Find Nclusion in the NEWS
Nclusion Plus finds new approach to nightlife and creating LGBTQ community
FEB 22, 2021
By April 2020, the drag performers of mid-Missouri found themselves once again looking for a new home when Yin Yang, Columbia’s sole LGBTQ-dedicated bar that regularly hosted drag shows, closed. Seven friends, all drag show regulars, banded together to birth Nclusion Plus.
Venus O’Hara, who has been performing for 10 years, was asked by the founders to become a performer for their new group.
“It felt heartwarming to me because I had never been reached out to by other gay men before in a friendship way,” O’Hara said. “It meant a lot because I felt like they wanted me to be a part of their lives.”
O’Hara credits having this group of male friends with opening her eyes and teaching her to “look past the stereotypes of the gay society.” This is one goal of Nclusion Plus.
The new business hopes to side-step the traditional obstacles facing most small businesses by relying on a member subscription, providing LGBTQ resources for all ages and forgoing a permanent location.
They are looking to serve the LGBTQ community in a fresh new way that is “member-owned, run, organized and centric,” said Brandon Banks, one of the co-founders of Nclusion Plus.
A place to call home
According to a Gallup Daily tracking survey conducted by the Williams Institute and Movement Advancement Project, 3.8% of the Missouri population identifies as LGBTQ. In 2015, there were 80 victims of sexual orientation-based hate crimes, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Despite mid-Missouri's need, Columbia has seen the opening and closing of five LGBTQ bars, the most recent casualty being Yin Yang. So when news of this most recent closure came, the seven LGBTQ mid-Missourians and friends knew that if they wanted a queer-run establishment to be long-lasting they needed to try something new. Their first question was where their startup funds would come from.
They did the math and realized that between them, they had unconsciously been spending around $1,000 a month on entry costs, tips and drinks at drag shows. Since the start of the pandemic, that money was no longer being used. Rather than pad their own savings accounts, the group pooled their money and used it to fund small virtual shows put on by their friends.
Banks was deemed the “most business-y” of the group and was therefore assigned the role of writing a business plan.
“We don't want to have a location that costs us $5,000 a month, or else we won't be able to afford this more than one month,” Banks said. “We just built our dream list, and we worked backwards essentially.”
Nclusion Plus operates as pop-up entertainment rather than paying rent for a permanent space. Currently, Nclusion Plus hosts their shows in the lower level of Twaddle Orthodontics and at Downtown's Pressed.
"Because we don't have a physical location, we're able to be very nimble. We don't have financial pressure against us that makes us collapse,” Banks said.
An orthodontics office may not seem like an obvious home for drag performers. However, the team, between the dynamic choreography and engaging performances, transforms the space, suspending the COVID-19 reality briefly for a night of fun and glamour.
“We're gonna go wherever people ask us to put on a show,” co-founder of Nclusion Plus, Anthony Plogger said. “If you've got 1,500 square feet, we'll put on the show for you.”
Nclusion Plus also sets itself apart through its member-orientated approach to business. Rather than having one sole owner, the seven members share the burden of opening a new social club. The performers are encouraged to become members as well, and every member is encouraged to join a committee. This allows the members to have direct control over the decisions of the club, ensuring that it remains true to its purpose of being an inclusive space for everyone and fulfilling the community’s evolving needs.
To further support the performers and members, the founders work with the drag kings and queens to record digital content that teases their shows and promotes their brand as a performer. They do photoshoots with the performers, tag them in the Nclusion Plus social media posts and help them in producing and selling locally sourced merchandise.
O’Hara was one of the first performers to join Nclusion Plus. She is also one of the primary members of Nclusion Plus’s Education Committee and helps run the Pride Pioneer, which is a monthly publication that highlights local and celebrity pioneers in the LGBTQ community.
“Yin Yang did wonderful things, and they offered me so many shows, but a lot of times it was about the next biggest name we can get, and that’s not always me,” O’Hara said. “I felt like my talent was strong; Nclusion sees that and wants to do everything they can to show that with posters, T-shirts, stickers, slogans and memorabilia, and they even hosted a roast for me for my drag birthday, which I would have never gotten the opportunity to do elsewhere.”
Luna Steelheart, who has been performing in St. Louis and Kansas City for four years, was asked to perform in Columbia at Nclusion Plus shows by her friend and Nclusion Plus founder, Plogger. Since then, she says, her drag has evolved and her fan base has grown. Steelheart praised Columbia’s evolving and adaptive performance scene.
