Shane Donovan Messick transforms himself from a well-mannered college student into the larger-than-life Melody Lyrishal. Melody, his drag persona, was born out of his constant desire to put on performances and entertain. Like some sort of glitter-clad Superman, Messick’s secret identity is simultaneously a defining part of him and an escape from the dullness of his everyday life.
“Melody is Shane if Shane never had to wonder what somebody thought,” Messick says. “As Shane, I’m cautious of who I talk to or what I do, but when I’m Melody, I don’t. Melody doesn’t care. Nobody know I’m Shane behind it all. As Melody, I can make a scene.”
At 6 foot 7 in heels, Messick has embraced the towering presence that is Melody.
“I’ve learned to love my animal print or sparkle,” he says, after describing his concepts for a new outfit featuring a shimmering zebra print.
“I like the feedback and I like the attention,” he says. “Oh! And when somebody makes it rain on you? That’s wonderful.”
Messick chose the name Melody based on his life-long love of music and proudly shows off the rainbow treble-clef tattoo on his chest.
For him, the drag community is a place where he can explore a secret glamour within himself.
However, there’s still a competitive streak, evident when Messick chuckles and begins gossiping about other drag queens that are well-known on the circuit.
“Some of these queens walk around like they’re painted for the gods,” he says. “But I’m like, ‘Please, Satan wouldn’t even wanna touch some of the nasty queens that just don’t look good.’ Those queens are in purgatory, looking around for some press-on nails.”
He becomes more serious when addressing Baltimore’s lack of performance venues for drag artists.
Club Hippo is the go-to for drag queens, Messick says, but he yearns for venues that are more personal and treat drag as an art form rather than just a novelty.
His favorite performances are ones where Melody is the center of attention, rather than background noise.
In 2012, Messick started a show at his college, CCBC, called Drag-U-Cation, which is a drag show followed by a Q&A with the performers meant to target a college-aged audience.
“Drag shows are often in a bar scene where people are drunk and not aware of what’s going on,” he says. “The college scene is way to open eyes to an art form that is entertaining.”
A portion of the money that is raised through Drag-U-Cation is donated to LGBT+ charities, a cause that Messick is personally tied to.
He was raised by a single mother in a Mormon household after his father announced he was gay. “Like father, like son, the quote really stayed true in that aspect,” says Messick, who came out when he was 14.
As a child who was bullied and insecure, Messick used Melody as a way to gain confidence and discover a new, more accepting community.
But the transformation into Melody started off roughly.
He describes his “booger stage” in 2012 when “you’re new, you’re cocky. You are not anywhere near cute, your hairline is fake, you don’t have eyelashes, it’s just bad.”
“I looked like a linebacker on a football field, my shoulders hunched, back wasn’t erect, my outfit was the worst,” he says with a loud sigh. “It was some JC Penney’s or Sears throw-up animal-print disgusting dress. My hair was the worst part. It was styled in some bad pompadour, so it was very Elvira meets Elvis.”
He developed Melody and helped define his own look by practicing at home and posting pictures on Facebook asking for feedback from more experienced queens. During his nearly two years on the scene, he’s become friendly with designers who put together his outfits.
But, during the work week, Messick, who is now a junior at Stevenson University and an employee at Target, tries to keep Melody and her over-the-top personality in check.
“Drag is a way to create a heightened sense of who I am. When I perform, I feel like I’m a gorgeous person; when I’m Shane, I don’t feel as gorgeous.”