Meet the drag queen revolutionizing the streaming world on Twitch
"I wasn't a drag queen .. until I started my Twitch channel," said Deere, who is paving the way for drag video game streamers on Twitch.
Deere, the founder of Stream Queens, takes a selfie with a fan at TwitchCon in San Diego on Saturday. Jenna Schoenefeld / for NBC News
By Kalhan Rosenblatt
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — On Saturday afternoon, a group of women with sky-high hair and heels gathered outside Room 4 of the San Diego Convention Center, where fans excitedly swarmed to compliment their beauty and snap photos on their iPhones.
They were preparing for a panel at TwitchCon — the annual convention for the video game streaming platform, Twitch — that had never been held at the event before: "Drag on Twitch: Meet the Stream Queens."
"You're so beautiful," fan Sara Godfrey, 22, said as she oozed with admiration for Deere, a statuesque blonde drag queen wearing a black dress embossed with a skeleton design.
Deere, 31, who asked NBC News to only identify her by her drag name in order to protect her safety, is a force on Twitch. Over the last three years, she has carved out a space for drag queens like herself on the platform, which has traditionally been thought of as a place for young straight men to play video games.
She is not only the founder of Stream Queens, a group of 29 drag streamers on Twitch, but she's also a Twitch partner and TwitchCon ambassador.
"My Twitch channel started as something that I didn't see available, which was my interests: video games and drag. I wanted to watch that and I was like, 'No one is making that so I'm going to produce the content that I wish was available to me,'" Deere told NBC News on Saturday.
Ahead of the panel, Deere, fellow drag queen video game streamers Hashtag Trashly, Elixa, and drag king streamer Ectobabble, posed with fans for photos and handed out stickers and pins before entering the room that was so packed, clusters of people were forced to stand against the walls. (Another member of the Stream Queens, drag streamer Joy Stique, would arrive later during the panel).
"As soon as I was partnered, it was my mission to bring a spotlight to drag, and so we're doing it," Deere told attendees at the start of the panel.
Deere's mission to bring the world of drag to Twitch began in 2016 when her computer broke. An avid gamer, Deere decided to purchase a gaming PC, and merge more than a decade of knowledge as a makeup artist with her passion for video games.
"I was thinking to myself, 'I have a new computer, it has the capabilities of streaming and I just want to be a drag queen, so why not be the video gaming drag queen?'" Deere said. "It just made sense."
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With her fellow queens by her side at the panel inside the Twitch Unity Lounge and a room bursting with fans, Deere's vision to make room for drag on Twitch had not only been accepted by the community but embraced.
It's something the other gaming drag queens are grateful for, saying they see Deere as a trailblazer who has helped them find a new family online.
"I've made such good friends, especially with the other queens. I don't know if you've ever heard RuPaul talk about finding your tribe — I've seriously found my tribe with these other Stream Queens," said Hashtag Trashly, 31, who was in a billowing purple gown with gold nails and a mountain of blonde hair swept into a side ponytail.
Trashly said in Chicago, where she's from, she doesn't have drag queen friends that she's as close with as those she's met through Twitch and the community Deere has fostered.
"When I started, I thought I was the only drag queen and then I found Deere and I was like, 'Oh, my God! There's another drag queen!' We started finding more and more queens," Trashly said.
Elixa, 35, a drag queen with flowing pink hair, diamond-encrusted nails and a glittering sequined dress, said she's always loved playing video games, but said Deere motivated her to start playing video games in drag on Twitch.
A thread that ties the Stream Queens together is a love of horror video games, which Deere said is rooted in their appreciation for the dramatic exaggeration of the campy genre.
"It's so fun to just make fun of a video game. It's so fun to comment on a situation that's supposed to be stressful and scary and just laugh about it," Deere said.
That principle is one Deere has taught the other queens to apply when dealing with the internet's own horror show, the trolls in the chat log.
"I actually learned from Deere specifically how to handle trolls because it's the best thing to do — you mispronounce their messages that they do in chat and so, it's like, 'I hate figs? Why would you hate figs? They're a good source of fiber!'" Trashly explained during the panel, causing the room to explode in a fit of laughter and applause.
"Feigning ignorance will change your life," Deere replied slyly.
Despite the occasional troll, it's clear the Stream Queens are overwhelmingly beloved by the community on Twitch, something Deere said she initially didn't anticipate.
"When I was streaming, I started in August. TwitchCon always happens in September or October, so people would be like, 'Are you going to TwitchCon? I'd love to meet you. That would be great.' And I'm like, 'Girl, that's a straight people's event. They wouldn't want me there. I'd be imposing on them,'" Deere said.
But with the encouragement of other streamers and her fans, Deere said her initial assumption that she would not be accepted is continuously proven wrong and she feels time and time again she is shown that she does belong on Twitch and among the community at TwitchCon.
"I'm safe here and I'll be supported," she said.
The platform itself has also elevated Deere, featuring her among other well-known streamers in an advertisement for the platform that was unveiled at TwitchCon.
"I started my drag officially the day I went live on Twitch ... I wasn't a drag queen, I wasn't 'Deere is here,' until I started my Twitch channel, and it's just so cool that Twitch as a brand is inviting me, and empowering me, and embracing me because it's so unique," Deere said. "You don't see this kind of thing being featured everywhere."
Kalhan Rosenblatt is a reporter for NBC News, based in New York.