Representation Matters

01/27/2023 03:00 PM By Lisa Anderson
Locala Podcast
Hosted by Lisa Anderson

Journey of a Bearded Drag Queen in the LGBTQIA+ Community

Podcast Episode 18


In this powerful and inspiring video, you'll hear the personal journey of Rodney Harper, a bearded drag queen who represents the LGBTQIA+ community. Rodney shares his story of coming out, navigating the gay bar scene, and his role as the Vice President of the board for Ocala Pride. He also talks about the evolution of Pride, the challenges of being out and proud, and how he's supporting the LGBTQIA+ community and more through drag shows and charity events. You'll be moved by Rodney's story of self-acceptance and determination to be true to himself. This video is a must-watch for anyone who wants to learn more about the LGBTQIA+ community and the importance of representation.


Host (Lisa Anderson): Middle aged, white female. Brown shoulder length hair with layers. Wearing a red shawl, blue jeans, and white sneakers. Sitting on a gray chair.
Guest (Rodney Harper): Middle aged, white male. Blonde/red hair and full beard with mustache. Wearing white dress shirt, multi-colored tie, black dress pants, and dress shoes. Sitting on a blue love seat.

Room: Wall is checkered with blue, purple, and black sound foam squares. The space between host and guest (host on left, guest on right) includes a TV on the wall with the Locala Podcast logo. There is a gray, faux wood side table between the two seats. Microphones are attached to the side table.

Begin Transcript: 

Welcome to the Locala podcast, everybody. I'm Lisa Anderson, your host and publisher of Locala magazine. Today on the couch, we have Rodney Harper, and I'm super excited that he is here to join us. He is the vice president of the board for Ocala Pride. And welcome to the show, Rodney.Thank you for having me.Yes. So let's start off and tell people a little bit about who you are and and how you got involved with pride.I started off helping a friend. She had queens that canceled and I had never done drag. And I thought, well, how hard can it be? But on dress heels, lipstick, easy wasn't so easy. After four and a half hours, I finally got transformed into a pretty woman. And walking in heels alone was challenging, to say the least.Yes.I still don't walk well in heels.No.I don't either. If that makes you feel better, I have.To use the chunky one. Gotta have a chunky heel. And then I ended up going in my own direction and went from the pretty girly queen to a bearded queen. I was a member of Ocala Pride, and I just happened to attend elections. I two years ago now and got elected board member at large. And then our president ended up with some health conditions.So she stepped down. The vice president moved up to president and I got nominated for the vice president position, had no clue what I was doing.And but it's a year later and you said you just got reelected, so you must have figured it out. Okay.I did. I took everything that anybody was supposed to do and just made it all my problem. Oh, that was the easiest way to do it. I knew everything was covered.There you go.So. Okay, so tell me a little bit about background, about pride, because how long have they been around? And I know they took a little break.They've been off and on a couple of times. I guess they started back in the seventies. And it started out as a little social group. And the people that ran it decided they wanted something more. And they worked on making it like it is today. But of course, the laws and everything back then were a lot different.So it went on pause for a little while. It was dormant until about , I believe.Okay. Okay.And then, of course, they jumped in feet first and got it going. It's been a bumpy process since then. And then, yes, COVID shut them down for almost two years. And then, of course, once we were back up and running, we had no presence in the community.So, of course, me being the inner drag queen came out and was like, we need to be in everybody's face and let them know we didn't go nowhere. We're still here.YeahWhen we planned pride, we normally have it at Tuscawillow. We decided it needed to be in the downtown square.Oh, that's fantastic.That's where everybody sees us. We had a few protesters. I think there was a total of, like, six our security and the police department and the park rangers all handled it very well. Our event went off fantastically. We had our highest record of attendees so far.Yeah. You know, that's how I knew you guys were back, because a lot of the people that I know, I didn't know what was going on. I missed it, unfortunately. But I started seeing pictures from it popping up all over my social media and I was like, What? I missed this!They said at our peak we had attendees in the downtown square.Oh, that's fantastic. So other than Pride, what is the pride fest like? The festival? What do you guys do for the community and for the community?Well, we actually partner with Starbucks, which is usually everybody's like Starbucks, but Starbucks is very LGBTQ friendly. [Yeah.] And they do a lot for their employees. [Okay.] And so the one over here on , and we do a drag bingo once a month there and Starbucks picks the charity and if it's a toy drive, we the entry fee is you bring an unwrapped toy. [sure.]If it's food, you bring food and we raise the money, the food, the toys or whatever the needs for. [Yeah.] For whatever charity they've chosen. And then on Maricamp at a Starbucks, we're getting ready to start a drag show there. That'll be charity based as well. [Okay.] And then we're also part of the state of Florida, Department of Health Equity.Health Equity Task Force. [Okay.] That's a lot to say.That is a mouthful.We represent all of the minorities, not just the LGBTQ. [Sure.