Last Tuesday brought a gaggle of excited patrons to Chicago’s Hamburger Mary’s, the chain that combines burgers with drag. In addition to burgers, the restaurant served up the season finale of Camp Wannakiki to eagerly awaiting fans.
Camp Wannakiki is the drag competition webseries that throws eight queens to the wilderness to prove themselves as the Midwest’s campiest queens. Although it follows a fairly standard format for drag competition shows–main challenges followed by runways and lip-sync battles–Camp Wannakiki is anything but standard. There’s something jarring, yet wonderfully wacky and absurd, about watching fully dragged-up queens canoeing and pitching tents like scouts. It’s a charming show with a lovably goofy cast full of queens you’d normally see hosting your local drag brunch rather than on your screen.
So, it was a particularly proud night for Chicago when the the Sugarbaker Twins, hosts of Camp Wannakiki and owners of the Hamburger Mary’s franchise, announced local fave Alexis Bevels as the very first “Queen of Camp.” In a big orange wig, chunky round white glasses, and a slinky dress designed to look like overalls, Alexis Bevels wore Chicago’s first drag crown with a wide grin. It was a classic Alexis look, mixing kitschy concepts with a classically elegant silhouette.
Always delightfully kooky, Alexis Bevels is the Broadway diva, fantasy nerd, scootering camp queen of your dreams. When I chat with her a week later, Alexis is sweet and bubbly and humble and speaks incredibly earnestly and passionately about everything we discuss from the show to Harry Potter.
Alexis Bevels knows exactly who she is. When I ask her that very question, she laughs it right back at me–“Who is Alexis?”–not because she’s pondering it herself, but rather because she already has the perfect response: “[Alexis] is the girl in the musical that is beautiful enough to be the lead, but she’s too stupid to memorize the lines, so she’s happy being in the back of the chorus singing and dancing, making jokes…smiling, twirling, happy to just be there.”
From bringing a scooter into clubs and riding it in full drag through Boystown, to transforming herself into a tent and a cupcake on Camp Wannakiki, Alexis is a real “hokey, corny, quirky, dad-joke typa gal.” Despite describing her take on camp as “a little more subtle [and] a little gentle,” Alexis shines answering my questions with one goofy anecdote after another. “I like telling stories that make people laugh and make people happy. That’s when I’m my most comfortable.” This talent for comedy and hosting is what brought Alexis through to the Camp Wannakiki crown. Plus, it didn’t hurt that she also happens to “love outdoorsy type things.”
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It feels great to have won the second episode of @campwannakiki! Thanks to everyone for the love kind words. This cupcake princess look is my favorite thing I’ve ever worn. Extra shout out to @gomezandco for making the bust for me. And thanks to my real life sisters for losing interest in dolls at a time when my interest was super peaked. (I acquired one of those cupcake dolls and we had some good times) #campwannakiki is out every Tuesday on youtube and check your local #hamburgermarys for early watch parties before the episode is released! Bust by @gomezandco Everything else made by me (literally sewing sprinkles on that cupcake top on the drive to camp lol) #drag #dragqueen #campqueen #camp #summercamp #chicagoqueen #alexisbevels #skatewueen #cupcakedoll #cupcakeprincess
But drag allows Alexis to stand out as more than just the chorus girl. In drag, Alexis is always the star, often of huge show-tune numbers full of drama. It’s part of what draws her to the art form. “[Drag’s] my favorite because I could be the director; I could be the costumer; I could be the choreographer; I could do the make-up,” Alexis explains. “I could do it all myself, and I could be the star of the show, at least just for one number.”
It’s no coincidence Alexis’s words are peppered with language of the stage, as the former actor turned to drag after leaving the world of musical theatre behind. No longer the chorus girl, musical theatre still has a huge impact on Alexis’s performance style and aesthetic–bringing up stars like Sutton Foster or shows like 42nd Street, Chicago, and a very specific version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella as major inspirations. There’s something unique about the way Alexis brings Broadway to her drag. It goes beyond an emotional lip-sync to “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” with cartwheels and broken strings of pearls. No, Alexis truly embodies the spirit and extravagance of musicals never shying away from live singing, tap-dancing, and, of course, costume reveals. It doesn’t matter that live singing a show-tune is often a risk in front of an audience expecting a lip-sync, because the former actor snatches wigs with every belt.
