple months of COVID-19. But drag was the only consistent part of my life during quarantine. Drag had always been my escape, so it helped me just put everything in my mind on pause. Everyone was so supportive of our little online show. I’m thankful I could continue at all. 

What’s it like being a part of H-Town Drag Kings?
It’s like having a chosen family! I absolutely adore the entire cast of the H-Town Kings, past and present. This show lets us do whatever we want, with very few limits.

Describe your drag persona.
Smooth, suave, a little dangerous, and always the center of attention. He’s laid back and goes with the flow. A little dumb, but at least he doesn’t pretend to know more than he does. Just a good-looking pop star who loves the limelight. He’d probably pretend to hate the paparazzi, but he secretly enjoys the attention. 

Favorite memory from performing?
I was once tipped a McChicken sandwich.

Any horror stories from the stage?
I tried to eat Cheetos once during a number. If you think you can eat and lip sync at the same time, you can’t. You’re either chewing the entire time or you’re showing off your half-chewed food to the audience.

Any titles or awards?
I won Season 2 of Drag It On and was voted Houston’s Best Drag King in 2019 at the Houston Drag Awards.

What do you do outside of drag?
I work for a small marketing company as a web developer, but my passion is art. I have a BA in animation and would love to see my drawings come to life on the big screen someday.

#TeamNSYNC or #TeamBackStreetBoys?
#TeamNSYNC, without hesitation. If you don’t agree, then “Baby, Bye Bye Bye!”

Where can we see Hugh perform?
Catch me at Pearl Bar Houston every-ish Wednesday, and occasionally on Twitch and other digital shows!

Follow Hugh on TikTok @Hughdandy, on Instagram @Hugh_Dandy, and on Facebook as Hugh Dandy.

This article appears in the October 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Sam Byrd

Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to Outsmart who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture. Speaking of Houston, he's never heard a Whitney Houston song he didn't like.
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