[ So we have the Latino minorities, the black minorities. If you're if you're not a middle class or upper class white person, we represent you. [Okay.] And we've gotten a lot going. We they like they focus right now. Their focus is the diabetes problem in Marion County and the lack of treatments and people that can't afford medicine and things like that.[Sure.] And the services they offer. Well, Marion County actually has a ton of great programs. [Mm hmm.] But they're the best kept little secret going.Okay. Okay.And that's where we're trying to take our part and get the word out.We partner with Pflag, which is parents and families of parents and friends of lesbian and gay. [Okay.] We partner with them. Um, the National Organization of Women, of course. Ocala demands action is at almost all of our events. Mm hmm. We did the Drag Queen story hour, which had a great turnout. Community wise, [Yeah.] but also protester and proud boy wise.[Okay.] And really, all in all, with the community, there's been a lot of support.I think that's really important, especially now, you know? And I love that you guys are doing a lot of other charity events to help raise awareness for different charities. I think that shines a fabulous light, you know, on everything that that we stand for as a community. And, you know, and to have you be a part of that is just fantastic.I kind of want to redirect a little bit and dive into your childhood a little bit. So are you originally from Ocala area?Not Ocala itself, but it's the little bitty town that most people haven't heard of called Hernando. Right. South of Ocala.Okay. I have heard.Most people, if they've heard of it all, they know is stump knockers on the water. [Oh, geez.] It's like, yeah, there's a little more to go a little further down. But I grew up in Hernando. I moved away when I turned to Indiana.Oh, that must have been a bit of a shock weather wise as well. [Yes it was.]And then I spent about years going back and forth. [Okay.]What took you to Indiana?My youngest sister was up there and she was not in the best living situation. So me being the baby, I felt, well, I can go up there and I can take on the world and I can fix her situation and. [Yeah.] My flawed superhero ability. I want to fix everything. [Yeah. Yeah.] And I got up there and the town she lived in when I was down here, they told me, Oh, there's so many jobs.I get there. There's literally a general store and a factory. And that is town.Yes.Oh.There's a lot of little Midwest towns like that. I grew up in Wisconsin and I saw a lot of that.Yeah.So you went back and forth for years or so. You mentioned that you were a shy child. So tell me a little bit about what you were like as a child and what it was like growing up for you here.I was very reserved and I don't want to say antisocial, but I spent a lot of time alone. The friends I did have were still friends to this day, but it was a very, very small circle. I mean, there was like four of us. [Yeah.] And of course, I like to say I was a good child, but in all reality, I tested the waters a lot more than I probably should have.And I remember one time my mom was at work. She was a single mom. And we didn't have quite the means that a lot of the families did. And I thought, Well, I'm going to go find the end of the rainbow and I'm gonna fix that. And of course, there were very strict rules that if the sun was going down, you needed to be at home.[Mm hmm.] And, of course, I think I was like, eight. And I'd walked all over the neighborhood trying to find the end of this rainbow that just kept moving on me.Oh, gosh. So by the time it was done, I'd spent, like, hours chasing this rainbow, and it's starting to get dark. [Oh] I have to walk home. Oh, my gosh. And it was dark by the time I got home. And when I got in. And, of course, I got a good spot, and it's like, why? And I was told, you know, you know, before it's dark, you need to be home. [Yeah] You were not home. [Yeah.] And then I thought in my defense, I was going to make us rich and we were going to be good. And I was finding the end of the rainbow that didn’t help case. No, no, I suppose not. So. Is that why you put rainbows on your eyeshadow and and stuff? Actually, that's because of the LGBTQ part. [Mm hmm.] Although I never thought about it, That might be like some little thing. You know, when