Brandon’s Tonya Durant takes her drag craft in a new direction


BRANDON—Tonya Durant has built a devoted following as Anita Cocktail, the powerhouse momma hen to a big brood of drag performers in Rutland County. An unusual drag artist, Durant is a biological woman whose drag persona has also been female—until now. Meet King Cocktail, Durant’s latest incarnation—a bearded male—and the recent 1st Alternate winner in the National Bearded Emperor Pageant in Tampa, Florida earlier this month. The pageant was started 4 years ago to give bearded drag performers an opportunity to compete just like the female-presenting queens.

BRANDON’S KING COCKTAIL (aka Tonya Durant) out and proud at Rutland County Pride on Saturday, June 22. King was recently named 1st alternate in the National Bearded Emperor Pageant in Tampa, which marked his first pageant. Not bad! King performed for an enthusiastic crowd at the Pride event and can be seen regularly at Merchants Hall in Rutland with the rest of his talented crew.

The pageant was King Cocktail’s first public foray and Durant’s first pageant of any kind, making the runner-up win all the more remarkable. 

“I gathered up my nerve,” said Durant in a phone conversation. “I’d never been in a pageant or even to Florida. Being judged on a runway is really different than performing. I was definitely nervous. But it turned out to be amazing.”

King Cocktail presented three different looks during the pageant, all based on the myth of the phoenix, the legendary bird that sets itself on fire and rises reborn from its own ashes. 

“I’ve been knocked down but always come back bolder and stronger,” said Durant, explaining her choice of theme.

King Cocktail’s three looks were progressively complex, with the third look incorporating handmade wings with an 8-foot span. And Durant reckons she and her crew applied a total of 30,000 rhinestones to all three outfits. It took 2 to 3 months to create the looks. 

“I want to thank my crew: Gwendolyn Clawthorne, Damian Clawthorne, Hannah Book, Darcy Allen, Methadone Clinique, and my wife,” said Durant. She also wanted to thank the drag community and its supporters for their help in financing this project. A number of fundraisers and auctions were held in Rutland and netted over $7,000. 

“It was overwhelming getting that level of support. It got me crying—twice—and I don’t like that,” laughed Durant.

Now that Durant has debuted King Cocktail—he also performed at Rutland Pride on Saturday, June 22—there’s no slowing down. King Cocktail will perform again on July 13th at Merchants Hall in Rutland in an all-ages (kid-appropriate) Disney-themed drag show. King Cocktail will perform as the Big Bad Wolf and Prince Charming, among others.

But the National Bearded Emperor Pageant still beckons.

“It was a great experience with great performers,” said Durant. “I plan to go back next year and, by God, I’ll bring back the crown!”

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