Local drag icon Brittany Lynn reads stories of tolerance and acceptance to young children and families.
Captivated by tales of adversity and diversity, dozens of children, infants and parents convened around the reading circle at the Fumo Family Library.
The nearly 75 listeners focused their eyes and ears on a rather extraordinary storyteller garbed in fishnets and sequined heels — the prolific Philly drag queen. Brittany Lynn.
Since descending from the Northeast to attend Temple more than 20 years ago, Lynn, who has established herself as a sellout comedian and performer, has led various efforts toward minority inclusion throughout the city, including working to change aspects of the 100-year-old Mummers Parade charter.
But, most recently, she has shifted her focus toward local youth.
“Now, in 2018, this is the generation that’s going to change the world … this is the most active generation,” Lynn said. “At least from what I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
Last year, Lume Creative Learning Studios on East Passyunk reached out to Lynn about creating a Drag Queen Story Time tour. After a successful first run last year, including a stop at Fumo, Lynn was ready to embark and expand on another round of stories, especially since it’s Pride Month, as the tour is scattered around the region, even reaching as far Haverford Township.
Even though she says the events are not about pushing an agenda, Lynn feels especially hopeful about the rising wave of young people, noting their interest in voting and current events.
“This generation is all about that, so introducing them to other cultures and other lifestyles is very important right now so they don’t grow up with the ignorance of past generations,” she said.
For the Passyunk Square resident, one solution to this ignorance is simply exposure to the LGBTQ community — something she says she didn’t having growing up in the Northeast during the 1980s.
She recalls being a guileless 18-year-old intimidated to take the Market-Frankford Line to Temple, where she studied journalism, public relations and advertising, when she first was introduced to the spectrums of sexuailty and gender while perusing through an issue of City Paper.
Eventually, that catalyst would come to slowly shape her two-decade long drag timeline, as her first appearance involved tackling the iconic role of Frank-n-Furter in a shadow production of “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which was soon followed by innumerable performances around Atlantic City, including appearances at Studio 6 and her own show at Resorts.
From hosting events to her own cabaret, Lynn says drag paved the way toward a long-ago dream of comedy.
“(Drag) was the medium I had to work through in order to stand up,” Lynn said.
Over the past few years, she’s partnered with iHeartRadio in opening for acts such as Taylor Dayne, Debbie Gibson and Stacey Q.
And somewhere amid her booming drag career, Lynn somehow managed to receive a citation from city council a few years ago in honor of her work with the Mummers, particularly in supporting drag, LGBTQ and other minority representation and tolerance to the parade, as March 15 has been officially deemed “Brittany Lynn Day.”
Since Lynn’s appearance is highly demanded through the area, the Fumo Family Library was quick to rebook her after last year’s reading, which saw a turnout of 70 people.
“Brittany Lynn is a wonderful storyteller,” said Abbe Klebanoff, branch manager at Fumo Family Library. “And the whole message of diversity and tolerance and inclusivity is so important particularly now with the climate of our country. … The fact that it’s in a library setting, that Brittany Lynn can come here and enthralled the community and bring the community together — it is all about community, and that’s what I think libraries are about.”
Because of a grant recently received by the library, Lynn will make a few other appearances at Fumo this year, including adult quizzo programs.
Klebanoff describes seeing Lynn read at Fumo as one of the highlights of her professional career.
Lynn, who has been in character since 1996, says she is often asked when she’ll fold away her dresses and stock away her wigs for good, but provided the world will always need togetherness, and maybe a little glitter, she isn’t going anywhere just yet.
“People are like ‘when are you going to stop?’ And, as long as we’re still having fun and creating a positive change for the better,” she said. “And this is one of those examples.”