November 18, 2010 | by Joey DiGuglielmo
Queery: Ba’Naka/Dustin Schaad

Ba'Naka performing on 17th Street. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Dustin Schaad — aka Ba’Naka — came to Washington in the winter of 2003 during a rough time in his life. He’d been through a breakup, couldn’t afford college and was on the outs with his parents, so he came to stay with an aunt who was here and life started improving.

The 25-year-old Bradenton, Fla., native had already started dabbling in drag. He’d been doing drag shows at a place called Triangles in Sarasota, Fla., a few nights a week. When he got to Washington, local drag legend Kristina Kelly took him under her wing and he started appearing with her at Omega and Apex occasionally then as a regular at BeBar in 2007.

As Ba’Naka — whose name came about during a middle-of-the-night Wal-Mart confrontation in his home state — Schaad’s drag star has only risen. Ba’Naka is a regular at Town and just won the drag queen favorite award in the Blade’s annual “Best Of” readers’ poll. With Town cohort Shi-Queeta-Lee, Ba’Naka was on “America’s Got Talent” a few years ago.

“Ba’Naka and Dustin are really the same people,” Schaad says. “We’re both loud and boisterous and in some ways I’m even more comfortable going out as her. Drag queens can get away with murder — all kinds of stuff I could never get away with as Dustin.”

Schaad says drag is an art form and that the LGBT community at large should appreciate queens more.

“I always remind people it was a drag queen who threw the first brick at Stonewall so everybody enjoying their gay life today has a drag queen to thank.”

By day Schaad is a buyer for Universal Gear where he’s worked for about seven years. He likes working there but also fantasizes about doing drag — which he calls a passion — full time.

Schaad enjoys fashion design, art, movies, shopping and travel and lives in Silver Spring. He’s single and now on good terms with his parents, grandparents and four younger sisters. Since he works in gay clubs — Ba’Naka co-hosts the package contest on Thursdays at Cobalt in addition to her work at Town — he can often be found on off nights at Stetson’s, a straight bar on U Street. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I came out when I was 15. The hardest person I came out to is a tie between my Grandmothers Hazel and Rose. I was afraid to tell them because these women were my rocks growing up and I was afraid that they would disapprove. I was blessed that they both accepted me with open arms.

Who’s your gay hero?

Lena Lett — she’s clever, witty and has a tongue sharper than a Ginsu knife but she is also a beacon of compassion and generosity, who’s given me many pearls of wisdom over the years.

What is Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?

Of course I love where I work, Cobalt and Town, but some of my fondest nightlife memories, as blurry as they may be, are from the old BeBar Days circa ’07. I had so much fun, often followed by the worst hangovers imaginable.

Describe your dream gay wedding.

One in which I have all of my friends and family and a man that I am head over heels for — and a 29-inch waist! (Note that I will NOT have a tacky beach wedding or wear white, I mean let’s be honest.)

What non-gay issue are you most passionate about?

Prepping for the Zombie-Apocalypse … girl, I am stock piled on canned foods and have a fabulous pair of thigh-high combat boots on order.

What historical outcome would you change?

The 2000 presidential election results because seriously we all could have done without the pain, fear and suffering brought on by eight years of Bush.

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

The Britney/Madonna kiss … come on! Scandalous!

On what do you insist?

Condoms … men are dogs, they tend to roam and I don’t want fleas brought home.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

“The maid alphabetized my porn! Good for her!”

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“Taffeta & Shattered Dreams: My life in the Tragic Queendom.”

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

I would personally lead a One Queen Revolution against it! I was born gay and I love my life … I wouldn’t want to be any other way.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

Really? You’re asking a drag queen about her meta-physical philosophies? No one cares what I think. Ask me about glitter and shiny things!

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Cut the crap, drop the egos. Equality is an American birthright. Focus on that.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

Justin, the love of my life. He passed away this year and I would do anything to bring him back.

What gay stereotype annoys you most?

Gay stereotypes don’t annoy me; I find them hysterical!

What’s your favorite gay movie?

“Spice World.” If that’s not a gay movie I don’t know what is.

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Trust. Wait, does that make me cynical?

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

Ha! Don’t laugh, but my Pinewood Derby trophy from Cub Scouts. This sissyboy showed those manly men how it was done!

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

That my metabolism would betray me age 23.

Why Washington?

I moved to D.C. in 2003 after high school. I had broken up with my boyfriend, I couldn’t afford college on my own and I desperately needed to get out of Florida. I had an aunt who lived up here and offered me a way out and I moved up and started a new adventure. I fell in love with D.C. because it gave me the chance at a new start. I love this city and I love our LGBT community. It’s home!

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

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