Vee Vee Majesty, a professional drag queen, arrives at Open Works on Greenmount Avenue for her 10:30 a.m. Drag Story Hour performance. The story hour is part of the Made with PRIDE Maker Market that Open Works is hosting in honor of Pride Month. This is her third story hour for kids, events that have brought her back to why she loves drag in the first place: making safe spaces and building community. Vee Vee has embraced her culture, her queerness and her religion through drag.

Vee Vee is adamant there is a difference between a drag story hour for children and a full-on drag show for adults, referencing the anger surrounding events that have led to protests, such as one at the Church on The Square in Canton in January.

“I’m an adult; I know context. ... I can be a sexy diva at night and then during the day be a family-friendly fairy princess goddess. Both can be true, both can exist,” said Vee Vee, whose legal name is William Magaña. (Vee Vee uses she/her pronouns in drag, and they/them pronouns out of drag.)

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Vee Vee smiles as she puts on her accessories before her performance of Drag Story Hour at the Made with PRIDE Maker Market at Open Works on June 10, 2023. (Marie Machin/The Baltimore Banner)
Darlene, Vee Vee's little sister, helps her into her heels before her performance of Drag Story Hour at Open Works on Saturday June 10, 2023. (Marie Machin/The Baltimore Banner)
Vee Vee ties a faux ponytail to her hair before her performance of Drag Story Hour at the Made with PRIDE Maker Market at Open Works on June 10, 2023. (Marie Machin/The Baltimore Banner)

Vee Vee stares intently at her phone, using the camera as a tiny mirror while she adjusts false lashes to glue on the layers of makeup she wears for her drag performances. She said a lot of drag is about hiding, or putting some glitter over a mistake. There is a tiny heart painted on the tip of her nose, adding to her playful persona for story hour.

“My favorite aspect of this whole process is the transformation,” Vee Vee said. “For me, it’s fun because I was never a technical artist … but I had an artist mindset so I’m glad that I found my canvas, and my canvas is technically myself. I can just draw on myself and become a different being: ‘Miss Majesty.’”

Vee Vee pulls on her accessories and many layers of clothes out of her suitcase. She’s a modern day Mary Poppins: Her bag seems endlessly full of wigs, makeup and books. The outfits she wears are a reflection of her Salvadoran culture, and a lot of the songs she performs with are in Spanish. Vee Vee said she rejected her religion and culture for a long time because she felt they told her that she couldn’t be who she truly wanted to be.

“I grew out of it and I realized that it wasn’t the culture that was telling me that, it was people within the culture telling me that. And that the culture itself is actually really beautiful, and through drag I’ve actually learned to embrace my Latina-ness,” she said.

Vee Vee said there’s a stigma for people of color against any type of queerness. “When I grew up, I wish I had seen somebody like me ... to let me know that it’s okay for me to be from El Salvador and for me to be able to do this. That’s why I always bring up that I’m Latina regardless of where I am, because it’s important.”

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Forty minutes fly by, and she has transformed into her drag persona: Vee Vee Majesty. Once outside, she notices there’s only one child in the audience so far. Vee Vee is unfazed. “It’ll be an audience of one, and she’s gonna get the best story hour,” she said.

Viewers at the Drag Story Hour held at Open Works on Saturday, June 10, 2023, watch as Vee Vee Majesty reads, "Rosie Revere, Engineer" by Andrea Beaty.
Viewers at the Drag Story Hour held at Open Works on Saturday, June 10, 2023, watch as Vee Vee Majesty reads, “Rosie Revere, Engineer” by Andrea Beaty. (Marie Machin/The Baltimore Banner)
Will Holman and his 4-year-old daughter Annie, alongside Laura Cohen and her 5-year-old son Leo, applaud as Vee Vee Majesty reads for Drag Story Hour, held at Open Works on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Marie Machin/The Baltimore Banner)

Vee Vee takes the mic and enthusiastically wishes everyone a happy Pride. Before she begins reading, she touches on the controversy surrounding drag story hour.

“This isn’t me trying to groom anyone. This isn’t me trying to harm anyone. There are a lot of issues that come from being marginalized, and it is so important now more than ever that we stand together, we stand for community, and we stand for what we believe in. I believe in the expression of our authenticity without any” backlash, she said.

As adults and children gather in the parking lot, Vee Vee reads two stories: “’Twas the Night Before Pride’' by Joanna McClintick and “Rosie Revere, Engineer” by Andrea Beaty. As soon as she’s finished, a few people in the crowd rush up to meet Vee Vee. They want to hug her, talk to her, take their photo together. She looks like a celebrity.

Will Holman, executive director of Open Works, brought his two daughters, Annie, 4, and Eliza, 2. “There’s a rich history with queer people being makers and creators of all kinds, and we want to embrace and support that here at Open Works. Almost 30% of our staff is LGBTQIA identifying, and it’s important that we show support and love for our staff community today.”

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Another parent, Laura Cohen, who also works at Open Works, brought her husband Ryan and their son Leo, 5, to the event. Cohen said she wanted to come to expose their child to different ways of being in the world, especially when it comes to queerness and exploring gender identity. “We want to our son to be able to celebrate everybody and then celebrate that in himself, if that’s what he figures out,” she said.

Andie Yeager, a nonbinary single parent, shares a similar sentiment about bringing their daughter, Violet, 6, to the performance. “I want my kid to understand inclusivity from all angles, whether that’s a drag queen, or someone that holds a different belief system from us, or someone that may dress or identify differently,” they said. Violet said her favorite drag queen is Katya Zamolodchikova, from the TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” “She’s funny!” She adds that Vee Vee wears her favorite colors: black and red.

Vee Vee takes photos with fans, but has to leave soon; she has another reading in Washington, D.C., at 12:30 p.m. that day. Despite the time crunch, Vee Vee takes the time to show fans she loves them back.

Vee Vee quickly pulls the heels off her feet. She rushes back to the lounge to throw her belongings into the suitcase, and her sister goes to start the car out front. In the parking lot, Vee Vee waves to her supporters and, although she’s rushed, she looks happy. All these people came to see her, and she came to see them. She’d love to stay, but the show must go on.

Marie Machin is a local photographer based in Baltimore, Maryland. She specializes in analog photography and has frequently freelanced for Baltimore-based publications over a decade. She especially enjoys covering anything focusing on human interest.