By Ciara Reid, staff reporter
WICHITA - Many know him as his electric stage personality Brown Sugar, but before this personality came into existence, he was Damian LaMarr Brown, born in the 1970s. If you ask him, however, he will tell you that he was born, specifically, on a hot summer afternoon in June during the Ford Administration.
“I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb ready for the stage,” Brown says. “In the 5th grade I was cast in a play about dental hygiene in the role of Fearless Frank as the superhero of bad brushing habits and flossing.”
That role of Fearless Frank not only helped Brown and countless others learn the valuable life skills of brushing and flossing, but it also planted the theatre seed in Brown. He went on to nurture that seed into numerous other lauded roles in the Wichita community and one that would eventually lead him to crafting Brown Sugar.
He was involved in theatre in high school and was offered a scholarship at Wichita State University (WSU). In 1996, he auditioned for the role of Darius in Jeffery and won the Mary Jane Teall award for best supporting actor in a play. The award honors the memory of Mary Jane Teall, a pioneer in theatre in Wichita. According to www.maryjaneteall.org, the goal of the awards is to promote a mutual respect and camaraderie among the theatrical community and recognize individuals and theatre groups.
Brown would go on to graduate from WSU with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Adding to that milestone, Brown became aware of his sexuality and started going out to gay bars. “I saw my first drag show in the spring of 1996 and I was . . . intrigued - to say the least,” Brown says. He was asked to help out with a fundraiser called Kansas Can to raise funds for the Kansas Gay Rodeo Association. “I was terrible. But, interested!” Brown recalls.
As his involvement in theatre slowed, he started performing in drag. “I was beginning to get better, but I still had a long way to go,” he says. In 2001, he started hosting his own show. The Thursday Night Show with Brown Sugar was born.
Brown says the location of the show as well as the name changed over the years, and has ranged from The Brown Suga’ Experience, The Sugar Shack, to finally The Brown Sugar Show. “I missed only seven shows from October 2001 to 2016,” Brown says. “I WAS DEFINITELY DEDICATED.”
Brown does impeccable impressions of celebrities like Janet Jackson, Grace Jones, Erykah Badu, Alicia Keys, and the late, great Whitney Houston, but it is his impression of RuPaul that is legendary. Brown reminisces back to 1992, when he saw RuPaul’s “Supermodel of the World” video. He was a junior in high school, watching television one Saturday afternoon, and the video came on MTV – back when they still played music videos. Brown was still in the closet, and wasn’t particularly interested. But by the time he began performing in drag, people started calling him RuPaul.
“It was inevitable that I would work her into my routine,” he says.
Currently, you can catch Brown Sugar hosting the Diva Drag Show every third Sunday of the month at Club XY, 235 N. Mosley in Wichita. l