you tell me that that's what you did. I figured it was LGBTQ related. But now that story. The rainbow represents your pride. [Yeah] And of course, most of my life, I was not an out gay man. [Yeah.] So once I come out, I. Once I come out of the closet, the door broke and I can never go back. And so now I've had drag queens that have come up to me later on and told me that they started doing drag because they seen me perform and they had the courage. Now I thought, Well, then I really need to step up my game and represent. [Yeah.] So I figured, well, I'm bearded, I'm already going to get all kinds of looks and attention. [Mm hmm.] What? I just thought about what gave me solace. And that's when I go to any business and I see the little rainbow stickers. I know. Okay? I'm good. I'm safe. So I'm a walking, safe space, and I plastered all over my face. Oh, fantastic. So, okay, so tell me a little bit about what that transition was like for you. I mean, like from not from being in the closet and and to finding the courage to come out was that story for you? Well, I was with my ex for years and our relationship ended and I ended up moving in with family and stuff wasn't the most ideal situation. And I just got up one day and something clicked in me that I'm sick of being somebody I'm not. [Yeah] and I'm here and you're either going to love me or hate me. It's not my problem. My problem is I need to be me. [Yeah.] So I came out to my family and at first, you know, they were most of them were very accepting. I had a few that were reserved. And then I had never at that point even been to well, I went to a gay bar in Clearwater when I was young. [Mm hmm.] But I was with friends that went there to meet some of their friends, and they were all straight. And nobody knew I was gay. So. [Yeah.] And then after I came out, I decided, well, I want to go to a gay bar. I want to be around other people that are gay. [Yeah.] And of course, naturally in Hernando, there are no gay bars. I got a couple bars, but none of them are gay. [Yeah.] So I looked online and I found the Copa here in Ocala. Okay. I started coming to the Copa. Wasn't my ideal type of what I thought a gay bar was. Sure. It had more of the cheers for gay people type feel. [Yeah.] And I was looking for, you know, like you see on the movies where they got the techno music over here. Yeah. You needed a club in Orlando, right? Yeah. And so when I got there, I'm just like, Is this the gay bar? [Yeah.] And they're like, Yeah, like, are other people going to come? And of course, at that time, they had a good crowd. [Yeah.] And again, what I thought it was going to be like. I decided it wasn't really for me, wasn't my style. So I just kind of went back to my introverted self. And I did a lot of chatting online and little chat rooms. [Mm hmm.] And I'd met a queen that she was just starting out and we'd been talking and everything. We I think we'd been friends for about eight months on the chat group, and we decided to meet while she was doing a talent show at the Copa. She did the first night and I didn't go. And then she had messaged me, I guess, you know, they were kind of catty with her and being a new queen. That's rough on them. [Yeah.] Of course, once I come out of the closet, I'm very defensive of anyone in my community. So the next show I was there didn't want to be, but I was there right in the center ready to get anybody that got out of hand. And of course, I had seen her, you know, in boy mode. I'd never seen her as a queen. So I'm sitting there and walked right past her. [Oh, gosh. Yeah.] No clue it was her. [Yeah.] And then, of course, once I found out, I'm just like, Wow. And of course, at that time, I wasn't doing drag, had no interest in it, hadn't even thought about it. [Yeah.] And I was just amazed that he could go from looking like he did when I seen him to. I mean, he looked like the really beautiful Barbie doll shaped woman. And it's just like, How do you do that? Because he's a bigger boy. [Yeah.] And it's like, how do you go from this to this? Of course, I found that out, too. That’s corsets. [Yes, yes.] [Yes.] I tell you, the first drag show that I went to too I was I was just floored. I'm like, they are the most beautiful women I have ever seen. Just it was it was such a wonderful experience. I've noticed that when you go to a drag show and everybody has different styles, different looks, but the thing that always got me is the way they make you feel when you come there to see them. [Yes.] And most of the performers like the stage. I despise the stage, really. A stage separates me. It says, I'm better than you. I need to be the center of attention. And I'm right here. You need to sit and watch. No. You worked hard for your money, and you're coming here and you're going to tip me. [Yeah.] You shouldn't have to walk up and throw it at my feet or throw it in a bucket. I should take it with my hand. And I should acknowledge you. [Yeah] I did Space Coast Pride, and we were supposed to go on the stage and I'm off to the side setting and the music starts