But drag really helped me discover that I am a woman, and I started taking vocal performance a lot more seriously around age 15 with doing musical theatre, but once I reached 16, I discovered jazz and it completely changed my life, and I still do it now. Of course I still wanted to incorporate drag with my singing, because it’s what saved my life and helped me to discover who I am today.
We’ve been privileged to witness and engage a local young artist in our community for the past 6 or 7 years. In addition to chronicling her art through a series of Q&A’s, Esai has also written several reviews for us. And we had the pleasure of her working with ‘The Proclaimers’ to create the first ever Protect Trans Kids Day in the City of Pittsburgh.
Watching her graduate from high school and embark on the next chapter in her journey is a gift. Esai’s now working as a jazz vocalist under the tutelage of greats like Phat Man Dee.
But first is her own one-woman-show coming up in July here in Pittsburgh. This is how you protect trans kids – you show up for them and embrace their trans joy. Please consider purchasing a ticket or making a donation to support this wonderful young woman who has brought so much to our community.
Your Name: My name is Esai
Your Pronouns: My pronouns are She/Her
How do you describe your identity? My identity is very feminine, and I take a lot of pride in that because it was very difficult a couple of years ago to understand that I am in fact a woman.
It is a big summer for you – you turn 18 and you’ve graduated high school from CAPA. Congratulations!
Thank you so much!
You have a one-woman show coming up on July 15. Please tell us about the show and what inspired you to create it.
I started writing my show “TRANS-lation” in the middle of my Junior year of highschool. At first it started out as a short film that I wasn’t really serious about, but once I shared it with my mom, I took her word on how I should turn it into a one woman show to perform. I started re-writing it at the end of my junior year and it was completely finished a couple of months ago. It is inspired by my life as a young trans woman. Being in school has also inspired this show especially because most of my life has been spent being in public school and having to deal with the pushes and shoves when it comes to being an out trans person there, even if I did go to a performing arts middle and high school. Music that I have embraced in my life is used to tell the story that I feel like I haven’t been able to fully tell yet.
How has your relationship to performing arts evolved over your life?
Performance art is something that I now take really seriously, and It’s something that I want to make my career. 5 years ago, it was just something that I did for fun.
How has your gender identity unfolded and is that tied to your art?
My gender identity started as very fluid. I didn’t think about it much, I just expressed myself however I wanted. Today my gender identity is more known and focused, and it is less stressful for me that way. I started out doing just drag because of how fluid my identity was at the time. But drag really helped me discover that I am a woman, and I started taking vocal performance a lot more seriously around age 15 with doing musical theatre, but once I reached 16, I discovered jazz and it completely changed my life, and I still do it now. Of course I still wanted to incorporate drag with my singing, because it’s what saved my life and helped me to discover who I am today.
You’ve changed your drag name. Tell us about that please.
I wanted people to focus more on my singing than only drag, and I feel that now that I’m taking performing seriously I wanted to be authentic and use my real name as my stage name. I feel like “E! The Dragnificent!” only limits me to drag.
Your mama and paternal grandfather both are artists. How have they prepared you to grow artistically?
My mom is a burlesque performer and is constantly showing people how they can be more confident, and ultimately it has helped me to be more confident when I’m performing. She has always helped me polish what I do, and I would not be here without her. My Grandpa is one of the people who got me started in jazz music. I’ve always been surrounded by his music, and jazz runs in my family so I’ve learned to take that on to keep it going, and I am so grateful for him. He’s always giving me notes on things to work on, and songs that I should sing. We work on music theory a lot when I come over to his house too!
This strikes me as a tribute and celebration to your young life and a pivot toward new adult things. Do you have any favorite memories from your childhood and young adult days to share?
One of my most cherished memories from when I was 12, is when I got to headline the “Austin International Drag Festival” in early November of 2017. It was completely life-changing because of how much of a community of art and acceptance there was there. I also had never performed in one of the biggest drag festivals in the country before, so it was such an eye opening experience. I also learned there that there are so many different types of drag and performance art. I would love to go back and perform there again.
What’s next for you now that high school has been completed and you are entering adulthood?
I plan to go to beauty school! And also continue singing and performing as much as I can, to spread me and my art around!
Research tells us that trans kids who have one supportive adult in their life are significantly better off than kids whose parents reject their identity. You have two affirming, supportive, and loving parents, and extended family and still have struggled. What advice would you offer to young trans kids seeking supportive adults?
I would tell them that they should always advocate for themselves, and look for those trusted adults in school.
You are fundraising for your transition care. What is your financial goal? Do you have resources available? How could a reader donate?
My financial goal is at least $9,000. We have insurance, but there is a deductible to pay, medical supplies, and travel expenses. A reader can donate at our venmo: @Westley-Aliquo
When and where is the show? How can people buy tickets or send a donation to support you?
The show is on July 15th at 8pm, at the Gemini Children’s Theater in Mckees Rocks. People can buy tickets from the link below, or on my instagram: @esai.pgh.entertainment or they can also purchase tickets at the door.
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