As drag performers face increasing hostility, one queen fights back with love

Since she was little, Kylie Sonique Love felt a magic in herself, but couldn’t identify or express it in her small hometown in Georgia, where she was born and raised as a boy.

"I was used to being called names and all of that, and bullied for expressing myself the way that I only knew how to," said Love in her downtown Los Angeles home. 

She moved away from her small hometown when she was 17, and discovered the "big city" of Atlanta. 

"I realized that there were more crayons in the box. There were more people than just the people that I grew up around." 

Love is now an international star - the first transgender woman to win an American edition of "RuPaul’s Drag Race." She's also a singer, model, spokesperson, and LGTBTQ+ advocate. 

"I don't represent all trans people, but I represent people who have goals and who maybe come from a place where you had everything against you, and you just went out and you said, 'you know what? I don't care what anyone thinks or what anyone says, I believe in me and I'm going to make the best out of this situation,'" she said.

Love eventually found herself through drag — the art of transforming into a different version of herself.

"Drag is a lot of things to different people. For me, it was the gateway to really discover who I am."

As drag becomes increasingly visible through shows like "RuPaul's Drag Race," performers are facing increasing scrutiny and hostility.  

Across the nation, more than a dozen states have proposed so-called "anti-drag" bills - attempting to curb "adult cabaret performances" in public places within view of minors.

Love believes the criticism is distracting from bigger issues and stems from a misunderstanding of the queer community. When she is verbally attacked during and after performances, she draws on skills she was forced to learn as a child.

"I had to fight when I was young because I had no choice. You know, being hit — and learning how to take a punch so that when the names get called out at you, it’s not anything. And at this point now, I just laugh because when I know people are trying to hurt me with words, I just change the perception of it," Love said.

Ahead of West Hollywood’s OUTLOUD music festival at WeHo Pride, Love released a cover of Cyndi Lauper's hit 1986 song "True Colors." 

It’s meant to show solidarity against the current slate of anti-drag and anti-trans legislation across the country — and encourage LGBTQ+ individuals to show their "true colors."

"I think drag It saved my life in a lot of ways, you know?"