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Drag Duo

Performers Carter Riden and Angela Pinina have a love that sparkles.

Carter Riden (l) and Angela Pinina, dressed as their alter egos Richard Long and Bella Forte.

On the surface, Angela Pinina and Carter Riden are just like any other couple. But the two share a special bond whenever they entertain the Houston crowds and leave a trail of glitter wherever they go.

Riden, known as drag king Richard Long, has been in the drag scene for several years and has entered numerous pageants and contests. The “Glitter King,” as he calls himself, got inspired to do drag after seeing performer Ian Syder-Blake on stage one evening.

“I watched him do ‘Same Love’ and I was enthralled,” Riden recalls. “He was living his best life on stage, and I really looked up to that.”

Syder-Blake offered Riden the chance to perform with him onstage as a backup dancer, and thus was Riden’s alter-ego born.

“After that, it was all just kind of trial and error through beards and adhesives,” Riden says. “I landed on glitter and became the shiniest thing in the room.”

Pinina, who acts, sings, and entertains as Bella Forte, is new to the drag scene and has quickly fallen in love with it. “I like seeing all the different aspects of drag kings and drag queens,” she says.

It was performing at a drag show that caused the two to bump into each other one night.

“We met doing a cabaret show that had a mix of drag performers and live singers,” Pinina remembers. “We had both known each other for about a year before we actually started dating. We were both in other relationships, and then those died out. After that, we kind of connected.”

It was just a matter of finding the time to connect with one another, which meant talking on social media and bonding through online gaming.

“We spent a solid three weeks chatting and playing UNO on Facebook Messenger because both of us lived crazy, outlandish lives,” Riden says. “I was up too early, worked too long, and then had drag at night.”

Pinina was holding down three to four different jobs at a time, but she made an effort to keep in touch with Riden because she felt the pair had something special.

“Our free time was very scarce to even hang out in person, but we made it happen,”
she says.

The couple’s connection proved stronger than any lack of free time. Two years later, the pair remains inseparable.

The way Pinina sees it, the couple’s success is due to several factors, but the main ingredient is their shared love of performing. “Being an actor in this town, I have dated actors and my friends told me ‘No more actors,’” she says. “But when I met Carter, I thought, ‘Oh, he’s a performer. He’s not necessarily an actor the way I’m an actor, but he’s a performer.’ He understands the art of live performance and basically portraying a character. I enjoy that we can relate to each other that way. We support each other extremely well in our individual art.”

Riden always makes sure that he is attentive to their relationship, which he says is key for any couple.

“That’s really all there is to it,” he says. “Whenever Angela has a bad day or a stressful day, my first instinct is to go run a bath with a ton of bath salts in it. Light some candles, put on some pretty music, or have some dinner on the table. Just take some stress away.”

Pinina credits always being open and honest with Riden as the secret to their enduring romance.

“The communication between us is very open, and we are very transparent with each other,” she says. “We think we have something pretty special.”

As long as you and your partner support each other, anyone can have a fulfilling, long-term relationship, Pinina emphasizes. “Be honest about your feelings. Just be honest with yourself, and support each other. If you’re not supporting each other, then what are you even doing? Lift each other up. Your relationship shouldn’t tear you down. Your partner should honestly be the last one to do that to you.”

When asked if there’s a secret to their successful relationship, the pair suggests that it’s just their low-key nature that keeps things fresh.

“We pretty much take everything day by day,” Carter says.

This article appears in the February 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Connor Behrens

Connor Behrens is a communications graduate from the University of Houston. He has written for the Washington Post, Community Impact Newspaper and the Galveston County Daily News (the oldest newspaper in Texas). When he's not writing stories, he is likely watching the latest new release at the movie theater.
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