Grad Puts the Queen in Queen City

By Joseph Nichols, Staff Writer

Anthony Contreras, a Xavier alumnus from the class of 2023 has joined drag bar Bloom OTR in a long line of Cincinnati drag queens, donning the name “Rockelle Woods” to pay homage to a film character so impactful on his career as a performer.

Contreras graduated from Xavier this past spring with a degree in musical theatre and a desire to begin performing professionally. He immensely credits Xavier Theatre Adjunct Professor Bethany Xan Kerr for preparing him for life after university. 

Newswire photos courtesy of Anthony Contreras and @rockellewoods on Instagram 
Alumni Musical Theatre graduate Anthony Contreras (left) has begun to use his career in the performing arts to start a budding career in drag. His persona, Rockelle Woods (right), is based on Contreras’ childhood hero.

“She really contributed to us recognizing what kind of market we serve, where our strengths really lie,” Contreras said.

Xan Kerr’s experience eventually helped Contreras to land his first gig. 

“Her connections really helped me culminate the entire four years that I had (at Xavier) and put an exclamation point on it,” Contreras said.

It was at this first show, a production of Kinky Boots at The Carnegie in Covington, that Contreras first began to develop his drag identity. 

“I’ve always been interested in drag, but it wasn’t until being mentored by Bethany that I realized this is something I could actually, like, pursue,” he said. 

Kinky Boots is a show that heavily features the art of drag, so to prepare, Contreras was mentored by a local drag queen, Kora Sline. 

Contreras explained how this was not his first time interacting with Kora. 

“(When) I went to my first drag show, Kora Sline was the queen that was there,” Contreras said. “So it was kind of ironic getting in the same room as her and being like, ‘oh my gosh, you are the first drag queen I ever met and now you’re mentoring me!’”

However, professional mentoring is not where the job ended for Kora Sline, who helped Contreras perform at her home base, Bloom OTR.

“(Bloom OTR does) open stages the first Thursday of every month, so I’ve been going down and doing that to know all of the Cincy and Dayton drag queens that go,” he said. “I’ve been trying to do it as a side hustle, but more and more I’m trying to dip my feet into the water and see if I can plunge permanently.”

As for a drag name, Contreras looked no further than childhood hero and Legally Blonde protagonist Elle Woods. 

“Because of my fascination with Legally Blonde, (Kora) actually mentioned the name when I was asking her what my drag name should be,” Contreras said. “She said ‘Rock Out Woods,’ spelling it out. Oh My Gosh: Rockelle Woods! I want it to be Rockelle Woods. I just think it’s full circle that it ended up being my drag name.”

The connection to Legally Blonde is particularly important to Contreras as it was among the first shows he auditioned for post graduation.

“I actually auditioned for the national tour of Legally Blonde and got a callback for Emmet,” Contreras said. “I went through the entire callback process and would have dropped out of college had I gotten it.”

While Rockelle Woods can be seen performing at the open stage night at Bloom OTR on the first Thursday of the month, Contreras is making an endeavor to secure a spot close to home as a drag base for local and Xavier queens. 

“It’s not set in stone quite yet, but we’re working with bringing more events to Listerman’s,” he said. “I know Xavier Theatre just did something there, and that’s definitely the effect of Bethany pushing our class out there. It’s going to be a place we’re going to want to go often, especially with it being right next to Xavier.”

Contreras emphasized that, while new to the art, he has already found much to love about performing as Rockelle. 

“It’s a very tight knit community. Everyone supports each other and everyone is there to rely on each other and make money,” he said. “There’s such a cool community being built in the city.”