Opulence Black has managed the difficult task of summarizing her eccentric drag style into a pithy phrase: "Hobby Lobby shopper gone crazy."
One day, she might glue pearls to her face and contour herself into violet alien business-bitch realness; on another, slip into a green, muscly costume for a sexy, androgynous Creature-From-the-Black-Lagoon feel or stick white contact lenses in her eyes and don a glittery teal wig for a creepy hipster soothsayer vibe.
"Sometimes, I'm feeling like a magical alien, other times I'm inspired by insects, animal heads, bones, crystals, weird little oddities," says the performer whose offstage name is Rock Kelly. "I want people who see me to warp their expressions and their expectations of what they think a queen or a person should be. For me, drag celebrates the grotesque, the parts of yourself you don't like – it's about celebrating what you have and taking something ugly and making it pretty."
Kelly, 23, began doing drag seriously three years ago after contacting a drag queen on Instagram for help with an art project while a student at the University of Central Florida. Demetrio Asciutto, also known by his stage name, Victoria Elizabeth Black, specialized in creating a ghostly glamazon persona and taught Kelly the tricks of Halloween makeup. (Victoria is currently competing on Season 2 of the Boulet Brothers' DRAGULA television show.) Opulence Black was born about three months into their relationship with her first performance of alternative drag at the gay nightclub Pulse. Now she works Thursdays at Southern Nights as part of the freshman lineup, though she still misses Pulse.
"I was booked literally the Thursday after the shooting happened at Southern Nights," Kelly says. "My mom didn't want me to go out, but I told her, 'No, I'm not going to sit home. I'm going to go out and keep doing it.'"
The hate that ended the lives of 49 people at Pulse doesn't make him want to hide – Kelly says it has pushed him to stand out more in his queerness.
"I'm not hiding the fact that I'm gay," he says. "We need to be more outspoken and everyone needs to get registered to vote. There are still those people in the world not aware this is normal. This is love. We want to live more out loud in day-to-day life because you never know how long you have."