Gallery by Elian Richter, Assistant Photo Editor
By Lauren Justice, Staff Writer—
Scholar and performer Samantha Z, also known on stage as Gin Von
Tonic, spends her weekends coming alive at The Palace Theater in downtown Chattanooga.
“We are the most diverse show in Chattanooga right now,” says Z.
“There’s drag queens, there’s bioqueens and biokings. Sometimes we
even have comedians.”
When asked to attend a friend’s birthday party at The Palace Theater
in December 2018, she was hooked on the burlesque style of dance and
found her home there.
At the party for queen Juicy St. Claire, she heard a comment recommending
that she perform there. She performed the very next weekend, and he’s been at The Palace ever since.
While some consider her a bio queen,a female performer in a drag setting, she prefers to be called an entertainer, with 15 years of dance experience under her belt, who prefers to be herself and free on stage.
“I don’t like to be labeled into one kind of confining thing, because then I feel like there’s weird constrictions,” she said.
During the week she is a student at UTC studying communication and wants to pursue a career in the field.
Her priorities are straight, and she still manages to do what she loves on the weekends while maintaining high grades in her classes.
What inspired her to pursue this performance career was her friendships
with drag queens at places like Alan Gold’s Discotheque who sparked her interest in the lifestyle.
“It’s almost like a double life,” she said. “I have a lot more personality than I would on a regular day in life. I do have anxiety, but when I’m on stage it’s all gone.”
The best part about performing to her is planning costumes, hair, and makeup according to her song choice.
“I feel like if you have a solid look going on it really captivates the audience.” She states proudly that the south is becoming more accepting of the drag scene.
Understanding that “people don’t like what they can’t understand,” she pushes on to make what she loves a more widely accepted in the Bible belt.
She is known as Samantha Z, GinVon Tonic, and Everyone’s Favorite Drink. She can be found every Friday and Saturday night at The Palace Theater in the Tomorrow Building.
There is a $5 cover, but all are welcome.