BY KAYLEE DUFF
(Photos courtesy of Tony Bunch)
The Rubi Girls will be taking the Drag Stage by storm at Stonewall Columbus Pride. They’ll be hosting the Amateur Drag Pageant on Friday, June 15, and performing a special set on Saturday, June 16.
The Rubi Girls are a dynamic drag group out of Dayton, Ohio. They’re most well-known for their hilarious, charity-focused performances — and for a good reason. Started in 1984, on Rubicon Street (that’s where “Rubi” comes from!), The Rubi Girls have been raising money for HIV and gay-related charities for over 30 years.
“It was initially just for laughs. It was just a bunch of friends doing it in attics and living rooms and whatnot,” said Jonathan McNeal, a long-time member of the group. “It kind of evolved once they found out there was such a demand for shows, and people having so much fun. They realized that money could be made, but they didn’t want to keep it.”
Joshua Stucky, one of the original girls, explained that the HIV crisis was the tipping point for bringing their shows to the area. It was (and is still) something that affected the community, so they decided to give back in the way they knew best.
“I think people forget that this HIV crisis is still alive and well, and doing what it’s doing. We don’t want to give up until the HIV thing is over,” Joshua went on. “People who are still going through this, that remind us that this isn’t over, are our inspiration.”
The Rubi Girls will be participating in the Pride Parade on Saturday, as well as hosting the Amateur Drag Contest throughout the weekend. Columbus Pride “is an opportunity for us to spread our word and spread the mission of the group,” Jonathan said. “People really see the synergie happening on stage, and want to be a part of it.”
He continued: “We often do crowd participatory kind of things as well. Taking that to a stage that’s as big as Columbus, which is such a huge event — we’re really excited about it.”
The Rubi Girls are special because their mission and their humor allows them to be successful. With a mission as heavy as raising money for HIV and AIDS charities, it can be hard to find a balance — and The Rubi Girls “do it through laughter.”
“Different drag performers have different reasons for performing,” Jonathan added. “We find the best results of connecting with a crowd through laughter and through the camaraderie of the group.”
It really is the camaraderie that makes The Rubi Girls stand out. They’re more like an immense family than a troupe, Josh admitted, “and it doesn’t have so much to do with drag as it has to do with inclusion.”
Drag has become more popular in the mainstream, thanks to the hit TV show, RuPaul’s Drag Race. With that newfound popularity comes ideas about what drag “needs” to be. (And that’s not to necessarily drag RuPaul. It’s just a known consequence of things entering the mainstream.)
But for The Rubi Girls, it really is all about inclusion.
According to Jonathan, “For us, drag doesn’t have to be men dressing as women. It doesn’t have to be glamorous. We do a lot of male parts in our shows, as well. It doesn’t have to be so much about gender as it is about expression and being able to be something that you’re usually not.”
Drag becoming more known and accepted isn’t all bad, though. It also means the youth is being exposed to different identities and expressions. “Instead of [drag] being taboo and kind of on the edge, we get to meet up with kids and families and parents,” Josh admitted. “This celebrity status has gone beyond doing drag into being ambassadors for the gay community, and it’s been really cool to see this happen.”
The Rubi Girls will be hosting the Amateur Drag Contest at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 15. At noon on Saturday, June 16, they’ll perform a special, thirty-minute set. Both will take place on the Drag Stage. They’ll also be walking and driving their RV in the Parade, which kicks-off at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Can’t make it to Columbus Pride? Can’t get enough of The Rubi Girls and need to see more? They’ll be taking their show to Pride in Yellow Springs, Ohio, on Saturday, June 30. There will be a FREE screening of The Rubi Girls documentary at Little Art at 6 p.m. (directly following the parade), and a special 10 p.m. Pride show at Peaches. You definitely won’t want to miss it!
For more information on The Rubi Girls and their mission, visit their brand-new website or check out their Facebook. Stonewall Columbus Pride’s website has more details on all of their performers plus the full entertainment schedule.
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