“Nclusion Plus not only promotes you for them, they promote you for other people,” Steelheart said. “So now I'm almost traveling all over the state to perform, which has been my dream because I would love to turn drag into a full-time gig.”
Along with promoting the performers, Nclusion Plus is working to teach them business and performance skills. Banks realized that new performers starting out weren’t getting the business tips they needed to take their performance to the next level. He knew that time on stage was only a part of the whole picture.
“We also have tried to do some professional development workshops, surrounding building resumes, learning interview skills, perfecting job searches, trying to understand the business of entertainment. It's easy to get on stage and put on an outfit, but do you understand that you're supposed to track your tips and what happens when you are 1099 person versus an employee, and all those things that may not be told to them,” Banks said.
Nclusion Plus works to better educate their performers to help them reach success. Along with professional development workshops, Nclusion Plus hosts a bootcamp performance workshop . During this bootcamp, new performers work with experienced mentors to focus on an area they hope to improve on each month.
Unlike other drag spaces, Nclusion Plus is member-focused, so performances are just a fraction of what they do. Their goal is to build a healthy, inclusive environment for the entirety of the LGBTQ community.
“Being in the LGBTQ community, the LGBTQIA community is not always open doors and friendly smiles; it can sometimes be even when you find a safe space, it's not always a healthy space. ... Our mission is really to support the positive environment where the entertainers are valued and appreciated,” Plogger said.
Nclusion Plus is working to create a cumulative portal of resources for the queer community, complete with book suggestions and connections to mental health services, on their website.
Plogger has a personal interest in education and wanted to be sure it was a pillar in the organization’s foundation. As part of his education efforts, he selects children’s books, teenage books and adult books monthly to suggest to the community. These are books written by and or for the LGBTQ community with the goal of educating or including those in the community. Plogger links the books from Skylark Bookstore, a local business in downtown Columbia.
“In the last couple of decades those stigmas have started to subside. And people have been more open minded to even allowing conversations about LGBTQIA+ individuals to exist in their households and in their lives. So, I think that while we have that opportunity, it's more and more important to educate people on how we be safe as a community, this is how we should interact with others, and how they should hopefully understand and interact with us, and then it gets us all into being in a more equal and egalitarian playing field,” Banks said.
Columbia has seen a growing and evolving LGBTQ community, with the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic throwing traditional bar owners an extra curveball. Looking for an innovative way to create a home for their community, Nclusion Plus is leading the next wave of entertainment groups with their member-run, pop-up business style. With a focus on resources for the community and a local- oriented model, Nclusion Plus is looking to build a healthy performance and community space for all.
“It's inclusive to everyone and every type of performer,” Steelheart said, “which I think speaks bounds on their characters that they are so open to just everyone. Nclusion is a place of love and acceptance and kindness and family; those are, I would say, their four key fundamentals.”
Nclusion Plus will be hosting two shows this week. Honey D'Moore and Venus O'Hara will be hosting a show at 8 p.m Thursday at Twaddle Orthodontics. Saturday, join Nclusion Plus for Luna's Birthday Bash at Twaddle Orthodontics.
Creating a Place for 'Nclusion' in Columbia
OCT 29, 2020
When the LGBTQ community found itself in need of a new drag show venue, Anthony Plogger and his friends rose to the occasion.
Yin Yang, a popular nightclub and drag show venue in Columbia had closed in April. Anthony Plogger, a former customer, says it left a hole in the local LGBTQ community.
“It was like a blow to the gut really, because I was there pretty much every Thursday and Saturday for the drag shows that they had there," he said.
Yin Yang was where drag queen Honey D’Moore got her start.
“When I moved to Colombia five years ago, Yin Yang was kind of like my second home pretty much," said D'Moore. "They were the very first stage to give me the actual opportunity to perform in a competition. And I will always say that Yin Yang is going to be my starting point of my drag career.”
To make up for the loss of Yin Yang, Plogger and his friends started putting on their own virtual drag shows.
“When we first did it, the idea was that we would just have drag shows with our drag friends, like you know, originally it was the virtual shows, so, it was the seven of us and four performers every week at this little office space," said Plogger. "And they threw a show, and in a way it felt like it was us, but we caught such a big following. I mean, our first two shows we had over 15,000 views, each. Whenever we saw that we're like, this could really be something.”
