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I am a multimedia journalist currently working as a Senior Web Journalist/ Videographer with Khaleej Times in Dubai, UAE. Prior to this, I worked as a news editor with CNN’s Indian affiliate in Noida. I graduated from Syracuse University in New York state in 2012 with a Masters degree in Broadcast and Digital journalism. I have worked in video production, online journalism, features writing and market research over a period of four years.

Dragging for a Cause

A drag queen helps cancer patients through drag shows

Madison DeVine, a full-figured queen with self confidence and attitude © 2012 Nilanjana Gupta

By Nilanjana Gupta (SYRACUSE) – Timothy Reitz works at a cable services company and drinks a lot of coffee. But when he puts on his make-up he becomes his alter ego Madison DeVine, a strong woman with self confidence and attitude. Dance, comedy and entertainment are some of her passions. But even behind the stage, this drag queen has a purpose – helping cancer patients regain their beauty and vitality.

Watch the story here:

Working life of a drag queen

Syracuse’s nightlife is as varied as the people who live in the city. Part of that nightlife, is a sub culture, not many people know about, the drag culture. Trexx nightclub, on North Clinton Street, is one of the many clubs in Syracuse that hosts drag shows every week, where a group of female impersonators, or “drag queens” set the stage for the night.

Every one of them has a purpose. For some, it’s to entertain, for others a hobby, but for one the flamboyant spectacle is for a cause.

“I do have my cancer benefit – You’ve Got Strength benefit. I am selling bracelets… they say ‘Divine Strength’ on them. Please buy them tonight. Every single dollar goes to the You’ve Got Strength benefit” said Madison DeVine.

Madison DeVine is a full-figured queen with self confidence and attitude.

“The big thing about Madison is, Everybody is beautiful. I don’t care if you’re size zero or if you’re 350 pounds,” she said.

When Madison DeVine removes her make up, there’s a shy man named Timothy Reitz © 2012 Nilanjana Gupta

But when Madison removes her makeup and high heels, there is underneath that bravado, a shy 29-year-old man named Timothy Reitz.

“I started doing drag and it was a way to develop my own character. And unfortunately the setback is… wearing pantyhose… I am wearing high heels that kill my back… and I am strapped and tightened than duct tape can ever hold me. It’s uncomfortable,” said Reitz.

Reitz said he’s a victim of stage fright, something he’s had to live with for 10 years performing in drag.

“My poor friends because they see me go through all stages when I am getting ready… I go from “I don’t know if I can do this” to “I am gonna be okay” to sometimes in tears saying “I can’t do this”,” said Reitz.

Although Reitz hates to wear woman’s clothing, he said being a woman gives him a new confidence.

“I look in the mirror as a boy and say Eeww… but I look in the mirror as Madison and say, she’s hot,” said Reitz.

“You’ve Got Strength” benefit

As Madison DeVine, Reitz does more than just dance and do standup comedy. He raises money to buy wigs & make up for women who lose their hair undergoing cancer treatment.

He does it to honor the memory of his mother who died of cancer four years ago. Reitz said when she was first diagnosed, her biggest fear was going bald.

“Well that’s where it pays to have a drag queen as a son. We can give you hair if need be, we can draw your eye brows,” said Reitz.

With help from other drag queens, his You’ve Got Strength benefit has raised nearly $10,000 over four years, donating nearly 600 wigs to women fighting cancer.

“If my mom would have died, I would be in a mess… but he took it as a positive. that’s an amazing thing… to take such a tragedy and turn it into a positive and give it back to the community,” said Johnny Shotts, a performer at Trexx and a volunteer for the benefit.

“Lot of them do it as a hobby, lot of them do it for extra money… but [for some] such as Madison, a lot of it is giving back to the community,” said Jordon Perla, Reitz’s friend who is also a volunteer for the benefit.

Reitz said it’s important for him to keep the benefit alive because then he thinks his mother’s spirit stays alive.He is now registering the benefit as a not-for-profit organization.

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