Xo Carrington shines at Scarlet – 'and demands the attention of everyone in the room'

Fri. February 22, 2019 12:45 PM by Ross Forman

Xo Carrington – one of the four diva hosts for The Takeover, held every Sunday night at Scarlet Bar in Boystown – is, in reality, the full realization of everything Tyler Joseph didn't think he was allowed to be growing up.

Joseph is from a small Midwest town, "so being a young queer person of color was challenging," he said. "I was very shy and incredibly self-aware of 'what not to be' (and) 'how not to act' in public so that I wouldn't get teased or confronted. In turn, I really had no confidence and no self-love.

"Xo is none of the above. She's self-assured, undaunted and sensuous, and demands the attention of everyone in the room. And even when she doesn't get it, she's unbothered."

Joseph, 26, lives in Andersonville and has called Chicago home for two years. He is a bartender and assistant manager at Scarlet.

Xo Carrington has her roots at Illinois State University – and it was almost a fluke that she came to life.

"I was at the final rehearsal for ISU Pride's annual Charity Drag Show, and when (someone) saw me dancing in my chair watching the others rehearse their numbers, they asked 'Why aren't you up there? We just had someone drop out, so there's an open spot," Xo Carrington said. "Until that question (was asked), I had never even considered doing drag. But, I went home, mulled it over, and two days later I was on stage (in front of about) 600 people.

"I loved every second of it."

Xo Carrington is a tribute to Joseph's mom.

"When I was thinking of my drag name, I really wanted it to remind me of my mother who has always believed in me and pushed me forward," she said. "Had I been born a girl, my mother would have named me Kirby, which is cute as hell, but not really a fitting drag name for what I was going for. While I did want something genderless, I also wanted something a little provocative, mysterious, and enigmatic. Growing up, my mother would always leave my sister and I notes in the morning before she left for work. She would always sign them with XO and a heart. Boom – that was it!

"The last name, Carrington, comes from the first drag queen I saw perform – Ceduxcion Carrington from Champaign, Illinois – who took me in, showed me what she knew about drag, and gave me a platform to perform.

"Xo's debut was just a fun little side-act. Now I realize drag is what I love and what I want to do."

Xo Carrington has been in the spotlight at venues in Central Illinois, and such Chicago spots as Berlin, Charlie's, Hamburger Mary's, @mosphere, and of course, Scarlet.

She co-hosts The Takeover with Miss Miranda, Venus Carangi, and Aunty Chan.

Xo Carrington certainly has a connection with her audience – whether it's performing a nostalgic number that everyone knows the words to, or doing something extra like introducing a pop-up basketball game on stage. "There's no better feeling than the mutual building of fun, positive energy with an audience," she said.

"Xo has taught me so much about myself. Being Xo has given me a lot of opportunities to reflect on who I am, my insecurities, my aspirations, my faults, and my strengths. Xo's character of such brilliant outward confidence has shown me an inner confidence that I wasn't positive I would ever reach."

One of the biggest shows Xo Carrington has performed at was, MBLGTACC 2015 – the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Asexual Collegiate Conference. Bianca Del Rio was the show's MC, and there were about 2,300 in attendance.

Xo Carrington is a past winner of Crash Landing, an all-inclusive drag competition, held twice-a-month at Berlin Nightclub and hosted by T-Rex, Nico, and Lucy Stoole. "Winning the competition has given me the opportunity to perform at Drag Matinee, which is one of Chicago's best weekly drag shows, hosted by T-Rex every Saturday."

Xo Carrington will be at Drag Matinee at Berlin on Feb. 2, starting at 10 p.m.

"In the past year I've had quite a few people message me privately wanting to thank me for being an inspiration to them, for inspiring them to do drag, for inspiring them to be their truest, queerest selves, etc.," she said. "Xo was always something I truly needed for myself. To be honest, in a lot of ways, she saved my life. But hearing that just me being me has provided something special to others as well is so incredibly humbling and fulfilling.

"While the notoriety of being on (RuPaul's) Drag Race would be killer, right now I'm not sure if that's something I want. I (just) want to keep pushing my drag to the next level, wherever I can. I want to get my name out there and be known as a positive energy for people."

Xo Carrington said the best and worst of things of being Xo Carrington are connected. "While I've grown personally and learned a lot about myself through Xo, I've also learned where my faults are and where I still need to improve. (But that) only serves as more motivation," she said.