Main Street in downtown Norman is home to breakfast hot spots, local boutiques and popular restaurants. But on the third Thursday of every month, Main Street hosts royalty.
Drag queens from all over the state come to Bison Witches Bar & Deli to perform in the monthly LGBTQ+ Night and Drag Show sponsored by Norman Pride. The host and emcee of the show, Keosha Simone, has been casting queens since the show’s inception two years ago.
“I feel like every community needs a place for the LGBT people to get together,” Simone said. “I didn’t feel like Norman really had an open spot.”
Simone partners with Andrew Coulter, president of Norman Pride, and the pair have been putting on the drag shows together since the first LGBTQ+ Night in April 2017. Coulter said he hopes the shows will make LGBTQ+ people in Norman feel more comfortable.
“I want everyone in Norman to realize that this other community is out there,” Coulter said. “I want to make sure that they’re welcomed at any bar, restaurant, shop, whatever it may be that they could walk into and they don’t ever have to feel threatened or worried or anything like that.”
The LGBTQ+ Night and Drag Show originally started at Louie’s Too! on Campus Corner, but when the 2017 football season rolled around, Simone had to find another venue. Bison Witches welcomed the show with open arms, and since then, more people have been flocking to the entertainment.
“The event is growing, and the opportunity for everybody is here,” Simone said. “All they have to do is show up and take advantage of the opportunity that’s been given.”
Four queens perform in each show, and familiar faces, such as Simone and her son, Taylor Alexander Simone, entertain each time. Simone finds queens from her hometown in Oklahoma City, as well as cities around Oklahoma where she has performed before. Once she sees a queen with the potential for a great stage presence, she brings them over to Bison Witches.
“There’s so many opportunities to drag, but so many people don’t give the opportunity to explore it,” Simone said. “My thing is opening up the door for everyone and giving everybody the opportunity.”
The drag queens Keosha brings to Norman agree the community there is unique in its support for the show. Two queens who performed at the Feb. 21 show, Airabella and Jupiter Marie Halliwell, said Norman has proved to be a safe and accepting space for queens of all ages.
“Norman having these things where people younger can come see these shows in a safe place that’s not necessarily a club scene (is) awesome,” Airabella said. “Norman kind of helps aid that and make(s) a safer place for that to cultivate.”
While Norman has started to embrace the drag culture, Keosha Simone is the queen who helped get it all started.
“Even if she doesn’t know you, if Keosha sees something in you, or if you are honest and genuine…she’ll be like, ‘Alright girl, I’ll get you,’” Jupiter said. “That’s just the kind of person she is. That’s the kind of person that Norman has embraced.”
Simone and Coulter said they have seen the Bison Witches drag shows grow in attendance each month, and they hope the support will continue. Their biggest upcoming show will be their anniversary performance April 20, where they will raise money to put together the Norman Pride festival and parade in May.
“I think that it’s building each and every month, it’s getting better and better, and we’re getting more support right here in Norman, which is what we came for,” Simone said. “We’re here in Norman now, and this is where we’re going to stay. The support is absolutely amazing.”