We the People is a blog series that features the stories of members, supporters, volunteers, and allies of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota. Together we are accomplishing critical work in our state to protect and advance civil liberties across the Midwest and beyond.
Rooted in creativity and advocacy, Pollie Esther has been making a name for herself in South Dakota’s local drag community.
From performing in front of thousands of people at Sioux Falls Pride to advocating for LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit rights in her community, nothing is stopping Pollie from making South Dakota better for everyone.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m currently a student at the University of South Dakota hoping to do something with art and I've been doing drag since I was 17 years old. Drag started as a way to get creative after I saw “RuPaul’s Drag Race” in high school. The show really spoke to me. So I gave it a shot and a few years later here we are! I have almost a thousand followers on Instagram and something like 50 hand-sewn looks posted for the world to see.
Your drag name is Pollie Esther. Where did inspiration for that come from?
You can’t get much cheaper than polyester, so I wanted to do a funny little joke about how cheap the materials I’m making my costumes out of are. If anything in the future when my costumes get more expensive, it’ll be a reminder of my roots.
How does drag influence your advocacy?
Drag is all about advocacy. I feel like when you get into drag, you’re making a statement. I think every queen should be using the attention that drag affords us to help spread messages of love and bring awareness to issues. It can be as a simple as a social media post.
House Bill 1116, legislation that would have prohibited the hosting of “lewd or lascivious” programs or events like drag shows on state-owned facilities, failed in the Senate Education Committee this year. The bill not only violated First Amendment rights but also provoked a broader cultural suppression of LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit people. What would you tell our state lawmakers and those who supported this bill?
I thought about this so much. It’s literally so incredibly frustrating this is even a discussion. There are so many important things to be focusing on and something so positive like drag shouldn’t even be on the radar. It’s shocking that people think it’s about children. What about the missing Indigenous girls or the kids that get shot in school?
Drag is important to me for so many reasons and I don’t appreciate lawmakers making me feel like what I’m doing is wrong or immoral.
Why do you think it’s important for people to be involved in their communities?
It is so important for everyone to get involved with the community especially in such a tiny state like South Dakota. I live out in the country at the moment and it can feel so isolating to not have that sense of community and connection. While I’m fortunate to have a support system, not having that in place would be dreadful. Going to community events and getting involved in advocacy is vital to building community.
What do you love about South Dakota?
I have a love-hate relationship with South Dakota. It’s my home, it’s where my family that I love is, and I’ve made a couple amazing friends here. However, sometimes being different here makes it difficult to feel fully welcome. While it’s hard to deal with that, South Dakota is worth it.
How does the ACLU and our work relate to you personally? Are there any issues you feel most connected to?
Everything the ACLU does dramatically improves my life. It almost feels like a safety blanket in which I can rely on being informed about issues that I care about as they’re happening through the social media pages. I always know where to go to get involved as far as events go.
It just feels like that fun aunt who’s always on your side.