The Sweet Smell of Ba’Naka
Dustin Michael Schaad developed his drag alter ego Ba'Naka early.
"The first time was at a high school party," explains Schaad, who grew up mostly in Bradenton, Fla. "After a long night of cheap beer and nachos, my friends and I decided to get dressed up in drag and go to the local Walmart at 3 in the morning. Apparently I was a mess, and my girlfriend said, 'Ew, honey, you need some Binaca,'" referring to the alcohol-based breath spray.
A little dramatic spelling alteration later, and a drag name was spritzed right on the tongue -- along with the requirement for a ready supply of breath spray: "You should not be named after a breath spray and have horrible breath," teases Ba'Naka, while conceding she uses anything but Binaca. "Oh my God, no, it's horrible."
On the encouragement of a lesbian aunt who then lived in the D.C. area, Schaad moved north directly after high school. He got a job immediately at Universal Gear. "Name a position at Universal Gear and I've done it," the 28-year-old says. "I worked my way up from basically being a sales girl to being an assistant buyer." Schaad still works as a part-time manager at Universal Gear, but the past several years his main job has been nightclub work as Ba'Naka.
Surely by now you've caught wind of Ba'Naka. Monday nights the drag queen is at Number Nine, where she hosts the city's official viewing party for RuPaul's Drag Race. On Wednesday nights for the next couple months Ba'Naka is at JR.'s for the drag-transformation contest called "The Queen."
"We don't take little sissy boys, we take some big rough-and-tumble dudes and make them into ladies," explains Ba'Naka. "And let me tell you, putting them in tiaras and pretty wigs and lip gloss is kind of hysterical [and] no easy feat. Some of these guys can't even shave properly." Each week the winning dude-cum-lady earns $200, and advances to compete in a finale at Cobalt where top prize is $1,000.
Ba'Naka's also a judge and performer for Town Danceboutique's first-Friday-of-the-month event So You Think You're A Drag Queen?
"I think it's a good twist on a classic amateur drag show," she says. "It's not like [contestants] lip-sync and the audience applauds. We really make them jump through hoops."
Ba'Naka's also always part of every drag show at Town, where she's billed as the Punk Princess. Ba'Naka says it's a name that fits. "I don't believe in the traditional girly girl aesthetic that most drag queens follow. I like to get a little messy," she says. "I'm sort-of a Kesha-meets-Britney Spears-meets-Courtney Love party girl." In fact, soon after she moved to D.C. the manager at an old venue "wouldn't even let me touch the stage until I had at least three shots in me." Since then, "I've learned that it's best to go on stage stone sober, [especially since] I do acrobatics in my routine. I don't recommend doing flips at 200-plus pounds if you've got liquor in you."
But after her performance? "Afterwards, I'm going to party. You will find me on the dance floor dancing, doing shots with the customers, telling stories."
In addition to regular weekly gigs, the next So You Think You're A Drag Queen? event is Friday, May 3, starting at 10:30 p.m., at Town Danceboutique, 2009 8th NW. Cover is $5 before 11 p.m. Call 202-234-TOWN or visit towndc.com or facebook.com/BaNaka.