By COLE POTWARDOWSKI
On Thursday nights, three hours before showtime, Colton Johnson arrives home from Pima Community College ready for a meal and a nap.
Time is valuable, because from 9:30 p.m. to midnight he becomes “Victorya Munroe,” a petite, blonde-haired, 30-year-old divorcee.
Munroe loves two things: money and alcohol. She is also eight years Johnson’s senior.
Johnson loves the garish lifestyle of drag queens.
“Originally I started out taking theater makeup classes,” Johnson says. “One day I was out of face templates for a design I was doing. I decided to use my face for the design.”
The result was Victorya Munroe, named after Johnson’s two favorite women: Victoria Beckham and Marilyn Monroe.
“I liked the name Victoria, but it still wasn’t powerful enough for me,” Johnson says. “So I spelled it my way — victory with an A.”
Johnson ventured into drag around August 2010.
“I was just performing in shows that were hosted by others or basically anywhere I could get my foot in the door,” he says.
Johnson landed an opportunity to perform at New Moon Tucson on West Prince Road in the summer of 2011. However, animosity with other performers truncated his stay.
He sought a spot at Brodie’s Tavern on North Stone Avene in September 2011.
“I knew both of the owners on both professional and personal levels, so I always felt comfortable and relaxed,” Johnson says.
Johnson has since defused the friction at New Moon Tucson and returned there. His alter ego balances between the two businesses.
New Moon Tucson hosts a talent show called “To the Moon From the Stars” hosted by Jessica Michaels on Thursday nights.
Johnson regularly performs in the show. His act as Munroe includes singing, dancing and conjuring illusion.
“We allow all forms of talent to perform,” Johnson says. “Depending on the number of performers, the show can run up to three hours.”
Johnson graces Brodie’s Tavern as Munroe on the third Saturday of every month at 9 p.m. There he co-hosts “Not Your Average Housewives” with Bella Divine.
“I came up with the idea for the name from the ABC television series ‘Desperate Housewives,’” Johnson says. “I figured since we are all really men, we weren’t ‘average housewives.’ I thought it was catchy.”
“Not Your Average Housewives” admits audiences 21 and older. Munroe, Divine and two other performers begin with stand-up comedy and invite audience participation.
After a musical number, Munroe and Divine close the show.
Johnson’s life as a performer is an immersive experience, but not his only commitment. Between showbiz gigs, he attends PCC Monday through Thursday.
“Some weeks are easier than others,” he says. “Some take a little more time management and then some take a little more liquor!”
Johnson graduated from Amphitheater High School in 2008. He started at PCC, but dropped out in Spring 2010.
“My father had a heart attack on us,” Johnson says. “I ended up quitting school to take care of him and to take some time to focus on my career.”
Johnson’s father is alive and well, with help from Johnson’s partner, Justin Craine.
“His parents pushed him to be the best he could be,” Craine says. “As he got older, he learned to push himself.”
Johnson returned to PCC this fall. He is enrolled in four classes, including two required for his liberal arts major: Introduction to Acting II and Musical Theater Workshop.
Johnson says he wants to teach acting or drag, but aspires to appear on Broadway in New York.
He is guided by his love of theater, and adores musicals such as “Wicked,” “Legally Blonde” and “The Book of Mormon,” among many others.
Outside of school and his career, Johnson focuses on extracurricular activities and family.
He walked with the Tucson Gay Historical Society in this year’s Tucson Pride Parade, hosted at Armory Park. The parade has been celebrated annually since 1977.
Though Johnson and Craine attended, Munroe did not make an appearance.
“There is a major difference, in our world, between a drag queen, a cross-dresser and a transsexual woman or man,” Johnson says. “A drag queen is strictly a performer and that character exists strictly for the stage.”
Craine says Munroe is spectacular, and hopes Johnson will continue playing her.
“Everyone that has come to see him says he gets better with it,” Craine says.
In addition to acting and drag, Craine envisions Johnson pursuing a career in stand-up comedy, because he can make people laugh.
For now, Johnson intends to finish school and enhance his career as a drag queen. He toils away at his studies. By day, he’s a student — by night, a drag queen.
Come Monday morning, Johnson strolls into class from a long weekend. He wears a shirt that says, “She looked good last night.”
“Funny shirt, Colton,” a classmate says, and Johnson agrees. But those who know him only as Johnson won’t get the half of it.