Drag Therapy – developed by psychotherapist Leon Silvers

Leon Silvers is a psychotherapist in New York City. He is the creator of Drag Therapy, a therapeutic modality that helps individuals access and embody various parts of themselves through dressing up and the act of play.

Leon Silvers is a psychotherapist in New York City. He is the creator of Drag Therapy, a therapeutic modality that helps individuals access and embody various parts of themselves through costume and/or drag. Leon Silvers is the special guest in Drag Heals season 2 episode 2 ‘Drag Therapy’.

Leon Silvers is a psychotherapist in New York City.  He is the creator of Drag Therapy, a therapeutic modality that helps individuals access and embody various parts of themselves through dressing up and the act of play.
Leon Silvers is a psychotherapist in New York City. He is the creator of Drag Therapy, a therapeutic modality that helps individuals access and embody various parts of themselves through costume and/or drag.

Leon, who is your drag persona?  How do they highlight or reveal parts of you in bigger and more dramatic ways?

My Drag Persona is Pink Freud. Embodying this persona allows me to fully embrace parts of myself that I dont always get to experience so fully. I get to be over the top with my playfulness, courageousness and gregariousness. I dont have to hold back because playing Pink gives me permission to be as big as I would like. 

Does the idea of drag as therapeutic or being healing resonate with you? Why? 

Absolutely! That is why I created Drag Therapy. When you embody a drag persona or simply put on a costume, you’re able to access many different parts of yourself that you typically aren’t able to access. That doesn’t just have to be fierce qualities, it can be more vulnerable parts of yourself too. Being dressed in your particular persona, and you can have many,  can be an easier and gentler way to access those feelings or parts of yourself. The therapeutic power of drag doesn’t even require a full drag look. Try simply putting on a beautiful “diamond” necklace or tiara, look in the mirror, and see how you feel. It can be hard to feel sad when you’re covered in jewels. 

How important for your health and wellness is the act of playing?

It is crucial! Drag Therapy is actually a play therapy. Play is inversely correlated to depression and anxiety. Meaning, the more we are able to play, the less depressed and anxious we will be. I try to center my life around being able to play. Right now, because of Covid, my play is in the wilderness- hiking, camping, exploring. And of course bringing my drag to the wilderness and playing with costumes there. Play also helps us unlock our creativity and spontaneity which I believe are key to improving mental health. 

How can the drag community benefit from being more inclusive?

 I think it is important for the drag community to recognize that drag really is just about play and that there is no one size fits all for drag artistry. Drag can take many shapes, forms, and sizes and it’s really just about being yourself, being creative, and having fun. The drag community really is just a large sandbox where people come to play, create, connect, transform, and help others access their sense of play. 

What’s brought you the most joy working with the Drag Heals cast?

It was truly an unbelievable experience working with the cast of Drag Heals because all of the participants were so open and eager to playing and being challenged . Improv can be a challenging task and the participants were so courageous and took so many risks, despite the cameras rolling. It was also incredible to see how cohesive and connected they were as a group and it was only the second week. That really speaks to the openness of the group and also the amazing skills of Tracey, their fearless leader.

How has it been collaborating with Tracey Erin Smith to help shape the one-person shows?

Tracey is a phenomenal human! She really is an inspiring woman. She is so creative, passionate, enthusiastic, and really creates an environment that is conducive to creative and personal growth. She has been incredibly encouraging and supportive of me and my work and it is a pleasure to be able to work with her. I want to be a participant next season just so I can learn more from her!

What do you hope the TV audience gets out of watching Drag Heals? 

I hope the Drag Heals viewers learn that drag is a playful art form that is accessible to anyone and everyone. Drag doesn’t have to be dressing as a fierce queen or king; it is simply playing with costume, makeup, performance, movement, and/or whatever other creative expression you can imagine. We are all in drag every day. When we can intentionally manipulate our drag, we can access our creativity, curiosity, and sense of freedom, and let go of our inhibitions and control, and have fun!

Connect with Leon Silvers and learn more about Drag Therapy:

@DragTherapyNYC

 www.SilversPsychotherapy.com

Watch Drag Heals Season 2 on your favourite platforms:

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Amazon

OUTtv Canada and OUTtvGo

Spectra Vaganza shines a light on Drag Heals season 2

Spectra Vaganza from Drag Heals season 2

In episode 2 of Drag Heals, we meet Spectra Vaganza up close and personal and witness some heartfelt and healing moments as Spectra Vaganza and the cast work with Leon Silvers who originated drag therapy.

Who is your drag persona?  How do they highlight or reveal parts of you in bigger and more dramatic ways?

