A drag artist originally from Douglasville, Georgia, shared footage of the moment when he turned his father into a drag queen, to help him “understand me better”.
In the emotional video, published by Blake Mitchell, father and son can be seen bonding over a makeup session in which the elder Mitchell becomes “a southern belle”. Additional footage shows Mitchell doing a piece to camera as his stage character, Mary Lou Pearl, and an interview with his father, Bobby.
Mitchell told Storyful that he and his father “have had a tough relationship in the past around my queer identity.” He continued, “He struggled a lot to understand when I started doing drag and was very critical of me. It led to many disagreements and tough conversations between us.”
In the video, Micthell’s father said that the idea was on his “bucket list”. As for his son, he said that when his father asked him to put him in drag for the video, “it was a huge turning point in our relationship”.
“It meant so much to me that he took this uncomfortable step to try and understand me better,” Mitchell said, adding that he and his father have grown much closer since.
“And now I have a new drag sister,” Mitchell added. Credit: Blake Mitchell via Storyful
BOBBY MITCHELL: Daddy Lou Merle.
BLAKE MITCHELL: Mary Lou Pearl and Daddy Lou Merle.
BOBBY MITCHELL: This is my first makeover ever. This is as close to movie stardom as I'll ever get.
BLAKE MITCHELL: Here she is.
BOBBY MITCHELL: (SOUTHERN ACCENT) Oh my word! Oh, she is a southern belle.
BLAKE MITCHELL: So what about this trip prompted you to want to do the makeup?
BOBBY MITCHELL: I had no-- no new entries to my bucket list.
BLAKE MITCHELL: New addition.
BOBBY MITCHELL: What would I have looked like if I had been a saloon girl in the Old West?
BLAKE MITCHELL: Well, we are going to answer that question today.
When my dad told me that he wanted me to put him into drag, I was like, who are you and what have you done with my dad? When I asked him once, Dad, what has been your exposure in the past to queerness or something related to drag? He was like, really, I didn't have any. I just heard what I was told at church growing up.
BOBBY MITCHELL: Gay people were victims of sin. Oh, that's evil. That's bad. You don't want to be that way. If you're that way, you better not act like that.
BLAKE MITCHELL: When I first started doing drag, my dad, who was someone who never has told me how to live my life, was like, why are you doing this? Why are you dressing up like this? This is disgusting. This isn't normal. Why are you putting this on the internet? This is going to hurt your career. He was very, very critical and there was a lot of really hard conversations that we had where a lot of tough feelings came up between us.
So my parents did eventually come to see me perform. It took a few years. The minute my dad walked into the gay bar in San Francisco, a man kissed him on the cheek and called him daddy, so we were off to a great start. But he and my mom came. They saw the show. They were definitely uncomfortable, but they did it. And I was very proud of them and really grateful that they took the step.
I was trying to remember when you and mom came to that show at The Edge. Something you said when we left. I think I asked you how the show was or how you felt and you just said, you either evolve or you die. It's not good or bad, it's just a--
BOBBY MITCHELL: Yeah.
It became apparent to me, you know, there's nothing wrong with these guys. You don't believe something because the preacher says it or the President says it. You believe it because it's reality tested. I just wasn't seeing that. I just-- These weren't bad people.
BLAKE MITCHELL: Did you say earlier you'd be ready to sing opera?
BOBBY MITCHELL: Yeah, it makes me look like I should break into an operatic. (SINGING) Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!
BLAKE MITCHELL: You know, 66, never too late.
BOBBY MITCHELL: [SINGING OPERA]
BLAKE MITCHELL: So after we recorded, I sat down with my parents at the kitchen table and I said, Dad, I know you said this is for your bucket list, but why did you really want to do this? And he said, you know, this is something that obviously means a lot to you, and I love you as my child. And so I wanted to understand it, to try to understand it better.
As a form of allyship, it is so powerful recognizing that you might not totally understand the things that they care about or who they are, but meeting them where they're at and trying to understand goes so far.
BOBBY MITCHELL: You know, you don't know how your children will turn out or if they'll be born to be like you want. And you're born like I want. But being gay has been positive in your life. It's not a negative. And I can't be anything but accepting. I'm very proud of you.
BLAKE MITCHELL: Now I think we all in different ways hit points in our lives where we can continue to believe what we've always believed, or we can challenge ourselves to be open to new things and changing our perspective. And I'm really grateful that my dad made that choice. It made us closer, it's brought him into this very important part of my life, and now I have a new drag sister.
OK, and here's your moment of truth. Ready to see yourself?
BOBBY MITCHELL: Oh.
BLAKE MITCHELL: Ready to see yourself?
BOBBY MITCHELL: I'm ready.
BLAKE MITCHELL: Turn it around. Here she is.
BOBBY MITCHELL: (SOUTHERN ACCENT) Oh my word! She is a southern belle. Oh my God. Hey, doll. Doctor Mitchell isn't here today. I didn't know who I was until this very moment.
BLAKE MITCHELL: You look like a church lady.
BOBBY MITCHELL: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, they'd kick my butt right out of church. So I wouldn't be lasting long in church if they knew I was.