'It Brings so Much Joy': Laveau Contraire Talks Drag Queen Storytime
Over the past five years, an unlikely venue has become one of drag queen Laveau Contraire’s favorite places to perform: the Library.
Contraire has been doing drag since 2015 and helped to host the New Orleans Public Library’s second-ever Drag Queen Storytime just two years later. With a degree in education, a passion for literacy, and a love of performing, Contraire called the opportunity “a no-brainer.”
“The first Drag Queen Storytime I ever did was at the [Cita Dennis] Hubbell Library, which is one of the oldest libraries in the city,” she said. “I had so much fun and I immediately knew I wanted to make it something I did regularly.”
Before she was a drag queen, Contraire taught music to elementary school students, so she knows how to lead a class, engage with kids, and keep their attention. Her storytimes include books, activities, music, and lots of fun.
At their core, Drag Queen Storytimes have the same goal as any other storytime – to introduce children to literacy from a young age and help them get ready to read.
“Literacy is so important,” Contraire said. “When we step into a book or into someone else’s shoes, we get to learn about how different the world can be. And, hopefully, by doing that we can embrace people whose experiences don’t match up with our own.”
Setting her storytimes apart from others is the added bonus of teaching kids about acceptance, visibility, and diversity.
“The idea that something like this could exist and be an example of living proudly, could be a beacon of hope to a young queer child who doesn’t see them self represented in the world around them,” she said.
And, she said, it’s just plain fun – regardless how the members of her audience identify.
“It brings so much joy! The parents come dressed up, the kids come dressed up, and we just have a great time reading books, and singing and dancing,” Contraire said.
On a personal level, she said partnering with the Library has been validating for herself as an educator, and as a queer person who grew up in a less open-minded world.
“It’s been amazing to see how much support there is from parents of all kinds, and I think that’s what warmed my heart the most,” she said. “And, everyone at every Library I’ve been to has been super sweet to me and treated me like the queen I think I am.”
Contraire knows that not everyone loves the idea of drag queens reading to children, but wants parents to rest assured that there’s nothing to worry about. Her storytimes are educational and family-friendly, and, above all, promote loving yourself and one another.
“I hope that people can see that there is nothing nefarious about drag queen story time, and that we really are just here to show kids that it’s O.K. to be yourself, even if you are different,” she said. “And especially – to read more books!”
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