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One week from today I’m coming back to life/back to reality. Here’s a picture of me in a tree taken by fave @lad_of_leisure Robe by me with fabric from @textilediscount Hair is me and @therealtashasalad #drag #dragqueen #dragrace #rpdr #treequeen #chicago #chicagoqueen #instadrag #chiffon #alexisbevels #queen #uptown #nature
Alexis gushes over one such elaborate Broadway reproduction with excitement: “There’s a song called ‘Show Off,’ and it’s from The Drowsy Chaperone, which is a musical about this leading lady Hollywood starlet who’s deciding to leave her career to get married to the man she loves. She sings this song, and she’s talking about how she doesn’t want to show off anymore. But in singing the song, she has like 7 costume changes, and she’s doing every trick in her bag: she’s juggling; she’s doing splits–well, I can’t do the splits, but I skip over that part. It’s so funny because it’s so quirky and silly to me.”
Alexis’s ability to pull all her various passions and talents into her drag–and beyond that, the infectiousness of her exuberance for such non-drag interests–is what makes the queen’s performances so special and exciting. Alexis not only brings the term “Broadway queen” to a whole new level, but also manages to tie those musical theatre skills in with a knack for storytelling and a ‘glampy’ (glamour-camp) aesthetic.
“When I first started I did think ‘okay, I have to just do lip-syncing; I have to be beautiful; I have to figure out how to find my way through that,” Alexis responds when I ask how such overlap came about. “But then, when I started tapping into these other talents that I had developed, it was met with more success.” The sincere theatre-lover also adds that breaking the rules is what drag’s all about anyway: “That’s kind of the beauty of drag to me…In drag there are no set rules. You can do anything you want.”
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#tbt to before I knew about rhinestones and taking the lenses out of my 100 percent real glasses. I am and will always be your #scootqueen 📸by @samprobst #drag #dragwueen #babyqueen #scooter #wedgesneakers #throwbackthursday #chicago #chicagoqueen #throwback #razor #queen #sillygirl
Today, Alexis even brings nerdier interests, like Harry Potter, into performances. “The first one I ever did,” Alexis recounts, “was Moaning Myrtle. I think I sang Aerosmith’s “Cryin’,” just as Moaning Myrtle.” It’s hilarious and geeky and completely kooky, quintessentially Alexis like duet she performed as Bellatrix Lestrange, battling Toyota Corona’s Molly Weasley through song and dance, which even pulled those theatre skills into the mix.
Alexis is as eager to tell me about wizarding fashion as musical theatre and her time on Camp Wannakiki. The self-proclaimed “Gryffindor, but like with a Hufflepuff rising,” has a bit of an obsession with the fantasy series, and hopes to continue to incorporate it into her aesthetic. “I really think that there is a way to bring wizards robes into my drag,” Alexis bubbles. “The last couple years, especially I’ve been trying to make my own costumes, so I’ve been starting to think about filtering that in. What do wizards robes mean to me? How can I bring these two worlds together. That’s really the goal with my drag: How can I bring drag, musical theatre, and Harry Potter and marry all of those to become my ultimate evolved Pokémon version of myself.”
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#inbedwithalexisbevels was super cute! Thanks to everyone who came out and a special shoutout to @voxbox13 for for sharing his album and his soul with us. Potter Pinafore by me. 📸by @thisguyjoe1227 #drag #dragqueen #chicagoqueen #mua #wigs #bed #lannister #berlin #alexisbevels #
As I talk to Alexis, I notice a pure love and gratefulness for Chicago peak through many of her responses. It’s these moments in the interview–when she brings up Chicago and friends and the opportunities she’s had–that Alexis comes the most to life. Although still thoroughly joyful, there’s also a tenderness and sincerity to the way the humble queen discusses her gratefulness: “The Chicago community is full of really amazing artists, and I think we get overshadowed a little by LA queens and New York queens…but Chicago is the greatest city in the world. We’re so welcoming of all types of drag.”
As much as Alexis loves Chicago, she is excited to “take Alexis on the road,” starting with her home state of Texas for Austin International Drag Fest in November.
Until then, Alexis Bevels can be found hosting weekly Bingo events at Hamburger Mary’s and the monthly show “Dixie Wins a Talent Show While Alexis Stage Manages” at Sidetrack, as well as performing in Drag Matinee this Saturday, October 13, at Berlin Nightclub.