BoyJ kicks off the weekend every Friday at Hydrate Nightclub

Tue. November 21, 2023 9:12 AM by Ross Forman

boyj is the new face of hydrate's friday night

photo credit // hydrate

‘I want to make everyone a BoyJ fan,’ says Jalen Manuel (aka BoyJ)

Jalen Manuel, known throughout the LGBTQ community as Thee BoyJ, is the new face of Friday nights at Hydrate Nightclub, a true kickoff to the weekend in the heart of the Chicago neighborhood commonly called Boystown and a first of its kind at the popular bar.

“It’s so special, I take it with high honor when I was presented with the offer to be the face of Hydrate on Friday nights,” BoyJ said. “Management came to me because of my personality. I’ve worked at Hydrate often and it’s just natural for me to take a hold of the energy in the room. I want everyone in the building to have a great time – from DJ to the door person to the people who are alone.

“I want to make everyone a BoyJ fan, even if it’s a sprinkle of a memory. My role on Friday is to just do that, host the party, spread love, make people know that the energy of Hydrate is going to be fun, a great place to party safe.”

BoyJ, 29, who lives in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, is admittedly a full-time pop star and part-time drag queen. He has been an entertainer for, well, forever.

“I caught the theater bug in middle school (and) realized (early on) I’m blessed with the vocals of a Broadway star, so I chopped that dream,” and he has followed many paths, he said.

BoyJ worked as a go-go dancer and now as a drag entertainer.

“At age 10 or so, I came across Queer as Folk. I remember vividly the rush I would feel seeing the scenes at Babylon (with) dancers in cages and dancing in uplifted areas. I just thought so highly of them,” BoyJ said. “Once I moved to Chicago, I really seized the opportunity. To start that life, I began dancing at Lucky Horseshoe where I was shown a lot of different ways to live your life as a go-go dancer. I just wanted to dance; I think a lot of other people there knew I had more in me.”

Then he landed at Charlie’s – and that’s where BoyJ truly came to life.

And, come Friday, BoyJ will be the life of the Hydrate parties. He was, for instance, recently playing matchmaker to pair gay men. “That was such a cool experience, helping my community (members) get laid,” he said, laughing. “I’m not there for people to admire from a far; I’m the type of person who will get dirty and, in your face, so I hope people enjoy the more interactive experience with me.

“I’m dancing with strangers. I’m pouring shots. I’m checking IDs, if you’re cute.”

The Friday DJs at Hydrate always bring the best beats to kick off the weekend party. DJs Martin and Chomper will always deliver house and pop music.

In coming Fridays, BoyJ is looking to surprise Hydrate visitors, but doesn’t want tip his tricks.

“Fridays at Hydrate after midnight isn’t a drag show … it’s the essence of a drag show, but none of the performance,” he said. “I will supply glamor and uplifting vibes! I’m the conductor to all the fun and I’ll be very accessible to what the people need.”

Party Time With … BoyJ

Chicago: “I’m a city person, for sure. I’ve always been drawn to tall buildings and the Chicago skyline at night. I lived two years in Indiana and that had me in the middle of a corn maze and of course North Carolina where I was born, which has city life but nothing compares to Chicago.” He has been in Chicago for the past five years.

Single or Dating: Single – “I haven’t had the best luck in dating in Chicago. It takes a specific person to be able to handle my lifestyle and I don’t like just bringing any Tom, Dick, or Harry into the world I’ve created. So, until I meet the right guy, I’ve been comfortable dating myself. But don’t take that as I’m not looking because, baby, I’ll walk around a bar three times to make sure I ain’t miss a guy.”

Chicago’s LGBT community: “It is a very rambunctious group and I think some people just don’t see the purity in that. We are passionate about our drag; we are dedicated to our drag and we will do what it takes to protect our drag … and that’s cool as shit to me.”

BoyJ on BoyJ: “When you think of the drag queens who paved the way, they were activists, pioneers of change. I would like to do more with my platform.”

Helping Others: BoyJ will be working with a local clinic to help get people tested and screened for HIV and STDs, and distributing information and more. I’m hoping this work can add a layer to my career where I’m able to serve my community in a different way.”

Favorite DJs:  DJ Martin and DJ Cash Era

Favorite Drag Queens: “I love a messy question. Naomi Small is the queen of all queens. To me, untouchable for the first spot in my life. The other queens, in no order: Jorgeous, Serena Fierce and Veronica Pop.

Jalen Is … “Dynamic”

BoyJ Is … “All about glamour and dramatics.”

Hobbies: Eating, from fine dining to hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Second, gaming – “I love video games and always have. I speak very highly of my Grand Theft Auto online character. We have been on a digital journey since 2014 and I still can deep dive in a session for hours, no lie.”

Passion: His birth family: “I’m very passionate about my birth family. I have had my share of ups and downs with them, but they are my passion because you only get one mom and one dad and from them you really can find everything that’s wrong with you, but also the beauty. My parents aren’t aware of the life I’m living as a drag entertainer yet. I hope someday I reach the level in my career that I feel comfortable and have enough accolades to present to them a full, well-rounded professional entertainer. I know they would be proud of (me), but that doesn’t stop me from creating an unbreakable bond with them. I mean, they created this monster.”

Favorite TV Shows: “I’ve been trapped in the 1990s sitcom era. I watch a lot of Will and Grace, and am a King of the Hill fan.”

Favorite Movies: The Lion King and The Devil Wears Prada

Favorite app: Tumblr – “I’ve had it since my middle school days and, honestly, sometimes I’ll scroll far, far back to see where my life was back then. I feel nostalgic when I open it.”

Favorite Sport: “I don’t watch sports for the right reason; I love the men who play soccer and basketball so those are what I’ll tolerate.”

Little-Known Fact: “In high school, I played lacrosse. I had none of the skills to make me really good, but it was my senior year and I wanted to do it, so I did. It was a lot of fun.”

Many Will Be Surprised To Learn That I … “love the fame. I love being an entertainer but around the age of, oh, 45, maybe later, when I’m older and ready to settle down, I may want to disappear to a farm or in the woods with my lover, just us in the wilderness; that’s so romantic to me.”

Boxers or Briefs: “I’m a thong guy, for sure. But, for the sake of the question, I don’t care about the wrapping paper of a gift … just make sure the gift is big.”