Jamie Steinman brings his passion for performing to DC drag scene


Photo courtesy of Jamie Steinman

Anna Dueholm

While the rest of us are scrambling to finish homework or catching up on the latest “Game of Thrones” episode on Sunday nights, junior Jamie Steinman is stupefying audiences with vibrant song, dance, and artistic dress as Shayna Madel, his drag persona. As the bright lights come up on show nights, Madel is joined by several other queens in corsets, sky-high heels, dramatic contour, and standout eyeshadow masterpieces. Audience members watch intently and wave dollar bills in the air as queens lip-sync to blasting show tunes and female-dominated hits.

Steinman started his drag career at Shaw’s Tavern, a bar and restaurant downtown, last November. “I got interested in drag because I started watching a bunch of gay movies with my parents because they wanted me to learn about the culture, you know, just trying to be accepting parents,” he said. Once he started watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and regularly attending drag performances, he fell in love with the idea of performing.

His first booking came as somewhat of a surprise. “The Shaw’s Tavern show host, who I’ve come to know as my drag mother, Kristina Kelly, started noticing me, and one day I just sort of went in and she said ‘I booked you for the show next week; get some heels, costumes, and makeup. I’ll get you some stuff as well, and you’re going to perform. It was a really magical night,” he recalled.

After becoming a regular performer, Steinman had to come up with his drag name. He chose Shayna Madel, which means beautiful girl in Yiddish. “It’s often used sarcastically, which I like because I paint a bit like a clown,” he said.

Steinman’s love for the stage is visible at Wilson as well. He is an active member of the theatre community, most recently having starred in Labels Off’s “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. “I just love performing for people,” he explained.

Being a drag performer also brings its fair share of benefits. “Usually I make a minimum of around $60-70 per show, but there are exceptions, like this one New Year’s Day brunch, I had two shows back to back where I made about $280. So not only is it fun, but it pays too!” he said. Steinman generally puts his profits back into his performances.

Despite becoming more widely accepted, Steinman believes several misconceptions cloud the public’s perception of the drag community. “I wish people would know that drag is supposed to be female illusionment, but it’s not necessarily supposed to be dressing up exactly as a woman. It’s so much more than that. It’s expressing yourself through your clothing and your attitude and your makeup,” Steinman explained.

He also notes a misunderstanding of the intersection between the drag and transgender communities. While many believe the two groups are relatively hostile to one another and never interact, Steinman claims this is untrue. “There’s a misconception that I’ve seen that the drag community is very exclusionary to trans people, and that’s just not true. I say on like an average night, one or two of the queens that I work with is one of DC’s many trans entertainers,” he said.

Steinman is not planning on quitting drag any time soon. “I plan to keep on performing through college and hopefully one day make this my full career,” he said. He draws much of his inspiration Kelly. “She also started very young, and I hope to one day follow in her footsteps. She started as just a teenage drag queen, and now she’s a DC legend,” he said.

Be sure to check out one of Steinman’s shows at Shaw’s Tavern, Sunday evenings at 8 p.m.