My drag persona name is Spectra Vaganza (isn’t that fun to say!?). I put on a mask that is and will always be a dream of mine, a beautiful colorful dream that is constantly growing. Spectra highlights the nurturing, feminine and kinder energies of the universe, then injects them into her quirky representative (that’s me!). I love to connect with everyone in my daily life, hear unique stories and experiences. We all represent different colors on the spectrum, hence “Spectra”. I want all of our colors in and out of drag to shine, drag is one of many amazing platform I can use to help this mission succeed!

Does the idea of drag as therapeutic or being healing resonate with you? Why? 

In my humble opinion, drag is a beautiful accident, which can be therapeutic and very healing! Such is most original art, am I right? It’s a leap of faith through expression, pulling ideas from within every time. I love to try new things in my drag, keeps me sharp! Drag Heals was good for that, Tracey encouraged me to take an even deeper look at my story and tell it verbally, I really was uncomfortable at first playing outside of my skill set. I never thought myself much of a story teller before, but it helped me see so much more than I thought possible and the audience took something from it too! Yay! 

How important for your health and wellness is the act of playing?

Who doesn’t love to play?! Walk into a room of puppies and try and stand still. So that’s drag for me… the audience wanting our love and attention and it’s very much mutual!  Playing together is love in its purest form, just ask Leon, one of our lovely guests. Do not take yourself too seriously, it’s not good for your mental health! On and off camera I had inside jokes and play time with every member of the cast and crew, it helped when things would get heavy at times. I love my Drag Heals family! 

Spectra Vaganza stars in the second season of Drag Heals.

What did you discover about yourself through the Drag Heals experience?

When I first got the call that I was cast in Drag Heals S2 (which I was not expecting in the least given my lack of drag experience) I freaked out! I had been a closeted drag fan for years now and it was MY turn?! I may have downed a six pack of my favorite craft beers from Blood Brothers… Fast forward to the show, everyone was so welcoming, I met Beardoncé and Champagne from season 1, I was star struck! I learned quickly that I could do it too, it was just fear in my way. Thanks to this chance I’ve since performed at some of the best drag bars and clubs around Toronto and made amazing friends.

How can the drag community benefit from being more inclusive?

I’m sure my fellow costar and Drag King Cyril Cinder will have this topic nailed down and better explained than me, but from what I’ve learned, Drag is for EVERYONE, it’s not about making new rules that exclude people, it’s about breaking old rules to include people! Pride started with this very concept and all of us would do well to remember that. WE LOVE YOU MARSHA P. JOHNSON. 

Did you second guess yourself before auditioning for Drag Heals?  What made you follow through?

I second guessed myself HARD before submitting for Drag Heals, I actually bailed out of the submission process twice, I bet you didn’t know that! It meant I was taking a step away from the world I had known and a bold step into a new world that may or many not accept me. To risk pushing away any family and friends I had left was scary to say the least, but I believe the truth can work amazing things if given the chance. I chose to submit at the last second, and I’m so glad I did! My life changed forever…

How would you describe your make-up and fashion aesthetic in drag?

Spectra’s aesthetic is feminine, I love the goddess vibes, fun sparkly, light catching clothes I didnt allow myself to play with earlier in my life. I fully intend to win that crown one day and that’s going to take much more work, drag gets better with practice, so don’t give up! It now takes me an extra hour to go clothes shopping though, thanks alot Spectra! 

What’s been most challenging about Drag Heals for you personally?

The thing I found most tricky with Drag Heals… (Please don’t give me the villain edit for this haha!) You’re doing a theatrical based class to learn new skills, in front of artists and guest teachers who have questions and comments which is being filmed at Buddies in Bad Times theatre which is on a strict time schedule. You must come to work everyday ready to go in order to get all this squeezed in, which can be tricky, but not impossible! The director Charlie was patient with us and Tracey made herself available post shoot days too. I sure developed stamina, being a star is hard work! 😉 

What’s brought you the most joy?

I experienced a lot of joy in the process, one memory that does stick out for me and will always is when I got a group hug from all my cast mates. I’m getting emotional typing this right now, that’s how happy it made me! This was the first time I felt I belonged somewhere and it was nice to let my guard down without having a wall up.

I was most surprised by how many of my friends from different walks of life came to the show! My sister Myra who has been a rock in my life since coming out was one of the first to buy a ticket too! Its a risk choosing to expose your heart, it’s a good feeling to know they’re coming to support and build with us, magic happens!

How has it been working with Tracey Erin Smith to help create your one-person show?

Working with Tracey was an eye opening experience, she was approachable and I liked that! When you see someone on TV and then meet them in person, you just don’t know who you’re going to get, I’m pleased to say she’s one of the good ones! She hand picked me because of my story to be on this show, then helped me tell that story which changed my life. Ill always be grateful to her for this amazing opportunity to shine! 

