BY STETSON UNIVERSITY’S INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM CLASS
Start from a talent show, add a wicked acronym, step into the light … ”GO FOR IT!”
Kirk T. DaVinci, a former Mr. DeLand Pride and current co-host of the weekly drag show at Cafe DaVinci in DeLand, said he is an entertainer first and foremost.
“I believe it is God’s gift that he gave me to make people laugh, make people have a good time,” DaVinci said.
The 15-year veteran of the drag scene, who currently presides over DeLand’s most popular drag night, began as a Jehovah’s Witness from the Windy City of Chicago, and fell in love with the laughter of others.
He now works as a comedian, singer, emcee, host, poet, playwright and actor who travels across Florida, and to Georgia, Chicago and many other places to entertain the masses.
“When I make people laugh, I am able to just be comfortable in my skin, with who I am now,” DaVinci said.
Drag allowed him to become himself, he said.
“It helped me remain who I am, and enjoy who I am as a person,” DaVinci said. “And it’s fun. It’s so much fun.”
Even growing up in a strict religious environment, DaVinci was always a performer.
“I’ve always wanted to be in the limelight. Always,” DaVinci said. “As a Jehovah Witness — even with that — I wanted to be the brightest and smartest and the most-seen Jehovah’s Witness there was.”
It wasn’t always easy for others to understand his work. Especially for those closest to him.
“My family just recently started appreciating what I did,” DaVinci said.
His family members are mostly Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“It’s a very strict, strict religious organization, so for them, for me to depart from that … ,” DaVinci said. “I enjoy what I’m doing in my life now. And it took them a while to adjust to it, but they did eventually come around.”
What changed their minds?
At the first show his mom ever went to, he performed her favorite song, “So Amazing,” by Luther Vandross.
“She cried. She could not stop crying. Because a lot of people say I look like Luther Vandross. So when I was at their performance, she was like, it was like she was at a Luther concert. And for her to see me pay tribute to him, it just continuously made her cry. And she was happy for me ever since then.”
There were a lot of misconceptions about drag, he said.
“A lot of times people think, Oh, he wants to be a woman. No, that’s not the case at all. Just because you want to do drag does not mean you want to be a woman,” DaVinci said with a laugh. “It just means you enjoy encompassing that illusion of doing the female illusion. To enjoy that and just bring entertainment. Because that’s honestly what drag is — it’s entertainment.”
And don’t let him fool you; it ain’t easy.
“Drag is hard work. Not everyone can do it. It’s a job,” DaVinci explained. “There is a lot of planning and preparation that falls into putting on a successful performance.” He added, “You have to find the right outfit for the right song for the right crowd.”
On top of that, DaVinci, although he represents DeLand, often finds himself getting booked for gigs that are drives or flights away.
“I’ve been doing this for almost 15 years. So it’s not something that came to me right away. You have to grow with it,” DaVinci said.
And what’s the future for Kirk?
“It’s always my dream to work with Tyler Perry. That’s my No. 1 goal right now,” DaVinci said.
DaVinci said there are an abundance of misconceptions about the drag industry, despite mainstream popularity.
You can see DaVinci every Tuesday and ask him yourself.
“The cast we have at DaVinci’s, any of us, you can come on to ask any of us questions, and we 100 percent are free to answer any and everything,” DaVinci said.
Don’t be afraid to ask, he said.
“It took me a while to learn a lot of things, especially nowadays with the different pronouns and the verbiage and everything with that,” DaVinci said. “I’m respect on all levels.”