Imagine this: you’re a freshman at Penn State, things are a little unfamiliar and you’re just looking for something fun to do to entertain yourself over the weekend. You hear about this house party through some friends, so you decide to go and check it out.
But, what you thought was going to be a typical party with a keg and some music, it turns out to be a night that changed your life.
This tale was a reality for Chris Castro, a 2019 graduate who left Penn State with a degree in science.
But before there was graduation and before there was the degree, there was drag. Castro discovered drag in the basement of our theoretical house party during his freshman year through a drag show, which came as a huge surprise. In this basement where everyone was simply there to celebrate and have fun, he clicked with the drag community at Penn State and would return to this spot months later for his very own performance.
It was one of the best times of my life and sparked my interest in drag,” says Castro. “I knew one day that I would love to try it out.
Struggle in Sinkling Spring
Prior to discovering his niche, Castro struggled with coming out to his family as a gay male. Castro grew up in Sinkling Spring, Pennsylvania – a tiny town where everyone knows everyone. Hand in hand with this environment, his home life presented a not-so-ideal situation for a young kid who didn’t mesh so well with the rigid gender roles that his family had always believed in.
“My household was very strict since my family is of Hispanic descent. Colombian parents have strong values and visions for their families, and I was the one to always stray for the norm,” says Castro.
While coming out to his family in his senior year of high school was tough, Castro describes it as a huge moment of liberation in his life.
“Coming out helped me figure out who I truly was,” says Castro.
There was no more hiding himself behind thick walls, pretending to be someone he was not. Castro’s personality began to glow as he opened up bit by bit, leading to his debut with drag – the ultimate key to bringing out what had been repressed while growing up.
Through drag, Castro met Hexxa — the drag queen who helped him radiate confidence and comfort in his own skin.
“Hexxa is a seductive, high-energy, magical babe who has a passion for fashion, beauty, pastel/electric colors and performing. Hexxa is a club girl — loves to go out and miraculously be the center of attention. Her bubbly personality is one you will not forget and is always down for a good time,” says Castro.
When Castro becomes Hexxa, she embraces femininity and artistic expression.
Women are beautiful beings and exude so much power,” says Castro. “Getting in tune with your inner femininity with nothing holding it back is such a blessing and beautiful thing to show.
Castro believes that drag is so powerful because it allows people to embrace themselves and really meet their maximum potential, all while making an audience smile. But for Castro, Hexxa means much more than just a performance.
It wasn’t super easy to find Hexxa and become so successful in the drag community – in fact, Hexxa took a bit of a journey before reaching such heights. When Castro began dabbling with drag, he realized how hard it was.
After finally building up the courage to perform in his first show, he didn’t like the way he looked and wasn’t feeling the confidence that he had seen other drag queens exude, so he decided to take a break for about a year. When Castro returned to the drag scene after his time off, Hexxa really came into full swing.
“In the drag scene, it is difficult to make it with a shy and timid personality. It is important to break past your boundaries of what you are used to and discover different parts of yourself, which is exactly what Hexxa did,” says Castro. “I became more talkative, bubbly, fun and all-around outgoing once I really began to feel comfortable as Hexxa.”
Hexxa has created a lasting impact for Castro both on and off the stage.
Hexxa takes a whole lot of work to look and feel so great. It takes about two hours to complete the Hexxa glam, which is usually matched with her outfit for the night. Hexxa’s look is super vibrant and colorful, incomplete without her jade colored eyes, winged liner and flawlessly finished brows.
Hexxa’s outfit inspiration comes from queens like Aquaria, Aja and Ariel Versace, along with today’s fashion trends. With custom-made costumes from designers on the East Coast, Hexxa is truly a piece of art on stage who entertains through self-expression.
When it comes down to it, Castro wants society to know that drag is more than entertainment. It is a “beacon of light and power for the LGBTQA+ community” and an entity of expression towards the issues of the queer community that are often pushed aside.
With his passion for drag, Castro, along with a group of students, founded Opulence, Penn State’s Premiere Drag Ambassador club, in 2017 to create a home for the drag community on campus. Castro served as the president of Opulence during his time at Penn State. Opulence gave Hexxa a strong support system in her toughest times while creating an environment of diversity, inclusion and fun through monthly performances. Opulence opened up doors along Hexxa’s journey, pushing what started out as a hobby into something more. Hexxa now has over 11,000 followers on Instagram, travels for shows and attends events such as RuPaul’s DragCon.
While Hexxa has brought Castro strength and happiness, the drag community as a whole has proven to be a source of power and love for many.
In the words of Hexxa herself, “Drag is a whole new artistic world that is welcoming anyone with open arms as long as the same is reciprocated.”