Bold & Beautiful: Lady Onyx
Having perfected her drag for nearly a decade, Lady Onyx has undergone many transformations. But between painting herself in head-to-toe gold in her early days to now adorning herself in high-fashion mumus, Lady Onyx has always been two things: sexy and unexpected. Dressing herself in handcrafted costumes and showing as much skin as a venue allows lends an enticing flair to the performer, and sure as hell makes an impression on any audience. In this edition of Bold & Beautiful, I spoke with Onyx about her journey with drag, sources of inspiration and her pursuit of creativity.
After growing up in Cedar City, Onyx moved to Utah County when they were 13 and were met with a wave of culture shock. Happy Valley was different to them, and the burgeoning digital community offered very different ways of presenting gender. “I remember getting on MySpace and YouTube and seeing a lot of people really pushing the boundaries of gender,” they say. “It was really intriguing.” By the time they were 17, Onyx was following that curiosity into the city where they were sneaking into drag bars and being introduced to pageant queens.
“I didn’t need to continue to push that soft, feminine narrative on the stage because that’s who I am in my everyday life,”
Recalling her very first performance at the former Club Mix (now Metro Music Hall), Onyx says performing allowed them to express themselves in a way they had never been allowed to. “[Drag] was really artistic and therapeutic for me,” they say. Using drag to engage with femininity in a visceral and unapologetic way, Onyx began to notice the lines between performance and identify blur. “After pushing my drag to its limits, I realized I’d actually been on my own journey of gender and just experiencing it through drag,” they say. “Once I realized that, I was ready to transition and pursue gender in a more personal way.”
Having undergone this self revelation, Onyx’s perspective on drag eclipsed the boundaries of femininity it had previously adhered to. “I didn’t need to continue to push that soft, feminine narrative on the stage because that’s who I am in my everyday life,” she says. “I didn’t need to hold onto my gender so tightly.” Instead, Onyx ditched notions of soft and acceptable, and embraced a femininity that was more dangerous and unapologetic.
Finding inspiration in icons like Dolly Parton and Lil’ Kim, Onyx has curated an aesthetic that is both alluring and unexpected. “It’s very much ‘rent is due tomorrow, and I’ve only got one good party trick to make that bill happen,’” she says with a laugh. She often graces the stage donning a bikini top, a skirt and bare feet. “I like things that present my body in a way you don’t usually see bodies like mine presented,” Onyx says. “Tiny dresses or even unexpected things like a giant mumu.” Performances from Onyx definitely ooze sex appeal, but they also offer a deeper meaning to audiences. Between burlesque acts and campy displays, she loves to keep audiences rapt with random interjections of ’90s rap verses or comedic jabs. She also knows how to tug at the heartstrings with songs like “Carry On” by Martha Wash. “That song just always gets right to the heart of people and uplifts them in a really positive way,” she says.
“I remember getting on MySpace and Youtube and seeing a lot of people really pushing the boundaries of gender. It was really intriguing.”
Over her decade-long drag career, Onyx has performed at venues across the valley including, most recently, downtown hotspot Why Kiki. Gracing the stage occasionally, she describes the space as a positive source of creativity and community. Of course, the pandemic has inhibited performances and exerted artists, and Onyx has found other ways to tap into her artistic flair. Revisiting old costume designs, learning new sewing techniques and experiments with fiber arts and embroidery has pushed her to think of her abilities in a new way. “I’m trying new things that keep me on my creative toes,” she says.
On and off the stage, Lady Onyx is infusing Salt Lake’s drag scene with fearless femininity and creative expression. Keep up with her on Instagram @onyx94allday and tip her at @onyx94ad on Venmo or [email protected] on PayPal.