Why She’s Interesting: Veranda L’Ni, the performative alter ego of real estate agent Shamus Dickinson, is a larger-than-life creation. Dubbed the “Giant Redwood of Drag,” she’s produced a myriad of shows as Cleveland’s tallest drag queen including the annual Cleveland Drag Showcase and Queens Of The 9 at the Metropolitan Hotel. She is also the hostess of Drag Queen Story Hour at Near West Theatre, a hands-on workshop and storytelling show for kids and adults.
Legacy Lead: Encouraged by local drag legends Melissa Ross and Twiggy Morgan to first try performing as a means of raising funds for nonprofit organizations, Dickinson’s drag debut happened at Cocktails in Cleveland 11 years ago. “It was just a ‘Let’s go do something fun for the community and let’s try this out,’ and it created this 7-foot tall, colorful monster.”
Origin Story: Elvira was Dickinson’s first impersonation. With wry, self-deprecating humor, cheeky one-liners and a steamy vampiric performance, it was that inspiration, coupled with Katy Perry’s music and colorful persona, that led to the creation of Veranda L’Ni. “Drag is about transforming your entire body and face into something totally different. You’re acting. You develop these characters as a means of catharsis.”
Turn Up: The vibrant performer knows how to take center stage and get people excited about a nonprofit, critical issue or fundraising goal for organizations such as the B. Riley Sober House, one of two sober living facilities for the LGBTQ community in the country. “The majority of the letters in LGBTQ still probably can’t use their voice for fear of discrimination. If I can be their voice for the moment, it means the world.”
Thread Bare: After the shutdown in March, Dickinson pulled out a sewing machine and learned how to sew. “Now I can actually make Veranda’s costume and darn my socks and fix my pants. I’m not perfect but I feel really comfortable knowing I have this new skill set.”
Boot Camp: In 2016, L’Ni won the Austin International Drag Foundation’s contest for creating the first Drag Pride flag: a purple, white and blue flag with a pink crown at its center. L’Ni then went on to become the headliner for the festival in 2017. “It’s like being a part of the Actors Guild. You form bonds that just don’t go away.”
Three and Out:
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t compromise who you are to suit others around you. I’m not going to take off parts of Veranda or myself just to appease certain people. This is what you get. Take it or leave it.
What’s making you laugh lately?
Old Carol Burnett skits. Watching the actors break and laugh at themselves in the moment lets them know they’re also real people. It becomes this silly, rolling laughter.
What’s one thing people don’t know about you?
I’m kind of an open book. It’s really tough to say that there’s things people don’t know about me.