Less than a month after Yin Yang closed, Nclusion Plus was born. Plogger is now the director of club content. But starting a business during a pandemic isn't easy.
“We started with virtual shows and we stream our shows that people can't come in to see," he said. "We are very strict with the COVID, the city says we're doing better than most places. So, you know everyone's six feet apart. We check temperatures, everyone must wear a mask.
"We have to wear the face shield," said D'Moore. "Unless we are going to be six feet or more away from the crowd. It's really nice to actually see people see smiling faces and see them cheering and drinking. “
Thursday, October 8, was the club's first show, at the Atrium on 10th Street.
One customer, David Hall, says he appreciates their commitment to safety. “And it's just it's great," he said. "So, it's because it's big enough to be spaced out like to be socially distance and to be safe for everybody.”
Danielle Komo, a drag performer and customer, says Nclusion Plus is welcoming.
“And this place, you know, everyone knows you," said Komo. "It's very friendly. You don't got to worry about anything. So, I like it."
But Plogger says Nclusion Plus isn't just about the performances. The organizers want to advocate for LGBTQ mental health and education.
“Since we've started Nclusion Plus, we have partnered with Burrell Health and we are also partnered or working with The Center Project and also getting in working with all three colleges here in town," said Plogger.
“And they want to be part of the community and they're doing a fantabulous job," said D'Moore. "You know we have a few other events that's coming up in the in the future that is going to be donating to some charities.”
“These performers are here to entertain and be here for the community and that’s why we do this," said Plogger. "We're here for the community itself.”
1 Million Cups Columbia MO:
Join us as we hear from Nclusion Plus
Jul 29, 2020
We will hear from Brandon with Nclusion Plus. Nclusion, Inc, operating under the name, Nclusion+Club, Nclusion+Magazine, and Nclusion+Presents is a family of brands that offer the LGBTQIA+ niche audience a subscription-based membership platform that offers members benefits in media, events & more. See more at: https://www.nclusionplus.com/
#1MC #1MCMidwest #1MCComo #1MCVirtual
A family-friendly Christmas in July drag show
Jul 25, 2020
Nclusion Plus held two drag performances Saturday at Stephens Lake Park’s Reichmann Pavilion. The 4 p.m. show was family-friendly and the 7 p.m. show was for 18 and older and included dinner. The shows had a “Christmas in July” theme and were sponsored by the Laser Clinic and Liberty Family Medicine.
Nclusion Plus was formed by a group of former patrons of the Yin Yang Night Club after the club closed earlier this year. Nclusion Plus’ ultimate goal is to have a venue for community gatherings and events and to provide a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community. More information is available on their website at www.nclusionplus.com.
HAPPENING IN COLUMBIA:
ART exhibits, outdoor movies, virtual drag shows, and more.
Jul 25, 2020
I’ve scoured the web and walked the streets of downtown Columbia to find out what big things are happening in CoMo this month. Here are some up and coming events to look forward to.
Columbia Art League, ColumbiaArtLeague.org
On July 28, the Monochrome exhibit begins at Columbia Art League. Each artist will use one color and variations of shade, tone, and tint to create their piece of artwork. Artists have until July 25 to enter and drop off their work for the show. All media is welcome, and the exhibit will last until September 10.
Rose Music Hall, RoseMusicHall.com
The summer movies in the park have restarted at Rose Music Hall, and they’re a great opportunity to enjoy a summer night while social distancing. On Wednesday, July 22 the 1990 horror comedy film Tremors that features Kevin Bacon will play on the big screen. There is a 150 person limit in the park, so there will be plenty of room to space out. Watch the original movie trailer here. Follow the music venue on social media to see what classic movie they’re playing next.
Talking Horse Productions, TalkingHorseProductions.org
Talking Horse Productions is hosting a summer special this weekend at Stephens Lake Park Amphitheater. On Saturday, July 18, the free event will kick off at 3 PM with a new improv troupe, The Ponies. At 5, a musical performance begins, then at 7, The Stable Boys, Talking Horse’s long-form improv troupe, will perform. Visit the website to learn more about the event and Talking Horse Productions’ plan for the 2021 season.