What do you hope the TV audience gets out of watching Drag Heals? 

I hope the TV audience gets a sense of inspiration from the show, I never want to make someone feel like they can’t achieve what we’ve achieved here. For years I’ve been an audience member only, watching drag artists pursue their dreams while I sit and watch with hearts in my eyes. It’s ok for it to be your turn next, I hope to see you around someday if this is what you want! 

I’d like to conclude with a giant thank you to the cast, crew, friends, family and viewers who made this all possible! Without you this dream just wouldn’t be happening. Depression hasn’t gotten the best of me since, I have a wonderful life I’ve started to build here and many friends yet to make. Cheers to the journey! XO 

Catch up with Spectra Vaganza on social!

@spectravaganza – Instagram 

Spectra Vaganza – YouTube 

Spectra Vaganza – Facebook 

MEET ALL THE DRAG ARTISTS FROM DRAG HEALS ON OUR SPECIAL INTERVIEW SERIES, T with T.E.S.

WATCH DRAG HEALS SEASON 2 on your favourite platforms!

VIMEO

AMAZON

OUTtvGO

Ashley Belmer coaches Drag Heals cast to be Social

Toronto based Arts publicist Ashley Belmer joined the Drag Heals cast behind the scenes to coach them on how to craft their online presence and cultivate an audience.

Does the idea of drag as therapeutic or being healing resonate with you? Why?  

Yes, definitely, as you can transform yourself into another person for a little while, a wonderful character you have created, perhaps more confident, more fun, more glamourous, more beautiful then you feel in real life…whatever you want them to be! You can get outside yourself, push past fear, and truly come alive. 

Publicist Ashley Belmer

What did you discover about yourself through the Drag Heals experience?

I had a wonderful experience on set with the cast and crew of Drag Heals, being someone who works from home, I don’t often get to be around people, so it was nice to get out and interact! The moment I walked on set I immediately felt the love and positive energy from the group. I also loved interacting with everyone regarding PR, the team was so interested and passionate about everything I had to say. Normally I do PR YouTube videos, so I never really get to feel my audience. I could have talked and workshopped with these lovely people for hours! I also had the incredible opportunity to see everyone perform, and I was amazed at the talent and rawness of it all. It brought me to tears. I was on a high after I left that set.

How would you describe your make-up and fashion aesthetic in drag? 

I have honestly never tried drag, but if I did, I would go completely opposite of the very feminine “Ashley” for fun, I would dress up like a very posh gentlemen, with a cool hat. 

What’s been most challenging about Drag Heals for you personally? 

I was nervous, as I have never been on TV before, and I was worried I would stutter or say the wrong thing! But everyone was so kind and energetic, and loving, I immediately felt so at ease. 

What’s brought you the most joy working with the Drag Heals cast? 

Getting to meet everyone in the cast, even though it was brief, I felt such a beautiful connection with them. I actually still discuss it with my friends!

What has surprised you the most? 

How stress-free the environment was, how supportive everyone was, how talented and creative the cast was. I was lucky enough to watch a full episode being taped before my segment, and I was in tears! Everyone was so confident and beautiful – I also learned so much about the drag community, and how crucial and important it is. How much we all need to support it.

What do you hope the TV audience gets out of watching Drag Heals? 

I hope that the audience will feel like I did, the emotions I felt and the beauty of seeing people live out their dream on camera. I could see how much everyone loved to perform – and it was so familiar to me – as that is how I feel about singing. I saw myself in them, the love they had for performing.

Connect with Ashley Belmer below.

www.b-rebelcommunications.com

Twitter & Instagram – @ashleybelmer @brebelPR

WATCH DRAG HEALS SEASON 2 ON YOUR FAVORITE PLATFORMS

OUTtvGo

Vimeo

Amazon

Arts publicist Ashley Belmer has been working in Publicity in both English and French in the non-profit community for almost 20 years. For five years, Ashley worked as the Marketing, and Publicity Director for Black Theatre Workshop in Montreal, and was also the Marketing Manager for Just For Laughs. In 2014, Ashley joined FLIP Publicity in Toronto as a senior level arts Publicist.  Ashley was also the Senior Festival publicist at TIFF for two years. Ashley established her own PR and design agency B-Rebel Communications in 2017, and continues to work on numerous arts clients across Toronto. This includes Factory Theatre, Ross Petty Productions, TIFF, Luminato, Theatre Centre, DanceWorks, Coal Mine, Native Earth, Theatre Passe-Muraille, Next Stage, Dusk DancesHot Docs,  Toronto Fringe Festival, and many more. Ashley has a Bachelor of Arts with Honours from Queen’s University in Theatre, a Post-Graduate degree in PR from Humber College, and an intensive advanced certificate in Graphic and Web Design from Humber College.