Local Drag Queen, Annie B. Frank – The RuPaul of Providence

In an ensemble of white on blue polka dots and ruby curls with an inflatable unicorn, local drag queen Annie B. Frank lit up EGO’s stage one recent Thursday night, lip-synching songs and telling jokes.

When Annie B. Frank isn’t decked out in fake lashes, over-lined lips and outrageous wigs (she’s got 20 of them), she goes by her “birth name” Logan Ward. Ward grew up in the D.C. area but today, at age 25, calls Providence home.  He discovered his drag persona two years ago during his senior year in the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University.

Ward says it all began when one of his friends performed in the JWU drag show several years ago and Ward was admittedly “jealous of the attention.”

Annie B. Frank

Annie B. Frank at EGO in PVD

“I just love being in the spotlight,” Ward disclosed. So, Annie B. Frank made her debut the next year at a star search contest held by local gay club EGO. And unlike the other contestants who stuck to lip-syncing songs, Ward – complete with her now one-of-a-kind oversized cardboard and glitter signature eyebrows (something other queens are now copying) – she won the heart of the judges with her stand-up comedy routine.

The self-titled “Jewish Drag Queen” draws on the work of old Jewish comedians to create an arsenal of jokes that are quick, dry and biting. Her schtick and outrageous personality has become so popular, she is now a regular host of the JWU drag show and at Providence Pride and the Foo Fest.

Annie also performs weekly and has quite the following at the club’s “Detention,” alongside fellow drag personas Complete Destruction, Kira Stone and Pulp.

With a stage personality that fills the corner of every room, Ward admits that deep inside, he is quite insecure.

“I talk a big game, but I’m so insecure,” Ward laughed. But “insecure” is the last word that comes to mind when Annie B. Frank struts on stage at EGO or grabs the microphone at a drag competition.

“I enjoy making people laugh,” says Ward. And that he does! As a Jewish drag queen, he can frequently be seen poking fun at his cultural identity. He also loves big hair, ‘80s women’s fashion and old-Hollywood glamour.

Nowadays, Annie’s performances include the conventional lip-synch-and-strut routine –  a mainstay in the drag world – laced with her acerbic wit. Recently, she waltzed onstage to the sound of wind chimes followed by the soundtrack to Disney’s Moana, swirling and lip-synching “How Far I’ll Go!”

Throwing off her secretarial pinstripe black dress to reveal a modest, blue 1950s one-piece bathing suit with white polka dots, she begins to mouth the words as she gracefully steps into a unicorn pool floaty that magically appears on stage. Using the horn as a microphone, Annie reenacts a familiar scene, that of a girl dancing around her bedroom with the door closed, singing along to her favorite song. Only this time, it’s a full-grown adult dressed in three pairs of tights and heavy makeup, dancing on a brightly lit stage in front of an adoring crowd.

Ward says he has been an avid fan of RuPaul since he was a young boy and is in training to compete on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” as early as next year.

Ward says that drag allows him to fully explore his self-expression and creativity, something he never had before he discovered his inner-queen. In fact, he never considered himself to be an artistic person, but drag changed that.

He points out that it isn’t just at these small venues that drag practices can be observed. Drag races have begun to gain popularity outside of clubs like EGO, and have even been prominently

Logan Ward, Ryan Welch & Titus

Logan Ward, Ryan Welch & Titus

featured in media coverage such as television and magazines, says Ward. He warns that its transition into “mainstream culture,” however, has a chance to “subvert drag’s once rebellious nature toward heteronormality.”

According to Ward, drag can elicit claims of many stereotypes and stigmas, but he chooses to laugh them all off. In fact, he says, he’s more likely to get harassed for being gay than he is for dressing in like a woman.

Ward came out his parents and friends at age 14 and, at 16, he purchased his first pair of women’s high-heel shoes at the local mall at its “buy one, get one” sale. It was such a kick when he put them on that he did cartwheels throughout the mall.

Ward says he fully intends to pursue his passion for drag and, with the support of his boyfriend and his family, is on his way to making it his full-time occupation.

On a recent Thursday night performance, Annie checks to see if there are any JWU students in the audience. There are. A number of them!

“I’m sure you’re going to do great in your fields, but $60,000 in debt and this is what I’m doing,” Annie quips.

Although Ward is quick to joke about the debt he’s in, he says he does not regret going to college. He has a bachelor’s degree and discovered his love for drag while in college, not to mention he met the love of his life.

In addition to hosting Detention Thursdays at EGO, he also works part-time at The Share Space, a vintage shop, doing its social media and event planning. It “helps to pay the rent” for the Providence apartment he shares with his boyfriend, Ryan Welch, and their dog, Titus Andromedon (name taken from the Netflix original series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt).

On a recent Thursday night, Welch stands in the center of the crowd, pushed up against the edge of the stage. He works as a professional photographer by day, and as a personal photographer for Annie by night.

Welch is into “club kid” makeup, a kind of over-the-top, out-of-the-box style first seen in the New York underground club culture in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Welch’s Instagram page acts as a diary of his makeup looks, many of which involve painting his entire face blue.

annie b 1While Ward refuses to let Welch paint Annie’s face (“what if he does my makeup and he’s better at it than me?”), Welch still occasionally participates in Annie’s performances. Ward recounts one performance where Annie lip-synched to “Wind Beneath my Wings” by Bette Midler. Ryan came on stage in club kid makeup (this time — a chiseled white and red look complete with rhinestones and a cardboard beard) with a bedazzled bucket of KFC perched on his head.

“I ate chicken wings on stage,” Annie laughs. “I’d rather do that than dance.”

In the midst of a performance, Annie pauses for a split second to smile at Ryan, who snaps a quick shot from the edge of the stage before collecting tips from the outstretched hands of audience members. Leaning up against a column, Welch looks amused and relaxed. He watches as Annie dashes across the stage and leaps onto the side railing for a dramatic Titanic moment, then returns to center stage to finish the number.

After the show, Annie slips onto the dancefloor wearing a fur coat over her bathing suit. She turns to someone in the crowd and asks: “How was it? Was the song choice too weird?”

It’s funny that she’s not afraid to be watched onstage by an audience that can climb into the hundreds under glaring lights in nothing but tights and a bathing suit. She’s doesn’t hesitate to cinch a corset tight enough to ensure a feminine waistline, yet she’s worried about the song she chose. It’s a reminder of Annie’s admitted insecurity and that even drag queens need reassurance, too.

By Kiera Beatty and Tristan Jeyaretnam through a course at Johnson & Wales, with instruction by Marian Gagnon.

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