Pulse Nightclub Was a Haven for Drag Queens, Makeup Dabblers, and Those Who Loved Them

Beth Greenfield
·Senior Editor

Pulse Nightclub in Orlando — the site of the U.S.’s deadliest mass shooting, early Sunday — hasn’t only been a haven for expressing same-sex love and affection, but, like all LGBT clubs, it’s also a place where people can feel unabashed and empowered when it comes to expressions of beauty and style — whether that means a touch of eyeliner, a shaved head, or full-on drag.

“This was the ONLY place I felt I could wear makeup in public. It was the first gay club I ever went to. Pulse Orlando has such a close place in my heart,” wrote beauty vlogger Patrick Starrr on Instagram on Sunday, hours after what has now been deemed to be the worst mass shooting in the country — and a direct attack on gay people, right in the midst of Gay Pride month. “I have been here probably 200 times and I can’t believe my eyes and ears,” continued Starrr. “I am so heartbroken with the news 49 dead and 53 injured. Please just pray for everyone. Hug someone today and everyday. Always tell your loved ones ‘I LOVE YOU’ #PrayForOrlando.”

Makeup guru Jeffree Star, meanwhile, tweeted repeatedly about the tragedy — noting that he donated $20,000 to the fundraising effort for families of Orlando victims, urging “friends, YouTubers, makeup artists and followers” to also lend support, and sharing that he was heartbroken and “horrified.” He also wrote on Instagram that he had decided to add a new upload to YouTube after friends urged him to go ahead, explaining, “If a few people smile this week, that’s all I wanted.”

Plenty of others took to social media to express outrage and to reminisce about the special place Pulse held in their hearts. It was a haven for freedom of expression — particularly because it was the Orlando area’s ground zero for drag shows, which hold a profound and powerful historic significance within the gay community and with the ongoing struggle for LGBT rights.

“Pulse was special to so many Orlando gays because for the younger generation it was the first bar there that we were part of from the start…” tweeted local fan John Anthony. “It should also not at all be forgotten than Pulse had a thriving drag scene and many of the queens we know and love have been on that stage.”

Two of those performers, Kenya Michaels and Roxy Andrews — both former contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race — were feared dead in the hours immediately following the attack; both eventually announced they were safe.

“Hate may be contagious, but so is love! Spread love around the world and stand in solidarity with the LGBT community,” exclaimed the Facebook page for RuPaul’s Drag Race — a show that apparently played a big role in the culture at Pulse.

“I attended Pulse Nightclub every Monday this year to watch Drag Race. The only night I didn’t attend was the night of the finale. To say that I have a special place in my heart for Pulse is an understatement,” shared one mourner on Reddit. “I was there when Tyra hosted a S9 viewing party. I was there when Kenya hosted an episode. I made so many friends as we watched the show we love at a club we love, one we felt safe in. Many of my friends are unaccounted for, and I can only imagine how many of the staff members are among the 50 dead. Please be safe out there, everyone. Cherish your local club that much more. Cherish your queens. Cherish yourself and your loved ones. It can happen anywhere.”

Shared another Florida Redditor: “Pulse was the first gay bar I’ve ever gone to. And it will always be my second home. It was a place where I could be myself and where I could feel comfortable in my own skin,” he wrote. “I wasn’t out to that many people early on but the amazing people I met at Pulse helped me through that. Through crazy drink specials and crazier Drag Race viewing parties, I made some incredible friends at Pulse. I’m absolutely devastated by what’s happened, but if being in this amazing community has taught me anything, it’s that we will always rise and we will become stronger.”

On Facebook, supporter Tyler Breton shared, “As a drag performer and proud gay man, my heart goes out to my LGBTQ brothers and sisters who were senselessly murdered at Pulse Nightclub. I am still in utter disbelief that so much hatred still exists in the world in a community full of love and light. RIP my friends.” Similarly, makeup purveyor Shannon Holt noted early on, “Devastating news for Orlando. 20 gunned down at Pulse Nightclub, where I have body painted, watched #SkinWars… and danced with friends. This comes on the heels of a GAY DAYS Orlando, and right before ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ charity body paint event at the LGBT Center this Sunday! We are rocked and outraged. Please send love and empathy and donations for our beautiful and strong LGBT community.”

Read this next: The Complex Relationship Between Transgender Women and Makeup

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