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From drag queen wannabe to RuPaul star

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When growing up in Roswell, there really wasn’t a venue for a drag performer like Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams.

That left Karbdashian-Williams feeling out of place and longing for a sense of community.

A move to Albuquerque more than five years ago gave the drag performer, who interviewed in character, a chance to blossom as a performer.

With that, confidence grew.

And now Karbdashian-Williams’ life is about to change.

It took 10 seasons for a New Mexico drag performer to be featured on the popular reality competition series “RuPaul’s Drag Race” – and that person is Karbdashian-Williams.

“I think of drag as art and confidence,” said Karbdashian-Williams. “I auditioned this year for this show because I was tired of people telling me I wasn’t good enough.”

The international spotlight will shine on the 27-year-old Albuquerque-based drag performer during the show’s new season, which premieres at 6 tonight on VH1. Locals who want to see a live show can find her on occasion at Effex or Sidewinders nightclubs.

“Honestly, it’s crazy going from no one knowing my name to suddenly being sought out overnight,” Karbdashian-Williams said. “The whole world is beginning to know who I am.”

Since being named as a contestant, Karbdashian-Williams’ Instagram page now has more than 38,000 followers, and her show is getting more bookings across the country.

“I love being able to entertain a crowd.”

Daniel Hernandez will compete as Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams on "RuPaul's Drag Race"

Daniel Hernandez will compete as Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Karbdashian-Williams – born Daniel Hernandez – has been performing in drag for about five years.

When Hernandez became interested in performing in drag, online videos became the source for things like putting on makeup.

“I was there on YouTube, and back then, there were like five videos on how to cover your eyebrows,” Karbdashian-Williams said.

With a name inspired by the reality TV Kardashian clan, she likes to be known as their “wicked stepsister,” and her act pays comedic homage to the family.

“I’d die if Kim Kardashian ever tweeted me.”

As for the calorie and carb references in the name, Karbdashian-Williams considers her character a “body queen” – sexy, flaunting her curves and taking the job seriously just like any good reality star would.

“The feedback is honestly beautiful,” Karbdashian-Williams said. “It’s so empowering, and I’m able to support a group of people. I feel with this platform, there are more people who relate to me wanting to be big and sexy.”

When not on the stage, Hernandez is a hairstylist at various salons in Albuquerque.

The season premiere will introduce viewers to 14 drag performers competing for the title of “America’s Next Drag Superstar” and a cash prize of $100,000.

The series has grown in popularity over the past decade and now averages over 1 million viewers on VH1. Host RuPaul has picked up back-to-back Primetime Emmy Awards for outstanding host for a reality competition.

UpFront is a regular Journal news and opinion column. Comment directly to Journal Arts editor Adrian Gomez