Mum would rather miss rent than cut back on 9-year-old kid’s drag queen outfits

When Valerie becomes Candy, she even does her own makeup (Picture: MDWfeatures / Riot Diaz)

What did you want to be when you were little? Bob the Builder? A mermaid? A superhero?

For Valerie Diaz, she saw the glitz and glamour of drag queens and decided that that’s what she wants to be – and her mum, Riot, is helping her achieve her goals.

Despite being just nine years old, Valerie – whose drag name is Candy – performs live, and is able to do her own makeup for her shows.

It’s incredibly admirable, but her rise to stardom has meant sacrifices for 22-year-old Riot, who has missed rent in the past to afford Valerie’s drag gear.

Riot is on the US minimum wage of just $12 per hour (£9 per hour) as a freelance social media and stage manager and, although she’s sometimes short on rent, insists that she always makes sure Valerie has everything she needs and wants and spends at least £77.30 ($100) a month on her drag career.

The Massachusetts mum said: ‘Candy began her journey as a drag kid when she was seven years old when she and I were watching a drag artist competition show.

‘Candy was amazed by the artists; the makeup, the outfits, and their talent. She let me know she wanted to be a drag queen and started designing her drag ensembles and looks that night.

Riot (middle) pictured with her two kids; Valerie (left) and Lance (right) who is also a drag king (Picture: MDWfeatures / Riot Diaz)

‘Her first performance was several months later, at an LGBTQ+ youth programme drag pageant. She was younger than the minimum age of an attendee, but they gave her a chance to perform and she won.

‘Since then, I help her manage her own Instagram page and she performs occasionally, she loves portraying different characters in her performances and recently she’s got into musicals. She lip-syncs, dances and loves making the crowd laugh.’

Although it might seem like a lot of money to spend on a child’s pastime, it isn’t a cheap hobby to have, and Riot does her best to keep costs down.

The character of Candy loves pastel colours (Picture: MDWfeatures / Daryl Oh)

She regularly visits thrift shops for outfits, and searches online clearance sales for the best prices. She also reuses and upcycles items from family and friends where possible.

‘Drag can be incredibly expensive,’ says Riot.

‘It’s a huge investment, but she loves doing it and I’ll do absolutely anything to make her dreams come true.

Riot shops around to get the looks Valerie wants (Picture: MDWfeatures / Riot Diaz)

‘I manage her social media myself, purchase her makeup, outfits and props. I try to network and find places she can perform because she’s so young, there aren’t many venues looking to hire her.’

Riot continues: ‘We are poor, but we do our best to get what Candy imagines and envisions for her routines and looks. The thrift shop has become a treasure trove. She also plans on learning to sew, so she can create her own looks one day.

‘I make minimum wage (12/hr) and depend on freelancing and stipends and take jobs wherever I can. Sometimes I’m short on rent but I always make sure she has everything she could need and want.’

Candy performs mostly in youth spaces (Picture: MDWfeatures / Riot Diaz)

Riot believes Candy should be paid for her appearances, and ensures to look for gigs that pay between £39 to £77.30 ($50 to $100).

These typically take around an hour to prepare for, with Valerie applying her own makeup, preparing her props, and brushing her candy-coloured wigs. Riot will then give her a hand with extras that need done, such as braiding her hair and dressing her.

Sometimes these paid gigs can be hard to come by, which Riot believes is due to Valerie’s age.

Riot says this is a vital way for Valerie to express herself (Picture: MDWfeatures / Riot Diaz)

She says: ‘People don’t believe in her ability to perform because of her age or the venue selected is 18+ or 21+. There aren’t many youth spaces/events where she can perform or can be booked to perform.

‘Thankfully she has a large drag kid community on Instagram, they all connect and show each other love on that platform.’

Until the paid appearances are more forthcoming, Riot is happy to foot the bill if it means Valerie can express herself.

Those boots are definitely worth every penny (Picture: MDWfeatures / Riot Diaz)

‘I’ve seen other young drag artists be under attack for doing what they love and it’s disgusting how they’re treated,’ Riot says.

‘I’m not shocked because homophobia, and transphobia are alive and well but I’m disappointed and sad for these youths who just want to express themselves.

‘Drag kids are valid drag artists and deserve respect and to have limitless opportunities to do what they do. These kids should be loved and respected and if nowhere else, they have a home with us.’

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