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'I'm gonna be me and screw you if you don't like it'

Ade Connere, at home on Seattle's Capitol Hill
KUOW photo, Marcie Sillman
Ade Connere, at home on Seattle's Capitol Hill

Ade Connere doesn’t have a personal gender pronoun preference.

“It usually depends on what I’m wearing!”

On this late winter afternoon, Ade is androgynous in black jeans, shirt, and beret, so you might be tempted to use “they.”

But most of the people who flock to see Ade perform at Seattle bars and clubs see a “she,” decked out in dresses, wigs and makeup.

“A lot of people would consider me a drag queen,” Ade says.

She prefers the simple term "artist," which may be a more apt description of the work she aspires to do.

Ade moved to Seattle from Denver more than a decade ago and quickly became a fixture on the drag circuit. Her first gig was at Rebar, singing Donna Summer songs between the acts of a disco-themed show.

Since then, Ade has appeared in fringe theater productions; a band that plays what she describes as ‘orchestral suicide rock’ (“melancholy, in a sort of tongue in cheek way”); and a web-based comedy series.

It’s a life Ade never could have imagined for herself.

“My childhood was not an easy one,” Ade says. Her father, and later her stepfather, were abusive. “It’s something I always had to deal with.”

She prefers not to dive into the story she describes as long and complicated, except to say “I’m gonna be me, and screw you if you don’t like it. I had to take that standpoint with my family.”

Ade’s grandmother, an opera singer, encouraged the child to perform. Ade learned to play violin, and was a self-described teenage theater nerd.

The move to Seattle was serendipitous; Ade was restless in Denver and a couple of musician friends had moved to the Pacific Northwest, so she decided to tag along. People here introduced her to artists around town and, slowly, she built her reputation.

Live performance is Ade's drug of choice. “I’m addicted to it,” she says. “When I’m onstage, everything sort of melts away. It allows me to live in the moment.”

Whether that means donning a wig and red satin gown or creating an autobiographical show, Ade is driven to make work for an audience.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Ade Connere's more feminine side", "fid": "133762", "style": "card_280", "uri": "public://201702/IMG_0010.JPG", "attribution": "Credit photo by Angel Ceballos, courtesy Ade Connere"}]]In 2014, Ade made headlines, but not for her art. One night, after she finished a show on Capitol Hill, she was attacked by a group of young men. It wasn’t the first time she was physically assaulted, but this time Ade didn’t press charges. She told The Stranger that, when she’d reported an earlier attack as a hate crime, “it was more traumatic than the attack” itself.

So, Ade patched up the cuts and scrapes and carried on.

“I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do, and try it enjoy it. There will be tough times, but …” she shrugs.

Ade’s attitude toward her art began to shift last year. A friend asked her to audition for a show called “House of Dinah,” a musical drama about three generations of African-American drag queens. The experience pushed Ade artistically, but it also kindled something political: a conscious acknowledgement of herself as “a queer artist of color.”

“House of Dinah” got Ade thinking about what that label means “and how I can really be more a part of my community, and focus my energy on people of color.”

Her new consciousness was amplified by the contentious presidential race, and the rise of overt white nationalism.

“I think right now I have no choice but to become more political with what I’m doing,” Ade says.

But she doesn’t know exactly what that will mean for her art.

“I think a lot of us, artists, people of color, are trying to figure that out. I’m asking, ‘What can I do? What is going to have an impact, and where do I focus this energy?’”

Despite the challenges Ade has faced, she considers herself lucky to live in Seattle, where most people embrace her both personally and professionally. She’d like to use her art to extend the same kind of support to people outside Seattle’s blue bubble.

“I’d like to tell people to hang in there, you know? It might be a bumpy ride, but we’ll get through it.”