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Saturday April 19th 2014

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Coffee Talk with Lauren Mitchell

By Hana Frenette

Lauren Mitchell is seated across from me at Starbucks with her hair pulled back, glasses on and no makeup. She is the epitome of relaxed with an oversized shirt, loose fitting shorts and flips flops. There are no fake eyelashes grazing her cheeks or glitter falling from her hair. Mitchell is one of the area’s most recognizable performers but she doesn’t feel the need to take her persona from the stage to the street.

“Offstage and in regular life, I’m such an introvert,” Mitchell said. “I’m not up in the mall with my big wig on and my gowns, screaming for attention.”

Not that Mitchell would ever have to scream for attention. Her 6-foot-2-inch frame plus heels demands it.

“The first time I ever did a show in drag with in high school, for a ‘Miss Ugly Contest,’” Mitchell said.

After that, while living in Gainesville, Fla., one of Mitchell’s friends who worked at a club had the idea to put Mitchell in drag and have her be in one of the drag show performances.

“They had me in a big blonde wig and a bathing suit, heels and some little sequin belt—it was the ‘80s so you couldn’t forget the sequins,” Mitchell said. “Nervousness was beforehand, then once you’re on stage it’s like—ta-dah!”

Shortly after her first performance at the club in Gainesville, a friend of Mitchell’s needed a ride home to Pensacola. Mitchell gave the ride and just never left. After working at several bars and clubs, Mitchell landed a job at The Office, which is now Emerald City, and has been there ever since. She’s in charge of setting up drag shows and parties and for planning events throughout the year for major holidays and parties.

Being a successful drag queen isn’t just about the wardrobe and the makeup, although those two things are obviously very important. It’s just like any other element of show business.

“You have to have everything,” Mitchell said. “Throughout the years a lot of girls have tried and not been able to make it because they think it’s just a party and all it takes is to be pretty on stage—you’ve got to have personality. A lot of it.”

Many of the girls at Emerald City are dancers, while others have perfected various personas based on a variety of famous women, like Mary J. Blige or Diana Ross.

“I’m not really a dancer, I’m a performer,” Mitchell said. “I can make it look like I’m dancing—I’m just getting too old for all that, I’ll break a hip!”

Mitchell has been in the business for over 20 years. Her career has always taken place in the South and she has a very relaxed understanding of the way people react to her.

“If someone calls me sir or ma’am, they’re just trying to be polite, and that’s what I’ve learned about being in the South,” Mitchell said. “I just go with whichever one they say.”

Whether she’s grocery shopping, or at a Starbucks or a Chick-fil-A here in town, Mitchell said she’s always been treated with respect, and it’s because she represents herself in a respectful manner.

“If you just let the person call you by what they perceive you to be, you get a lot more acceptance, because their perception isn’t being challenged,” Mitchell said. “If someone just presents themselves with a little bit of class, it will take you a long way.”

Throughout the course of our interview, half a dozen people stop by our table to say hello to Mitchell and ask her how the shows are going or what she’s been up to lately and what she’s been planning. She responds in a personable, light-hearted way to each inquiry and it is clear that she is not only well respected as a performer, but well-liked as a person. The South is her home and she’s good at what she does. No ifs, ands, or butt implants about it.

Lauren will host Beach Bingo from 6-8 p.m. on Friday at The Other Side. Along with EC’s team of entertainers, Lauren will also take the stage for spotlight performances throughout the weekend, and during The Jewels of the Emerald Coast shows scheduled for at 11:30 p.m. Monday and 1 a.m. Monday night/Tuesday morning during EC’s Drink and Drown party. And, for those who would like a chance to say hello, Lauren will also be a Feature Bartender at EC’s front bar during the weekend’s multiple parties.

Additional info: emeraldcitypensacola.com

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