Houston’s Kingmaker

Inside Ian Syder-Blake’s world.

Ian Syder-Blake (photo by Alex Rosa)

Drag isn’t just for queens anymore. The Kings of Houston have made their mark, and leading the pack is none other than Ian Syder-Blake, who is helping give rise to a new generation of performers. In addition to twice being named OutSmart magazine’s Gayest & Greatest “Favorite Drag King,” he’s a family man who has reared eight drag children, two adopted brothers, and ten grandkids.

He/him, both in and out of drag.

Born and raised in Houston.

Drag birthday?
February 2013.

What first got you interested in drag?
I had been a fan of drag for years. I was invited by an old friend to a show, and fell in love. With some encouragement from my partner and that friend, I decided to try it out. The rest is history. Once I started, I didn’t want to stop. I felt like I’d found a home.

Describe your drag persona.
Fun, encouraging, silly, energetic, accepting of everyone, and really gay. I make it my mission to make everyone I meet feel special.

Inspiration behind the name?
I have always loved the name Ian, and many drag kings use puns for their names. Ian Syder sounds like “inside her,” and I thought it was clever and fun. Blake is a family name, which I took on when I was adopted by the legendary Lana Blake.

What illusions are you known for?
Peter Griffin, George Michael, and Fred Flintstone are a few. Each illusion has original mixes that I refresh regularly to keep the characters entertaining.

What would your fans be surprised to learn about you?
I am a hyper-effeminate man onstage—campy and fun. While I do have my effeminate qualities at home, I also do many of my own repairs as well as make some mean barbecue.
I’m not at all afraid to get dirty and do the “butch” chores.

What is Drag King Boot Camp?
Drag King Boot Camp started when co-creator Richard Long and I realized there were so many [beginning] king entertainers who needed guidance. There isn’t a “legendary” king generation to teach them, and I didn’t want anyone to struggle to learn on their own like I did. There are eight weeks of classes and a final that includes a live performance. There are now boot-camp classes around the country and online, helping new kings get their start with confidence and class.

How do you find your outfits?
Almost everything in my closet started out as a regular outfit. I have some custom costumes, but most of what I own is hand-picked and embellished by myself and my family. You can have some absolutely beautiful pieces that began on a rack in a thrift store. All you need is a little imagination and lots of glue.

Any difference between performing in person versus online?
It’s much harder to perform for a camera and without the feedback during your numbers. It’s almost impossible to know if you’re doing well. Many entertainers are moving to a digital format, which requires learning new skills. It may be hard, but we will always push through and find a way to bring art to those who watch us.

Where do you see the future of drag?
With luck and hard work, I can see drag becoming much more inclusive. Kings, nonbinary, AFAB queens, AMAB kings, and people of color deserve a place at every show.

When we’re not socially distancing, where can people find you performing?
Pearl Bar on Wednesdays with the Kings of Houston. But there isn’t a venue around that
I haven’t been lucky enough to work at.

Keep up with Ian Syder-Blake on Facebook and Instagram @ian_syder

This article appears in the September 2020 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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