Always bringing something new and exciting to the stage, the DC Kings have been entertaining audiences all over the Washington, D.C. area since March 2000. Starting small but steadily growing, the troupe has now been home to over 500 drag kings over the past 15 years. Running at least one show per month and 180 consecutive months, the DC Kings is the longest running drag king troupe in the world.
Founder Kendra Kuliga, better known as Ken Vegas, originally began kinging in 1996 on a dare. “I was doing all of these things since I was 14 years old, when I would make videos of myself performing to Erasure, Depeche Mode, Prince, and Morrissey in my bedroom,” explains Kuliga, “So this was the next step to try it in public.”
After taking home the crown on his first time out, he was immediately addicted and went on performing solo for the next three and a half years.
It was not until 1999 that Carlos Aguilar, owner of Club Chaos, saw him performing on a Pride stage and approached him about putting together an all drag king performance at his club. Since drag kings were fewer and far between, Kuliga decided to set up a Drag King Contest at Club Chaos in October 1999 to get the word out. Shortly after, the first DC Kings show was held at Club Chaos on March 1, 2000.
Many may wonder how the troupe has been able to stay so strong for 15 years. According to Kuliga, the key is that they are constantly improving themselves. The DC Kings have monthly meetings to not just talk about venues, tips, and performances, but to make sure they always stay supportive of each of its members.
“We have had to address series topics of racism, sexism, class, trans [issues], ageism, sizeism, and bullying within our own community and group,” says Kuliga. “We have had to address series topics of racism, sexism, class, trans [issues], ageism, sizeism, and bullying within our own community and group,” says Kuliga. “These issues have definitely affected the kinds of performances that we put on stage. The more educated that we became, the more obvious it was on what sort of performances were offensive and insensitive to members of our community. The goal is to entertain and challenge ourselves to become better examples of our community.”
The DC Kings have also stayed strong by keeping one goal in mind at all times. “We have a motto that we live by to this day and that is for all kings to be ‘Respectful and supportive to each other’. It is amazing that two simple words— respect and support—can help resolve any conflicts within the group.”
Despite the temporary closing of Phase 1, the DC Kings have continued their performances all over the area. Their DC Kings 15th Anniversary Show takes place March 20 at The Lodge in Boonsboro, MD.
“When the Phase closed, we had a DC King meeting and the question was asked: ‘What does this group mean to us as a whole?’ and the answer was community,” says Kuliga. “More than a stage to perform or an audience to perform in front of, we have a community of folks who love us for who we are with no judgment or limitations. For a lot of us, this is the closest to a real family that we have ever known.”
The DC Kings still intend to keep going strong. They are currently working with the DC Gurly Show to help continue the monthly SCANDAL party.
Their anniversary show is March 20 at The Lodge located at 21614 National Pike, Boonsboro, MD. For more information, visit their website at www.dckings.com.