Nclusion Plus, NclusionPlus.com
COVID-19 has shut down many bars and clubs with some, like Yin Yang Night Club, closing permanently. Yin Yang was best known for its weekly drag shows and inclusive environment. Now there’s a new way to watch drag shows. You can virtually watch Drag2Nite every Thursday at 7:00 PM from the Nclusion Plus Facebook page. There’s also a drag brunch and bingo on the second Sunday of every month and karaoke every third Friday. In-person shows with regulations are held on most Saturday nights. Follow on social media to see which entertainers are taking the stage during their upcoming shows.
Queens of Columbia nightlife take the show online
Jun 25, 2020
As COVID-19 remains a threat to lovers of nightlife and clubbing, the captivating world of live drag shows has been put on hold. But, drag is still alive in Columbia, from Nclusion+ fighting for a new community space to Youtube channels of drag queen commentary. Even without a physical club, the drag community of Columbia has found ways to create change and continue entertaining its audience.
Yin Yang Night Club, Columbia’s only drag bar, recently closed permanently due to COVID-19. The bar was the only venue in town that offered drag shows multiple nights a week, giving drag queens a somewhat steady paycheck and a strong sense of community. It’s closure has motivated efforts such as Nclusion+ to create a new home for local drag queens.
Brandon Banks and five others founded Nclusion+ after watching Columbia gay bars such as Yin Yang Night Club and SoCo Club shut their doors. He and the other founders wondered if people would pay a membership fee to ensure that an LGBTQ space in Columbia is built and here to stay. With the help of many performers and volunteers, Nclusion+ is working towards making its vision a reality. Virtual town hall meetings are being held to discuss what prospective members of Nclusion+ are looking to gain from paying a fee.
“It needs to be a membership space where we provide resources and value to each other, then we have something that is sustainable,” Banks says.
Banks says the future physical space will function as a community center as well as a drag club. Nclusion+ plans to offer the LGBTQ community opportunities such as safe space training, resume building classes and training for drag queens who are self-managed.
Banks says that over the past month or so, the Nclusion+ Facebook page gained over 600 followers and had about 5,000 engagements.
While Nclusion+ has not yet secured a permanent physical space, the group is at work speaking with the LGBTQ community and building an audience for its online content. Nclusion+ hosts free digital drag shows through Facebook livestreams every Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. The shows are hosted in a space offered by a sponsor so the drag queens and organizers can be physically together to perform. The livestreams feature drag queens who lip-synch and dance to a song. In between songs, a performer, organizer or volunteer hosts a mini game or plays a recorded video of a performer who is outside of Columbia.
Shane Ruble, local drag queen who performs under the stage name Bea Jay Enidae, was a frequent performer at Yin Yang Night Club and is now a part of the Nclusion+ livestreams. While they enjoy performing during livestreams, they have found it difficult to recreate their live performances.
“There's no crowd interaction, which is a lot of what I did as a performer,” Ruble says. “It's more difficult to get that connection with your crowd while they’re sitting at home watching on Facebook.”
According to Ruble, livestreams can be hit or miss for earning money. Viewers can use Venmo to tip the drag queens for their virtual performances. During a recent livestream, Ruble made only $10, but their most successful livestream earned them $100.
Some drag queens have found other ways of continuing their craft while at home. Anthony Brown, who performs as Liz Anya, has been filming his Youtube series, Pretty Busted, where he joins fellow local drag queen Logan Pease as Lorilie to react to season 12 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Recently, Pease filmed a music video as Lorilie, lip-synching to the song “Nobody” by Sylvia.
Brown and Pease aren’t working with Nclusion+, but they both support the idea.
While COVID-19 has forced local drag queens to get creative with new ways to perform at home, many of them, such as Pease, are eager to hit the clubs again.
“When I’m on the stage and I get to perform, it’s such a freeing and fun feeling. It’s a good way to interact with the audience and the community,” Pease says. “That’s what I miss the most.”
Columbia’s Tom Bradley on Jack FM Interviews The New LGBTQIA+ Social Group, Nclusion Plus
Jun 09, 2020
Take a look and watch the interview between Columbia, Missouri's radio legend, Tom Bradley and Nclusion, Inc. Joined by co-hosts Aaron "Foxy" Fox and Beth "Lady Beth" Halls, you'll learn more about the new LGBTQIA+ socia club, events, nightlife, and community. Hear Brandon Banks and Amanda Lay about the plans for drag shows, the membership club, and a little about the founding team during this NclusionPlus interview on 93.1 Jack FM.
-Find the original video on The Tom Bradley Show Facebook page.