This past week Randolph College had the honor of hosting Michael Kenneth Wooten, a professional drag queen, or as he prefers to be called, a female impersonator, and an activist for the LGBT community. Michael is also one of the most optimistic and humans you will ever meet.
Michael Wooten is from Greenville, South Carolina and a graduate of Southern Wesleyan University with a major in vocal performance. He is a proud bi-racial gay man who found his calling in life to be a decorated professional female impersonator. He uses this platform to raise awareness on the youth members of the LGBT community and their struggles with depression that can come with either hiding the fact that you are gay by just coming out and not feeling acceptance from those around you.
Michael Wooten’s coming out experience was not an easy one in his own right. He came out when he was a senior at Southern Wesleyan University, a Christian school located in South Carolina. Michael revealed his secret to a school therapist with the hopes of getting a huge weight off his shoulders and receiving acceptance for who he truly was. Rather he got a different response, the school administration told Michael to keep the fact that he was gay a secret until after he graduated. Michael did as they said and kept his secret until the day he received his diploma. Michael had expected to be a missionary with the church attached to the school after he graduated, but the church said they did not want him to be associated with them any longer, so they took back the position being held open for him.
After graduation, Michael’s family paid for him to go to San Francisco for some time to learn more about the LGBT community that he was now openly a part of. Michael claimed it was a life changing experience for him. One he returned from San Francisco back to his home in Greenville, South Carolina, Michael knew that he wanted to move out of his family’s home and start his life in Asheville, North Carolina.
All Michael asked for from his parents was for them to support him for a few months until he found himself a job and was financially stable to take care of himself. Rather than do that, Michael’s family told him, “If you are going to move out there and start your life you need to do so without our help.”
Michael’s mom packed him a duffel bag and drove him to Asheville, North Carolina and dropped him off on the street. It was time for him to start his life from the ground up. Instead of look at the situation with a sense of abandonment, Michael so it as an opportunity for growth.
He was homeless for about 2 weeks. Then one day someone offered him a place to live. It was a one bedroom apartment housing nine drag queens. Michael lived there for some time. While living at the apartment Michael decided to audition for a program at a dance studio. The program would be one that trains individuals from the ground up to be dance instructor.
He got into the program and had great success and managed to garner a full time job at the studio and worked his way up to become a world renowned dance instructor.
So how did he exactly get into drag you may ask?
Well one day Michael was in the apartment and a few of the drag queens he was living with said, “I think you would be a beautiful woman.” Michael did not take their statement seriously, but he let them paint him and that was the first time he and the world met Odette Dynasty-O’Hara.” The rest is history.
Michael, or should I say Odette, has earned numerous national awards, most recently being crowned Ms. Virginia Pride of America. Michael’s achievements don’t stop there. He has used his platform as a nationally renowned drag queen to help bring to light the struggles in LGBT Community. He is a part of an organization named PRISM that helps with suicide prevention and brings to light the issues of depression and bullying with the youth of the LGBTQ community.
Being a heterosexual, black male I can confidently say I have not had the experiences that Michael Wooten has had. But Michael has universal lessons from his life experiences that anybody could learn from, including myself. Things such as how to handle people who have a contrasting opinions and are trying to make you understand their views.
“You let the other person voice there point-of-view, whether you think it is has strong basis or not. Once they are finished you tell them ‘I hear what you’re saying, now may I voice my opinion?’ If a person says no then they are not longer trying to have you understand their ideology, rather they are trying to impose it on you. You should proceed to politely excuse yourself from the conversation at that point.”
Or to realize that not every negative experience you have in life as the end of the world. Rather you should look at it as a learning experience and an opportunity for growth, because sometimes things in life do not go as planned.
“Sometimes you have to jump and build your wings on your way down.”
So what is next for Michael Wooten and Odette Dynasty-O’Hara? Well he has a book coming out soon titled “Churches Queen” Which will explore the dynamics of club life and church life. And Odette will continue to participate in drag shows, most importantly the national Mr. and Ms. Pride of America Pageant in the fall of this year.