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As COVID-19 restrictions lift, performers in Buffalo predicting "Drag Renaissance"

Matthew Groth transforms into Daphne W. York, a drag persona
Posted at 5:00 AM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-22 12:07:48-04

WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WKBW) — It’s about a two-hour process that involves glue, precise makeup, a quick spritz and a wig. That’s how Matthew Groth turns into his drag queen persona Daphne W. York.

“I’m a personality, that’s who I am. I started drag in Buffalo, I’m from Syracuse, but my career has blossomed and taken off here," said Groth.

Groth performs and hosts shows locally. He says living a double life is fun and necessary if you want to be a drag performer WNY.

Daphne York hosted North Tonawanda's first Pride event
Daphne York hosted North Tonawanda's first Pride event

“Doing drag full time here is near impossible, there’s just not enough space, there’s not enough opportunity, there’s not enough audience to support a full time drag career, so you know I have my modest 9-5," said Groth.

Groth turned to drag after graduating with a degree in psychology from the University at Buffalo.

“I wanted to be a therapist, I wanted to help other people, to be someone for someone else, for that gay boy at the club, being someone that I didn’t have growing up. Drag is my therapy and it became a passion," said Groth.

But what do you do when a pandemic puts your passion on pause.

“You have to take into consideration what drag means to you and what extent are you going to go to in a world that’s not letting that happen," said Groth.

Which meant Groth had to put Daphne away for a while, with no performances and not even getting dressed in drag from March 2020 through December 2020.

But then came June and things completely turned around.

“This month is the first month where everyone is doing shows again and we’re so booked, it feels like a drag renaissance," said Groth.

With COVID-19 restrictions lifting and the extra boost of visibility that comes with pride month— Groth is seeing new opportunities for local performers.

York says June is paving the way for a 'drag renaissance'
York says June is paving the way for a 'drag renaissance'

“It’s optimistic, I have missed having my shows, I had my first show for the North Tonawanda pride event, there’s a lot of new restaurants reaching out to queens and I was kind of blown away," said Groth.

And with more venues, comes new drag performers, changing the landscape of drag performance in WNY.

“There’s so much boom happening right now, there’s just a bunch of talent here that deserves a platform. You can go to a lot of other cities and it’s not as grand or diverse as the Buffalo drag scene is," said Groth.