“… a walking history lesson in heels.”
Originally hailing from just outside of Dollywood in rural East Tennessee, Dr. Lady J (known outside of drag as Jeremiah Davenport)holds a doctorate in Musicology from Case Western Reserve University and is the world’s first drag queen with a PhD dissertation on drag history, a working drag queen whose research and educational outreach focus on obliterating the erasures of queer performance from history and bringing forward the contributions drag performers have made to politics, music, film, fashion, and popular culture. Her dissertation "From the Love Ball to RuPaul: The Mainstreaming of Drag in the 1990s" has now reached over 1000 downloads and is available for free digital download HERE. (At the bottom of the page under the heading "Files" click “Download”)
Lady J’s performances have included everything from an enormous trash heap puppet, the severing of heads, transformations resulting from radioactive injections, and historical queer monologues woven into tales of communal queer love and history. At her core, Lady J is a storyteller who transports her audience to another time, place, or dimension with each performance, vacillating between extreme personas, reflecting her own experience living with bipolar disorder. In her performance of “Sick Like Me” she trounces the stage and pounds her neon-scale-covered chest with a gnarly toothed mask that covers the lower half of her face, enormous prosthetic monster hands clawing at the audience’s tips after lipsyncing “I ain’t no fucking clown!” while her second number features a neon strip tease from an oversexualized masturbatory clown in her performance of The Divinyls “I Touch Myself.”
Lady J's career as a drag performer led her to become the first drag queen to perform representing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at Cleveland Pride in 2017, as well as the Drag Queen Coordinator and one of three selected drag performers for the Gay Games IX Opening Ceremonies, a selected entertainer for the Ohio Burlesque Festival for 2015, 2016, and 2017, and headlined the 2018 Austin International Drag Festival. Before leaving the world of academia she even sat on the American Musicological Society National LGBTQ Study Group board for three years, and her review of Gillian Roger’s Just One of The Boys: Male Impersonation on the 19th-Century Stage will be published in the Journal of the American Musicological Society in December of 2019.
… Drag speaks as nimbly of race, class, style,
politics, and subcultural aesthetics as it does about the gendered body.
- Dr. Lady J
Lady J has also sought to bring the nightlife scene and academic worlds together through workshops on makeup and performance as well as lecturing on drag history at CWRU's Musicology Colloquium Series, Spectrum's In (Queer)ies Series, the Western Reserve Historical Society (where she also displayed one of her costumes) and her own Rock and Roll History courses (taught in varying degrees of costuming) where she uncovered hidden queer musical histories and how they intertwine with and influence more mainstream rock artists. She also spoke about her drag research and how "VH1 made her gay" at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for PopCon in 2013. Lady J currently serves as the Official Drag Historian for the Austin International Drag Festival. Her podcast exploring the history of drag, entitled Untucking the Past, is currently in production so stay tuned for updates!