Beat faces, death drops, lip-syncing, killer reads and tongue pops are just a few of the things that typically come to mind when we think about drag queens. Being deaf does not, but that’s just one of many differences that separates Casavina and Selena Minogue from your average queen.
The deaf comedy duo, cheekily nicknamed "Deafies in Drag," has been making YouTube videos for more than a year now, covering a range of topics. Sometimes they just have fun on camera, playing games like Heads Up, and other times they address some of the struggles that affect today's deaf community. A few videos are makeup tutorials, and many are outlandish comedy sketches filmed in front of a green screen.
Together, they have a simple, but important goal in creating videos: using humor to expose LGBTQ folks to deaf individuals, and vice versa.
"The deaf community is not strongly exposed to drag queens or [LGBTQ] culture, and the [LGBTQ] community is not strongly aware of deaf people either.” Deafies in Drag told OUT. “So we try to expose both of them along with our third identity, being Latino, to share that we all experience oppression, discrimination and face a lot challenges in life. We take these unfortunate moments and turn them into comedy to forget the seriousness and not let it get us down."
Back in 2010, Jimmy and Alvaro first met at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., the only deaf university in the world. Shortly after, they began dating and have been together now for more than six years. While in college, the two loved making comedy sketches for Facebook. "But we felt limited doing just male characters and wanted to expand our creativity,” they said. “Drag opened the door for us, allowing us to express our ideas and stories more fully.”
Like many other late-in-life drag queens, they discovered the art through RuPaul’s Drag Race. "It was season 2, and we remember being so confused by RuPaul's identity," the pair said. "As we kept watching, we realized how creative drag was and how it’s flexible without any real rules. We knew that was exactly what we needed for our videos, and began learning makeup through YouTube."
And so began their experimentation with drag, creating various characters before settling on Casavina and Selena Minogue. A direct translation to "House of Wine" in Spanish, Casavina’s look and persona are heavily influenced by Amy Winehouse, while Selena Minogue is named after two of Alvaro’s favorite singers: Selena Quintanilla and Kylie Minogue.
Besides their immaculate makeup and comedic banter, the two have an arresting stage presence that's heavily influenced by being deaf. "It enhances our visual,” they said. “Facial and body expression is part of American Sign Language, and it helps us to paint a certain look that goes with [our] facial expressions." Their grand gestures and over-the-top facial expressions lend itself perfectly to drag, making for wildly hilarious videos that simultaneously spotlight intersectional issues.
Once their channel, Deafies and Drag, started to gain more widespread recognition, the duo began traveling to various cities, where they met with fans for the first time. "They made us realize we were doing more than just fooling around on videos," the two said. "We were helping to spread awareness of our barriers. This motivated us to use our drag to spread positivity and educate people through comedy."
Since creating a platform for themselves to reach out to members of both the LGBTQ and deaf communities, the two have not stopped educating the public, projecting positivity and ultimately inspiring hope. "We believe that no matter what obstacles or challenges you face, there is always another way to get around it," they said. "We don't let society put rules and limits on us just because we're deaf. It's important to know that whatever dreams you have, you go for it."