Styler and Jax: Drag is art


Styler Ells and Jax Nelson are side-by-side, sharing the space in their small bathroom. Styler dips a brush into a makeup container. Jax is working on the contour on his face. “Drag is art,” says Jax, “everybody has their own different style, which is amazing. Some people love it, some people don’t, but it’s your art.”

The pair are ‘drag kings’. A drag king is someone who poses as a male entertainer, whereas drag queens perform as females. As the drag community grows, so do the types of performances. “Drag used to be so binary,” says Styler, “you were either a drag king or a drag queen… and now I feel like drag is really any way that you want to express your art. It’s just this amazing exploration of self.”

Styler used to do drag years ago, but revisited the art form again two years ago, when their youngest child came out as queer. With two children in the LGBTQ+ community, “I thought, you know, this might be the time for me to get back into the community and really try to start making an impact.” Styler has been extremely supportive of their kids, just as their parents were. “I had amazing parents, when I told them I was gay my mom was like ‘it’s about time’.”They’ve been performing as Styler since they started drag, but recently started going as Styler as their out-of-drag persona as well. “I’ve been going through an identity crisis,” Styler laughs, “I do identify as non-binary, so I feel like I’m experiencing an intertwining right now, of my drag persona and my real-life persona.”

Styler Ells

Jax’s experience has been different. “I started off very angry in my drag. I was going through a time of identifying.” When Jax first started drag, he still went by his name assigned at birth - Jess. His drag name is Justin Time. “The more I got into drag the more I buried those feelings from when I was 7 and I wanted to be a boy.” Those feelings recently boiled up again and Jax came out as trans about a year and a half ago. Coming from a religious household made coming out difficult. “[my family] had a hard time with the gay part, but coming out as trans it was not okay. I don’t really talk to them anymore.” Since coming out, Jax’s drag is now more campy and funny. “I think it’s because I finally realized who I am.”

Jax Nelson

We walk out to the couple’s backyard, where there’s a large chicken coop, rabbits, two goats, and a pig. They feed the chicken’s a watermelon and we watch them feast. Styler laughs, “it seems very stereotypical doesn’t it, a bunch of queers living on a farm.” Jax laughs, “when I was little I always wanted a farm, I always loved animals… something about them, they don’t judge you.”

“Pride is really an opportunity for us as a community to come together and show solidarity for everyone, and that’s everyone who lives in that alphabet soup that we call the queer community,” says Styler, “and to keep an open mind because you have no idea what the person next to you has gone through or experienced and if we protect each other then we’re going to be solid.”