HOUSTON IN 2020: SELF-EMPLOYED BLACK ARTISTS
THE DRAG QUEEN
Just being an artist and having the self-preservation to continue doing your art in this time of struggle and using that and not succumbing to giving up and doing something else is a feat within itself. It is definitely something to be said about an artist in his own element doing his own craft and showcasing it. That, in itself, is a feat, especially in this day and age.
Photo © Amy C. Evans, 2020
CHLOÉ CRAWFORD-ROSS was born in New York. When she was thirteen, she followed her family to Houston and, as if that weren’t enough of a transition, she also came out to her parents.
Growing up in a boy’s body, Chloé knew she was different from her brothers, preferring to stay inside when they were outside playing sports. Chloé was also obsessed with fashion, holding two jobs during high school to be able to support her passion.
That passion inspired Chloé to enroll at the Art Institute of Houston, where she
she planned to declare fashion as her major. But Chloé’s father suggested that it might be too hard to break into such a competitive industry and to consider a straight-up business degree instead. That’s exactly what she did.
In 2009, while watching the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Chloé judged the contestants from her living room, admiring their costumes, critiquing their performances, and telling herself, “I can do that.” And that’s exactly what she did.
Her first night in drag, walking around Montrose, Chloé caught the eye of a performer who recruited her for a show on the spot. She couldn’t believe it but, of course, she got to work. Chloé found the perfect outfit and chose the perfect song: “Love Without A Limit” by Mary J. Blige. Her first time on stage was at Bayou City (now Buddy’s) in Montrose, and it set Chloé on a path to becoming one of Houston’s most celebrated performers. “It was a nerve-wracking experience, but it was just very exhilarating,” she recalled in her 2020 interview. “I was hooked.”
As Chloé began developing her drag persona, she also started to think about her stage name. She began performing as Chloé Taylor but, as she gained more experience and learned from other entertainers, she adopted their last names as a sign of respect. Aria Crawford took Chloé under her wing and taught her some of the practical elements of being a successful entertainer. Tommie Ross, a legend in drag circles and role model for the transgender community, was one of Chloé's biggest inspirations. One fateful night, after seeing Chloé perform on stage, Ms. Ross invited Chloé to be her drag daughter. To honor her two mentors, Chloé Taylor transitioned into Chloé Crawford-Ross.
In March 2020, Chloé embarked on her most profound transition: to live as a woman. She had barely just begun hormone therapy when Covid-19 changed everything. With the stress of lockdowns, trying to maintain an income, and navigating this new pandemic life, it took Chloé a little while to be able to share the news of her transition with her family. As soon as she did, she had their full support. “Their love is my shield,” Chloé says proudly. But even with her family’s love to protect her, figuring out how to get through the pandemic while transitioning was something that Chloé wasn’t quite sure how to do. But, like so many, she made a way out of no way and embraced every opportunity.
When the pandemic hit, Chloé's day job was doing marketing and PR for JR’s Bar & Grill and acting as show director for Bar Boheme, both popular drag performance spaces in the Montrose neighborhood. A longtime fan of music videos and video production, it didn’t take long for Chloé to make the switch to virtual—as a booking agent or performer—and the drag community wasn’t far behind. Chloé performed in weekly virtual shows hosted online, as well as socially-distanced drive-in drag shows. She commissioned highly-produced videos of her own and even made time to do a get-out-the-vote promotion in advance of the 2020 presidential election. Chloé collected tips via Cash App and promoted the heck out of every show, repeating her personal mantra all the while: “If I win, we all win.”
By October 2021, Chloé had received an award for “Best Digital Drag Show” from OutSmart magazine, welcomed a bevy of new fans, and completed her transition. “Just being able to finally live my truth was the joy [of the pandemic],” Chloé shared in her 2021 follow-up interview. “Something that I have learned since Covid is basically taking it day by day,” she went on to say. “Because each day is different. Covid kind of changed things. Some things that I thought that were important then aren't necessarily that important now.”
When Chloé’s winning, we all win.