Miss Juwanna Dewitt - inspiring community elder

Miss Juwanna Dewitt (Brian's) creative career started with Buddies In Bad Times Youth Elders Project.  He followed that with MotherLoad at the 39th Rhubarb Festival. As Miss Juwanna DeWitt, his novice drag performances are best forgotten but she has risen to brighten another day!  In his previous life he was hostage to lawyers, accountants and bank towers.




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

more dramatic ways?


I am Miss Juwanna DeWitt and we are pretty much integrated. She’s a sweet and

energized lady who has a compassionate heart. She speaks her authentic truth as do I.

I would say that she is my creative self and is an expression of my desire to leave the

world a better place. Perhaps because Juwanna and I are so integrated I see myself as

more of a gender performer than a drag queen.


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


I applied to participate in Drag Heals to explore the theatrical work I want to expand.

Any performance or expression which is true to oneself is in some way therapeutic I

would think. I don’t think drag has any unique role in this regard. I have invested

much time over the years to address issues in my life and don’t see drag as

therapeutic personally.


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


It is fundamental. I can’t imagine my life without play.



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


I discovered that I had not really processed one thing I thought I had. I have spent

decades peeling back the layers of my life on my own and with many professionals. I

was more gratified to find that I am on solid ground rather than I was surprised about

any new aspect of myself.


How can the drag community benefit from being more inclusive?

Any community that breaks down walls and builds bridges will benefit in numerous

ways. Shared history, growth in understanding, bridge building, wall

destruction,compassion, understanding, reduction of judgment, opportunities to

reach out and give and the ability to be vulnerable and thus more authentic are

important benefits. The Queer community in general and the drag community in

particular is comprised of silos in my experience. Drag Heals S2 was a microcosmic

example of the benefits which come from bringing together a diverse group of artists.

Age, race, style and varied backgrounds nourished each other. We created a new

model for what can be.


Tracey Erin Smith interviews Miss Juwanna Dewitt in Drag Heals T with T.E.S.


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


She is evolving and has grown by leaps since the show. She’s glamorous and flashy

and loves sparkle but stays in her lane. She is more a gender performer than a drag

queen per se which means she embodies femininity which is non-exploitive nor

extreme.


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

In general I wasn’t challenged emotionally or psychologically which is not to say I was

not thoroughly engaged the whole time. As the oldest artist I suppose the physical

rigours of the shooting schedule were somewhat challenging. I kept pace and

doubt/hope none of my colleagues perceived the effort.


What’s brought you the most joy?


I got the most joy and fulfillment from bringing to life a character I had played with for

many years. The audience reaction to my truth filled me with humility.


What has surprised you the most?


I undertook this opportunity for self development. I was gratified by the connections

with colleagues and the audience reaction to the live show. Other than the closing

number, I received a standing O. My rawness and authenticity touched people. As I

said “I lay it down - how one reacts is out of my hands”.


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


I enjoyed Tracey and her insights. The artists brought various levels of stage and drag

experience to the process. I had a fairly well-formed persona in mind and a

comfortable self-awareness. She was helpful in refining that and in encouraging me to

put more of myself into my personae.


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


I never hope for any outcome! It would be nice if audiences see the vulnerability,

effort and authenticity. And just maybe, embrace the idea of taking risks themselves

and setting aside being judgemental as a sad tool employed to feel superior.


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