B’town Drag Queens: Ima Wreck

A series by Abe Plaut

Ima Wreck (@imawreckeverybody)

Indiana native and IU junior Kade Padgett, also known as Ima Wreck, is gender fluid and comfortable being referred to with any gender pronouns. Padgett first began their journey into drag as a Halloween queen.

“There’s actually a joke in the drag community about Halloween queens,” Ima Wreck said.

The term refers to drag queens whose first experiences in drag were for a Halloween costume. This Halloween origin story seems rather fitting for Ima Wreck, since she describes her drag as campy, trashy, and “the personification of mental illness.” She means to challenge people with her drag, often making audiences reevaluate their thoughts on topics, ranging from gender norms and standards of beauty to mental health and even what counts as clothing.

Padgett feels that the name Ima Wreck describes her perfectly, and it is also a way to honor her family’s history. Padgett’s grandmother used to write a column in her church newspaper in the 1960’s and 70’s under the moniker Ima Wreck. In this way, the name Ima Wreck carries a deep personal meaning for Kade.

“It’s an homage to both my grandmothers and to all the women I grew up with who have not always had it all together, might not always be polished,” she said.

“I always like going against the grain so being able to do trashy drag or messy drag is something that I love to do.”

Kade Padgett

This is especially evident, considering her looks at 2018 and 2019’s Life’s a Drag (Race), an IMU Late Night sponsored drag show and competition. Fake blood splattered on her face, juxtaposed against a totally positive demeanor, secured her win in 2018. Wearing plastic shopping bags fashioned into a crop top and shorts meant that “trashy” defined her 2019 outfit, loved by fellow drag queens and the audience alike.

This is not the case everywhere, as there are some drag queens and audiences who feel that the messier, grittier, and less glamorous drag should not share the same stage with queens who reflect that pageantry ideal. Body types, makeup styles, and wig quality are just some of the ways that folks may discriminate as to what qualifies as “real” drag. There is sometimes a stigma against queens whose outfits and overall aesthetic seem too “store bought” or inexpensive. Others feel that classifying some drag as “real” and excluding others is an elitist attitude, counterproductive to the way drag can challenge preconceptions about gender roles and gender expression.

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