BY JEFF SKINNER a.k.a. JENNIFER LYNN ALI
As I sit here and think about my first Drag Talk column, I find myself thinking about it being Tuesday.
Tuesdays on social media are often known as #TransformationTuesday, where you share photos of you from the past and the present. You talk about your growth. So here’s a bit of an intro to me, through my transformation and growth.
I was born Jeffrey Skinner in Athens, Ohio. My mom and I moved to Marion, Ohio when I was eight, where I went to Marion City Schools. I was known as a shy quiet boy in grade school and sometimes that caused others to bully me. My dad always repeated that old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” and that was definitely a motto I used.
Flash forward to the summer before I started high school. I was riding my bike with my headphones in, listening to music. I got emotional because I knew I was different, but I was so afraid to come out and say that I was different. I continued to think about my life and my future — and that day was the day I decided it was time for me to be honest with myself and others. So I came out as Gay.
Going into high school, I was open and honest about being Gay. A lot of my classmates didn’t understand, and some of them judged me and didn’t want to be around me. I can recall one of my classmates saying, “Don’t talk to me; you’re gay.” That really hurt me. But I didn’t let that bring me down. Instead, I made sure I was visible and energetic. I was involved with musical theatre, and even got to do hair and makeup for the musicals I wasn’t in. By the time I graduated, I had so many friends I had the largest prom picture in school!
After high school, I started working at a Goodwill. I worked there for 4 years, first as a cashier and later as manager. When I moved to Columbus, that’s when I started to get into drag. I used to buy a lot of my outfits from Goodwill.
After living in Columbus for a year, I decided I wanted to try something new. I started working at an all-male gym, also known as a “bathhouse.” Working there was very interesting. They were actually the first place to give me my own drag show. I like to joke with my friends and say I have something in common with Bette Midler: We both started our careers at bathhouses!
At the beginning of my drag career, I liked doing open stage shows and doing contests. I absolutely fell in love with pageantry. I started volunteering for pageants. I got to help behind the scenes at Miss Gay Ohio USofA, Miss Ohio
Gay Pride, and Miss Gay Ohio America, my favorite pageant system. I even got to volunteer at Miss Gay America!
I was so in love with the America system that I competed for them in 2017. I placed sixth at Miss Ohio America. I needed to get more practice competing, so I went for Miss Southbend. I walked in and saw the competition, but I couldn’t let that scare me. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it.
And I did it! I won Miss Southbend. My reign as Miss Southbend started in January. Now, I am more than halfway through my reign and every second has been amazing.
Being a female impersonator has truly changed my life for the better. I have a voice and I inspire others to do what they love.
Laughter & Love,
Jennifer Lynn Ali
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