People of CLT, meet Buff Faye. She’s a larger-than-life leader for the Charlotte LGBTQ community – and if you can manage to scale her mountain of accolades, beyond them you’ll see a vast horizon of Charlotteans benefiting from her creativity and generosity.
Who is Buff Faye?
I like to think of her as a “charity queen,” raising money for Campus Pride and other non-profits, as well as raising awareness for the LGBTQ community. She is committed to inclusiveness, diversity, and progressiveness in the Queen City.
How is Buff Faye known in the QC?
Since 2008, Buff Faye has been amassing attention and accolades! To start, she is the first drag queen to have been featured on the front covers of The Charlotte Observer and Creative Loafing. In 2012, Buff was chosen as Creative Loafing “Best of the Best” Drag Entertainer and in 2012 and 2015 as Q-Notes’ “Best of Charlotte Drag Queen.”
Buff Faye has also been fortunate to have captured other titles like: 2018 Miss Gay Southeast America, 2017 North Carolina Entertainer of the Year, 2015 Miss Charlotte Pride, the first ever Miss Crown Royal (a local pageant involving Charlotte’s famous LGBT inclusive rugby team), Miss Charlotte Drag Idol and more.
What was your first drag experience like?
A friend with 15 years of experience helped me transform myself into a big, beautiful drag queen, like a character from Hairspray. I was so good that Bar Argon (formerly The Charlotte Eagle) hired me for their weekly Sunday buffets.
Getting dressed in drag must take a lot of creative effort. What motivates you?
My drag has always been used to raise money and bring attention to different causes. I ask, “How can I help bring people out?” It’s all about becoming more familiar in order to break down barriers, especially to help create a space for younger people to express themselves.
You certainly caught the attention of the QC during the last Gay Pride Parade! What’s the story behind your green, orange and yellow dress?
I wanted to go big—so big that my costume required a pickup truck! As you can see in the picture below, my dress had a lot of fabric, 40 feet to be exact. A windy day, combined with parachute material and riding in the back of a truck, proved to be precarious but was so worth it. With the help of dancers coming out from underneath my dress, I won second alternate in a national pageant. Now the question is, how do I top this outfit for the next parade? Ideas?
Where can people find Buff Faye now?
Buff Faye is at Dilworth Grille one Sunday a month for brunch. We have a variety of themes, such as Disney, that families really enjoy. Buff Faye can be found entertaining a party bus running on Friday nights throughout the year and commanding audiences at the annual charity event, The Queen City Drag Race. Each month, she whips up a column “Dishing with Buff Faye” for Q-Notes Carolina newspaper.
Underneath the elaborate costumes is an equally accomplished man. Who is he?
Do I have to tell? Ha! My real name is Shane Windmeyer— a nationally recognized speaker, educator and best-selling author of six books including the The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students!
Tell us about The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students!
After compiling the advice of thousands of LGBT students and campus officials, a guidebook was born for the first generation of out LGBT students. The book profiles 100 U.S. institutions using a “Gay Point Average” on critical LGBT issues such as: gay-affirmative policies; campus events; queer student perspectives; housing for LGBT students; local gay hangouts; gay-friendly support resources and queer studies.
Your book planted the seed for your current position. What’s your career focus now?
In 1997, my husband and I moved to Charlotte after completing grad school. For the next five years, I held a position at UNC Charlotte. Then in 2001, I left my full-time position to start a non-profit as the founder/executive director of Campus Pride, the leading national non-profit organization benefiting LGBTQ youth nation-wide on college campuses.
Charlotte was quite conservative in 1997. Did you have any concerns about relocating here?
Moving to Charlotte wasn’t easy in the 90s. We asked ourselves, “Do we want to be in a place where we are needed or in a place where we could just blend in?” While Indiana University had a supportive and established LGBT community, UNC Charlotte barely had a community at all. In 2006, a news reporter wanted to talk to someone who was gay and in a leadership role, and that’s how I was found; there weren’t many in Charlotte. But now, Charlotte’s diversity is growing as a whole and because of that, we all benefit. And speaking of benefits, I should have purchased several houses in the 90s!
What have the last few years looked like?
I’ve been working and having fun while fundraising to help others learn about the diversity within our community. Time spent as a drag queen has been a bridge for awareness to help others to feel more confident in expressing themselves. I believe drag can change the world, raise money to benefit all, and provide outreach into the community. I ask Charlotte, “How do we break down barriers for LGBTQ people? Drag is one way to help us build bridges of understanding and community.”
As an active member of the LGBTQ community, what is your outlook for the QC?
We need to truly recognize that we are in a place where we have a lot of learning to do. Charlotte needs to learn from mistakes. LGBTQ people are still underserved and not equal. I believe Charlotte will grow into a world-class city – we are on our way but still very stuck in a conservative way of thinking. We need more people speaking up, creating more visibility for the LGBTQ community, and having a visible presence in leadership, as well as civic involvement.
Charlotte is in a “rainbow bubble!” We celebrate the LGBTQ community only during annual events – I would like to see more year-round events. Now is not the time to sit back!
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