and they're pointing for me to go up the stage. And I just kind of looked at it and I went, Nope, not doing it. And I went out into the crowd. [Yeah] I just I like to interact very much with the audience. That's why I'm there is because they want to see me. [Yeah.] So I think they deserve interaction and personal attention. Now, you said you've been doing this for about four years. I think. Okay. And you said that first one was pretty rough. You had. [Oh, yes.] Yeah. So tell told me that story. Just before we started recording. So I should tell the audience that story. Well, I had got my first tattoo that I was absolutely terrified of needles, so that had me all tense and everything. Then when I got my tattoo, I went and spent four and a half hours getting made up to be the Pretty Woman and. Which you weren't expecting. [No] you were just thinking, I'm going to throw on some lipsticks and away I go. Yeah, I thought it was going to be a ten minute process, not hours. [Yeah.] And when we got to the club, it was a smaller venue, but still pretty nice. [Yeah] but they had a stripper pole there that I don't know what it was. I was just fascinated by the stripper pole when we had started setting up. Of course, you know, I had to take my world before everybody got around on the stripper pole to see how it works. I never actually touched one before that, and the whole bar spun and it was fun. And I decided that's my new favorite thing. It's a great prop. I don't do it very well, but it's a great prop. Have fun. And of course, then we got set up and got started. The first songs went through and of course I'd never performed, so I'm lip synching to something. All I'm built like a linebacker. So it it takes a lot for me to even look like a woman. Don't matter what the face looks like. I don't have the body for Jessica Rabbit. And so you have this linebacker in a dress and wig and all that pretty face walking around lip synching. Pre-beard, too, right? Yes. Pre-beard. And I'm walking around lip synching all stiff and nervous. And first song went, okay. Then we had our little intermission. The second song sets come up and the performer that was supposed to go in front of me went to go on. And as she's going, they started my music. And of course, her being a professional, she just kept going with the music. And which was funny because it wasn't her style of music and she really didn't. She'd heard the song a couple of times, but she didn't know it. [Yeah,] but she made it work. She made it work. And about halfway through they realized what they did and they stopped it and restarted her with her music. And then, of course, when she got done, it came time for me to go on. So I go by the stripper pole, get my position ready to go, and my music starts, and it starts where they left off with her halfway through. And I'm just like, uh-oh, I don't know this verse without getting to it. And it was a lot of running, but I finally got it caught up in my head and started performing, and it ended up being okay. Not my best performances. The first six months of my performance wasn't my best. I didn't. I got great encouragement, but it wasn't great constructive criticism, so I would get You did so good. You did great. And then when I would see videos, it'd be like, Y'all need a new taste and good and great because that was horrible. And then, of course, after that, you know, six months, I think I spent eight months with that person. And then we went our separate ways and then, of course, not knowing how to do makeup myself, everybody always told me, oh, practice, practice, practice. I don't mind putting makeup on. It still takes me hours. But the process of taking makeup off, I utterly hate. [Yeah] So I don't practice. Especially stage makeup. Yet, so I don't practice a lot. My practice is the day of a show and my manager always asks me, Well, what look are you going to do? Whatever comes out? [Yep, exactly.] I just don't. And wherever the creative juices go, that's. That's what I become. Sometimes it's a masculine, feminine combo, sometimes from the beard up, it's really feminine. Other times it's like, maybe I should have just wiped it off and started. I think we all have those days. I've actually done that a couple of times. [Yeah.] Well, and you said you went bearded because you wanted to be a little bit different. Yeah, because at the time I was performing, you could go to an end to pretty much any club and see at least ten others that were like me and I not discounting or anything. The the pretty passable queens. [Yeah] but my point of being a queen was I'm a man in a dress. [Okay] I'm never going to look like anything more than a man in a dress. So I needed the outside to match the rest of it. [Sure.] So I thought, Well, I've only heard of two bearded queens at the time, and one was across the U.S. and one was here in Florida. I started following her and stuff and I'm like, okay. And she she would do the little tiktoks and stuff where it showed her doing her makeup. So that's how I learned how to consort for my beard and