On a scorching Sunday afternoon in Nashville, the sounds of live country music wafted from Second Avenue, punctuated by periodic woos from the pedal taverns circling the block. At the Taco Bell Cantina—the brand’s upscale concept that sells booze—an orange- and -purple-sequined facade fluttered in the hot breeze as a line began to form. As trays of bacon and egg quesadillas and iced Cinnabon Delights coffee were passed to the waiting crowd, the anticipation was building: It was almost time for Taco Bell drag brunch, the third hotly anticipated stop on a five-city tour.
The capital of country music is no stranger to drag. Local bars host shows regularly—there is even a drag-themed party bus catering to the booming bachelorette tourism industry—but a Sunday afternoon drag show on tourist-heavy Second Avenue might be a first. Arriving just in time for Pride month, the idea to bring drag brunch to Taco Bell customers came from the company’s LGBTQ resource group, Live Más Pride. A portion of each show is dedicated to the It Gets Better Project, an organization that empowers LGBTQ youth across the world.
Inside the intimate, two-story Nashville space, each table was festooned with Taco Bell swag, including folding fans, a shiny gold compact mirror, purple sunglasses, and a handkerchief to wave at the performers. Diners were presented with a glittering, gold box filled with breakfast delights: a Grande Toasted Breakfast Burrito, Cinnabon Delights, and hash browns, along with mimosas and other signature cocktails served at the bar. Two men clad in satin shorts and open shirts—dubbed the “Bell Boys”—made change in cash for the audience from glittery rainbow fanny packs to tip the queens.
Reservations for the drag brunch, which were available on OpenTable, sold out almost instantly. Meanwhile, at the Nashville event, lead queen Kay Sedia (appropriately pronounced “quesadilla”) kicked off the show with a brief course on drag show etiquette for the uninitiated (“wave those hankies! And don’t forget to tip!”) and sassed the audience (“Don’t forget to take a selfie and tag me in it so I can make fun of you later!”). She’s the lead queen for the Taco Bell series, bringing on other drag kings and queens at each location.
“It’s normally a crowd who hasn’t been to a drag brunch or wouldn’t normally go to one, so we are opening it up to a whole new market,” Sedia said.
The party atmosphere was contagious; those passing by the Nashville cantina’s open windows looked on in amazement as the queens twerked, somersaulted, and dazzled their way through a compilation of pop hits. Diners inside the restaurant were just as enthralled, cheering wildly and showering the performers with one-dollar bills.
OpenTable chatted with some of the attendees and drag queens. Read on for their reactions.
Randall Wall and Marvin Martinez
Dressed for the occasion in gold tapered pants and a black mesh top adorned with rhinestones, Randall Wall, 34, said, “Reservations for drag brunch was a surprise for him. We love Taco Bell—I even threw him a Taco-Bell-themed 30th Birthday party!” It was Martinez’s first drag show. “She totally surprised me,” he said. “I had no idea where we were going today.” Despite his rookie status, Martinez, 32, hopped onstage for the twerking contest and his efforts were met with enthusiastic hoots and hollers from the crowd.
Angie Tatum and Kim Levenhagen
Kim Tatum and Angie Levenhagen, friends and former coworkers, were seated in front of the Cantina in the shade, which was the right move on a blazing hot day. Taco Bell employees approached bearing trays of iced Cinnabon coffees and Cinnabon bites. “I’m a Taco Bell freak,” Tatum said as she accepted a breakfast quesadilla from a tray. “I eat Taco Bell all the time. I love it. And I worked there for five years! It was my first job.”
The Williams Family
Alex Williams, 19, Alex’s friend Aidan Lee, 19, Britney Williams, 18, and parents Jennifer and John Williams
When asked how they heard about the brunch, Alex Williams said, “I just saw it on the internet and was like, ‘Oh, this looks fun!’ So I got us all tickets and told my parents about it and now we’re all here.” Her father, John Williams, chimed in, “We love RuPaul’s Drag Race. We watch it all the time.” Later on, to cheers from her family and the crowd, Britney Williams leapt onstage to compete in—and win—a twerking contest.
Alexia Noelle Paris
“This was so much fun! I’m so glad to be a part of it,” local drag queen Alexia Noelle Paris said. “We made herstory. Living in Nashville you learn that most of the people that come downtown are not only tourists, but for the most part have probably not been to a drag show so getting to see everyone’s faces and reactions was great.” Paris had stunned the crowd earlier by launching herself from the sidewalk onto the stage in a somersault and ending in a handstand.
Shane Povlick, Chris Dall, Evan Williams
“I moved here two weeks ago from Kansas City, and I had this booked when I was there,” Povlick, 33, said. Though Povlick and Dall, 29, are Nashville residents, Williams, 32, had traveled from Philadelphia for the show (and his friends). When asked what they expect from a Taco Bell drag brunch, they responded, “Saucy!” “Diablo!” “Fire Sauce!”—which ended up being a very accurate assessment.
Lead emcee and queen Kay Sedia loves how different the atmosphere is in every city she has toured so far for the drag brunch series. “Nashville has been my favorite so far. I love the vibe here—even when you’re walking down Broadway you see performers in the windows.” Sedia has two more stops on the tour, New York City and Fort Lauderale, after which she will return to her husband and son in Los Angeles, where she works as a performer and throws drag-themed tupperware parties.
Alice Shearon is a writer and tie dye enthusiast who recently moved back to her native Nashville from Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, daughter, and French Bulldog, Rufus.