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Whole Milk

by Steve Desroches

A summer in Provincetown can change your life in completely unexpected ways. Dan Donigan arrived here in 2011 to join the staff at the Marc by Marc Jacobs store, ready for whatever came his way that summer. Just a couple of years prior he’d qualified for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in the junior ice dance division, but after all that intense competition it was time for a break. Little did he know then that spinning all the way out to Provincetown would have him sashaying all the way to the biggest stage in the world for draq queens, a creative endeavor he’d only ever before dabbled in for fun. It was here that Milk was conceived and his road to RuPaul’s Drag Race began.

Born and raised in Syracuse, N.Y., Donigan moved to Boston where he trained at the prestigious Skating Club of Boston, where legends of the sport like Dick Button and Tenley Albright are listed as alumni. It was a sign of things to come as Donigan competed in fabulous costumes bedazzled with stones as he glided across the ice, mixing artistry and athleticism, but in this case performing axels rather than death drops. He’d long been drawn to the camp elements of the sport as well as most any other over-the-top aspect of everything from ballroom dancing to salsa competitions. And despite the sport’s reputation for having a higher than average amount of gay men, he wasn’t out yet. It was just about the time he turned old enough to drink that he received a wink and nod from the coaching staff that it was time to take the leap…and not in the form of a triple toe loop. It was 2009 and there was a new show on television that had all the drama and flair of figure skating, just minus the ice.

“It was my figure-skating coach Tom Lescinski who told me about the show,” says Donigan. “He said, ‘there’s this show that’s like America’s Next Top Model, but with drag queens.’ I was still closeted. He said to me, ‘Baby, you should look into it.’ It was his gentle nudge. I started watching it and I loved it. I didn’t even know that that all existed!”

It didn’t take long for the false eyelashes and high heels to come out after Donigan came out. He’d run around Boston with his friends using the nom de drag Giselle Peacock, the very real name of a ballroom dancing champion Donigan was obsessed with. But drag for him didn’t really go much beyond a sequin here and a flaming red lip there. The drag he was encountering in Boston was very 101, and beyond that and what he was seeing on television, his own drag stayed rather elementary. Then he took a trip across the Bay.

With a drag legacy that dates back a century, Provincetown has it all and then some. Here drag queens didn’t just lip-synch a number in a bar or do five minutes or so of banter. Here in Provincetown queens present full-on theater pieces, something audiences quite frankly expect. Here pushing the limits is the norm, and those who don’t accept that challenge quickly become drag queen roadkill in this ultra competitive scene where even the reigning headliners need to bark for their shows on the street to get people in seats.

Drag in Provincetown is not just a spectator art, however. For many it’s a rite of passage as is evident by the trail of bearded ladies on their way to tea dance or Fag Bash. Gender play has long been de rigeur on the streets of Provincetown. And it wowed Donigan. There were no limits, no rules to drag here. The strict interpretations and the disapproving looks of drag mothers feel foreign here where the answer is there is no right answer to donning drag. It’s an intensely personal and individual art. To succeed in drag is to find that singular expression that only you have the power to unlock.

“This is where my idea of what drag was was awakened,” says Donigan. “If it weren’t for that summer I don’t think I would have ever seen the diversity of drag, to see that you can take drag wherever you want it to go.”

By autumn Donigan had turned into a bit of a drag speedskater, moving to New York City, adopting the drag name Milk one late night at a Cheesecake Factory, and then within three years nabbing a spot on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Getting into Harvard or Yale is easier than that. With his unusual mononymous drag name he captured national attention with his original take on the glitter arts. With all that he accomplished so quickly it was a nagging goal to return to Provincetown with a full show, something he can now check off, as his 55-minute drag play Alphie premieres this summer at the Red Room at Velvet. It’s a glamour mind trip of Millennial surrealism as Milk portrays Alphie, a star of stage and screen who, much like Pia Zadora, escapes the North Pole, wins an award much to everyone’s surprise, and then settles in Malibu. If the boat ride through the tunnel in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory were a drag show, it’s this one.

What comes next after this summer’s run is ever present in Donigan’s mind, to maintain not just relevance, but opportunities in this new era of drag requires out-of-the-box thinking. It’s okay to think big as a drag queen as it’s actually possible these days to bring these thoughts to fruition. As such, Donigan sees a drag ice show harkening back to the days of Sonja Henie, the three-time Olympic champion from Norway who turned her triumphs as an athlete into superstardom performing spectaculars on ice around the world. But right now, it’s all about taking risks and riding the edge.

“A lot of what I do as a 6’3” hairy-chested drag queen doesn’t make a lot of people comfortable,” says Donigan. “But seeing someone live is so different than seeing them on TV. When you’re given that spotlight you have a responsibility to push drag and yourself to something even better. You don’t want to waste the opportunity by being a cookie-cutter drag queen, especially here in Provincetown.”

Milk presents Alphie in the Red Room at Velvet, 258 Commercial St., Provincetown, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 9 p.m. through August 30. Tickets ($30/$40) are available at the door and online at For more information call 646.734.5728.

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Graphic Artist

Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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