all that was watching her. And it's like, okay, well, I can do this. [Yeah.] And then I decided to do the bearded thing because I wanted to be different. I didn't want to be one of the to that you walk in a club and sing. I wanted to be the one that when you come in the club, you're like, What is that? Yeah, but you mean it, good or bad? You were noticing me. I got your attention. Is Meghan Trainor's new song I made you look. [That's right. That’s right.] Oh, gosh. So, okay, I have a couple of questions that are thinking about. The first one is what is your stage name? Or do you just go by the bearded drag lady. Saphira And it's not a really appropriate last name. Oh, but it goes close to Beach and I when I chose my stage name, of course, I started out with a drag mother's last name, which was different. And but when I chose my name, I went through all the names I could find that were female and nothing really seemed to fit me. [Yeah.] And then my favorite, one of my favorite movies is Eragon. Okay? And Saphira is his Blue Dragon. [Okay,] My favorite color is blue. I love dragons and I love that movie. [Yeah,] I can be a Saphira. There you go. So I did Saphira later on when I left my drag mother and the last name come about, I got on different chat groups and was asking, you know, what would you want as a last name, as a performer that you know, no matter how you pronounce that it's still going to be spelled friendly enough for everybody. Yeah. So a lot of them give different versions of it. And mine was more of a spin on be Bea Arthur. [Okay.] And then yachts. [ah.] So when you put them together, you know, you get that nice little word. Yeah. And of course it's funny because my for me my name was rather easy. It's the fear. And then I have as my season starts to introduce me as saphire. Saphira. [Oh, geez] okay. Well, I can do that. And then I was at the Copa performing one time and she couldn't remember my name. And we're friends. [Oh, no.] And but. I’ve been there. You get going, you have that little train of. I lost it, [yeah] and she's like the B. But she said it. [Yeah] it's just and it was funny because she's one of those women, you know, when you see her, she's a woman. [Yeah.] And of course, when she introduced me, she use her man voice. Oh. And it's like, Oh, right. I think everything I choose, I try to find some significance with. Yeah, yeah, make it your own. And I do have a quick question because you you talk a little bit about we're actually almost out of time pretty much, but you talk a little bit about being a man in a woman's dress. So what are do your pronouns change for you when you step into that dress, or do you keep the same pronouns for yourself? I use the same pronouns all the time. Okay. Which are whatever you want to call me as long as it's not late for dinner. Yeah, I'm good. Okay. I don't get offended if I'm in a dress and you call me she or you call me because I'm a man in a dress. Yeah. So whatever you want to call me. It's funny. My fiance, I. He actually calls me his lady. There you go. So I go by female pronoun all the time. Yeah. Yeah. So I go by an hour pronoun all the time. Okay. I'm on the fence with pronouns. I mean, they're great, but you can't get offended that somebody didn't know or understand your pronouns, and they called you something wrong. Sure, but I'm a Libra, so you know what? I'm on the scale, okay? Today I'm a male. Today I'm a female. Whatever you want to call me. That's right. Is there anything that you wanted to address that I did not ask you today? The only thing that I didn't really touch on that I would have liked to is with Ocala Pride, reestablishing our presence. I would like to see more of the community, not just the LGBTQ community, but all of the community come together. And that has been my focus since I became vice president, is to make us one community. I'm not good with segregation, so I don't like the fact that we have to go by the LGBTQ label. Yeah, or a Latino has to go by a Latino label or whatever. It shouldn't matter if our skin is black, blue, green, purple, white, rainbow, whatever. We're all people were all human and we should support each other and uplift as much as we can. Perfect. You just gave the local a model right there. That is beautiful. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Rodney. I really appreciate it. No problem. Thank you so much for having me. Yeah, absolutely. Well, once again, thank you, everybody, for joining us here at the Locala podcast. I will link to the Ocala Pride for you in the description below. If you would like to read Rodney story in the magazine that is available at We look forward to seeing you guys here. Next podcast with Locala where we focus on connections through stories. Once again, thank you for joining us here on the Locala podcast. If you enjoyed today's video, please go ahead and give it a thumbs up as well as subscribe to our channel and hit the notification bell so you're alerted to our next videos. Speaking of our other videos, I think you'd really enjoyed this one here.