“The best thing about being a drag performer is being able to show the world a side of you that you’re not usually able to show.”
Not everyone can say they went to college with a fabulous drag queen, but I am lucky enough to say I have that experience. I met Dylan, also known by his drag persona, Mercedes Benzover, at my university’s pride club this past year. Not only is he extremely funny and animated, but he also has a kind heart and a loving personality that I immediately admired. I knew I wanted to interview him when I saw him perform live at a campus event, which absolutely blew me away. Some people are just born with strong stage energy and charisma, and trust me when I say Dylan has it. He describes himself the same way many other people describe him: outgoing, fun, and independent. “And crazy,” he adds.
Like many young people, Dylan started getting into the art of drag after watching RuPaul’s Drag Race in high school. From there, he began getting into makeup and the intricate craft of drag culture, which ultimately led him to create his drag persona, Mercedes Benzover. “I came up with this name by putting two of my favorite cars together, Mercedes Benz and Range Rover,” Dylan says in regards to how he crafted the name. And, of course, it offers quite the laugh when spoken aloud.
The turning point for Dylan came during his senior year of high school, during which he decided to show up to the Thanksgiving Rally in drag attire. “I decided to not care about what people were going to think about me, and I put on a pair of heels from Savers and a grey wig,” Dylan says about that day, “I walked into the gym and felt so powerful. People ended up coming up to me and letting me know how proud they were of me.”
From there, Dylan’s confidence in his abilities as a drag queen only flourished. This past September, he performed in his very first drag show and sang “Sorry Not Sorry” as his first number. He recalls how beautiful it felt to perform in front of many people, even despite a potential mishap. “I remember my wig almost falling off when I tried whipping it around,” he says with a laugh.
However, things haven’t always been easy for Dylan, especially in the face of unsupportive parents. Dylan hid his interest in drag for the first two years of practicing it and resorted to watching RuPaul’s Drag Race in his basement. When his parents finally discovered his passion, he says that they treated it with disgust.
“They didn’t find out I was doing drag until about 2-3 years ago through a photo on my social media,” Dylan says, “My mom is kinda on the fence that she doesn’t care, but she does. The big thing is that she wants me to have a ‘real job’.”
Sadly, Dylan’s story of rejection from his parents isn’t uncommon for LGBT+ youth. Gay, bisexual, and transgender children have been shown to have significantly higher rates of mental illness and depression, usually as a result of disapproval and shame from their families (NCBI). However, Dylan tries his best to stay positive in the face of prejudice and hate and instead focuses on all the wonderful aspects of his craft. “The best thing about being a drag performer is being able to show the world/your audience a side of you that you’re not usually able to show,” Dylan says in regards to the best aspects of drag. If he had to pick the worst aspect, he says it would be the lack of acceptance around the art.
Over the past few years, Dylan has built up a unique and stunning drag image for himself. He cites bougie girls, Sasha Velour, Chanel, and really “anything rich” as his inspiration for his hair, makeup, and fashion. Beyond that, however, Dylan says he can draw inspiration from almost anything. Besides performing drag arts, his other hobbies include watching YouTube videos, hanging out with his friends, and playing around with makeup and fashion. As a fashion design major, a large majority of Dylan’s time is spent in the sewing room designing new, exciting looks. “I believe college has opened my mind to so many things- personally and professionally,” Dylan says about his college experience thus far, “Ever since starting college, I’ve felt more open about many things and have become more independent. I truly think I’m living a meaningful life.”
In the future, Dylan aspires to continue his drag career and hopefully build a bigger name for himself. He wants to start his own fashion company, for which he would craft both special occasion dresses and custom drag pieces. Ultimately, Dylan wants to be happy, content, and continue to live his life to the fullest. Before we end the interview, Dylan has a piece of advice for other LGBT+ youth trying to make a name for themselves in the world: “There will be hard times and people might not respect you, but don’t care what other people think about you, and live life the way YOU want to live it. It’s your life, nobody else’s. I’ve learned that sometimes in your life there will be hard obstacles, but you’ll get through it, do better things, and help others.”
It’s always such an honor to sit down and interview artists for Analog, but Dylan is especially such a treat. His energy and his humor is so vibrant and inviting, it’s hard not to be immediately drawn to him. If you’d like to learn more about Dylan “Mercedes Benzover,” you can find him on Instagram @dylan_alves123. All the best in the future, Dylan!
Statistic source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5127283/