Vincent Leggett, a Philadelphia-based drag performer, says he’ll no longer entertain at a South Jersey salon due to alleged racial bias at the establishment.
On Dec. 20, Leggett emceed a holiday party at Louis Christian/Robert John Salon in Cherry Hill, N.J., while patrons received salon services. Leggett said everyone appeared to be having a great time and multiple videos were taken of the drag performances.
The salon is located on Route 70 and offers a variety of services including hair coloring, make-up, organic tanning, pedicures and manicures.
Leggett wore a Kwanzaa-themed outfit on Dec. 20. But, he said, a salon co-owner told him not to wear it for a Dec. 22 follow-up party there.
“It’s my signature drag persona. It’s my African tribal look,” Leggett told PGN. “I actually toned it down [for the Dec. 20 party].”
Due to alleged racial bias on the part of salon co-owners, Leggett declined to appear at the Dec. 22 follow-up party. His two co-performers also declined to appear.
“They were completely appalled by what happened,” Leggett said.
Leggett said he’s considering filing an antibias complaint in New Jersey.
“I’m pretty much leaving my options open on what to do. I’m still working on this and talking to people about it and working through it.”
Leggett also expressed hope that by speaking out, he’ll bring about positive change.
“I don’t want to bash the salon. But I do want the LGBT community — particularly LGBT people of color — to know about this and that discrimination is not OK.”
Salon co-owners Robert John and Louis Christian posted this statement on Facebook:
“We loved having Vincent and his friends at Louis’ birthday party [held prior to the Dec. 20 party]. They were so glamorous and elegant that we decided that they would be great for our holiday party. As gay men, we are very comfortable with drag. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for all of our clients who were guests at our holiday party. Once it became clear to us that some of the people in attendance were uncomfortable with the drag performance, we conveyed that to Vincent.
“This incident had nothing whatsoever to do with race or religion. It had everything to do with certain people being uncomfortable with drag. We loved having Vincent and his friends, and consider them our friends.
“We have not told any employees to speak on our behalf regarding Vincent’s post. Any employee who has posted has done so on their own. We have reached out to Vincent privately and will continue to do so until we can have a conversation with him. We truly value our relationship with him. We are sorry if we caused him any pain.”
An associate of Christian and John conveyed to Leggett that the men felt his Kwanzaa outfit was “too ethnic,” but the men deny using those words.
“After reading [a published account], it is clear that this situation stems from a miscommunication,” Christian said in an email. “The salon’s owners did not use the terms ‘ethnic’ or ‘too ethnic’ to describe Vincent’s drag performance. The owners’ concerns were based on certain clients’ comfort level with drag. As we said previously, this situation has nothing whatsoever to do with race or religion.”
Leggett emphatically disagrees that drag caused any discomfort at the salon.
“I feel worse that [Christian and John] are putting out there that drag was the issue, when that’s not the case,” Leggett said.