Grace Towers’ ButchQueen Pageant

Catch the 8th Installment of the Little Drag Pageant That Could (And Did)

Words by Kenshi Westover More! Flowers | Photos courtesy of Grace Towers and Sam Stoich

What first started 11 years ago on the tiny stage at the legendary SOMA bar, The Stud, as a fundraiser for the Movember campaign as a way to process their father surviving prostate cancer, Grace Towers has taken the ButchQueen Pageant all the way to the Castro Theatre after completely selling out the Victoria Theatre the time before.

Nine drag artists will take the stage to compete for the ButchQueen crown on Sunday, 

November 12th at 6pm at the iconic Castro Theatre.

Part of proceeds go towards funding the 2024 cycle for The Grace Towers Scholarship for the Arts and LGBTQIA youth mentorship and programming in collaboration with the non-profit, Queens of the Castro as well as the scholarship fund for Into the Woods, a campout providing opportunities for queers to be one with nature.

For tickets and more information, go to


First off, Grace, I love how you have helped expand the definition of drag out of conformity into a more fluid and open space, so thank you for that. 

Yeah, aboslutely, and I think highlighting that, especially being here in San Francisco, was a key part of celebrating the folks who were not necessarily just doing female impersonation. My drag has evolved and I wanted to share the stage with folks who either thought similarly or wanted to explore that kind of drag.  

And now ButchQueen is a drag residency, a 3-month artist residency that leads up to the show. We meet weekly as a group every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 12 to 5 where I work one-on-one with each individual contestant.  

Wait, so each contestant is an artist in residence?

Yes, for three months, leading up to the show. 

That sounds really intense.

It is! I ask a lot of these artists and I’m very upfront about that and I say, “You know, this is going to be very challenging. And I am ready to show up in the ways that I need to show up to 

support you through this journey. And know that I’m going to be putting just as much effort, if not more, than you so that we can make this a huge & successful endeavor for everybody involved.”

Part of the residency is really focused on collective knowledge. The idea that we are creating 

a baseline of knowledge that is informed by all of our individual knowledge and experience is really important. I think when we need to figure something out or problem-solve, when we can turn to one another, that collective baseline of knowledge just gets so much bigger and 

expansive than just asking one person. 

It’s such a big part of how we move through the residency because it’s very clear that only one person will be crowned ButchQueen, but you’re not in competition with each other. You’re really just in competition with yourself. 

I love that.

Another thing I really lean into is mentorship, allowing myself to share the knowledge that I have while allowing others to share anything that they feel would contribute to this process. Which all comes back to this very personal moment at a time when I found myself feeling not just alone in the world, but surrounded by people and feeling alone as a queer youth and thinking…I want to be that queer, that faggot that I needed at that stage for others.

Can you talk about some of the challenges around mentoring your residents? What does that ‘dance’ look like with all of the big personalities involved?

Yeah, well I think it’s super important to come from a place of generosity and to really check the ego. You know? It’s not an imposed generosity where I find myself in a hierarchical relationship and ‘I know more’ or ‘I know better.’ That is not the way. The way of offering and accepting 

generosity through mentorship is really about having clear communication. It’s really about 

calling people IN versus calling people OUT.  Allowing there to be movement and discussion and heart-centered relationships when conflict arises, when expectations are not met, and just being able to understand humanity, right? There’s this idea that just because I’ve been doing drag for 15 years that somehow I am…

The “expert!”

Exactly! And that is just not the case. I have folks in this cohort that are 21 years old who I am constantly learning from. I have folks who are my age, 38, who are fairly new to drag who I’m constantly learning from. It’s a really beautiful space to be in as a human and understand that we’re all in it together. There is collective knowledge to be shared. And sometimes that’s just, like, on day to day stuff that doesn’t necessarily have to deal with drag at all. Sometimes the best moments are just looking at each other and saying, “Hey, I know that your grandfather just passed away and I hope his memory is always a blessing. I appreciate you’re coming to 

rehearsal and putting it all out there because sometimes the only way to move through these moments in life is to create art and feel the connection to how you process these moments.