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“Drag isn’t hurting anyone”: The teen star of ‘Drag: the Musical’ has no time for hate

Kayden Koshelev headshot
Kayden Koshelev Photo: Diana Ragland

Backstage, with anticipation, a young versatile actor prepares for his performance on stage taking on a role most boys his age would be hesitant to. Kayden Koshelev has wanted to act since age three, and at 13, he starred as “Brendan” in Drag: The Musical in Hollywood. Drag: The Musical tells the story of two competing drag bars that battle it out for survival amidst financial difficulties. Amongst the whirlwind of their financial struggles, Brendan learns a lot from his uncle, who owns one of the Drag bars, helps bring Brendan out of his shell, and inspires him to express his true self after the passing of his mother.

Despite Koshelev’s age, he is making big waves in the Hollywood scene as a Generation Alpha actor. He’s worked alongside Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) and Keven Hart in Netflix’s Me Time. Now, Koshelev wants to use his platform to advocate for queer youth nationwide and call for more representation on screen and on stage.

As previously mentioned, Koshelev’s bread and butter is accepting roles most young boys would not, in fear of being ridiculed or not accepted. He feels that those roles resonate the most with him, and he wants others to feel as confident and comfortable as he is taking them on. “I feel like I can really be myself and I’m not hiding any aspect of my personality,” he tells LGBTQ Nation. “I can really be me and I want that for other young actors as well.”

“It’s so amazing meeting all these people, who are so experienced,” Koshelev says. They take him under their wing and teach him. He says he’s always loved to share and perform and can’t imagine a career path other than acting. 

Koshelev expressed frustration over the right-wing attacks against drag performances taking place in many states across the country. Tennessee, for example, imposed a complete ban on drag performances in public, though a judge recently ruled it unconstitutional. Montana also recently passed a law banning drag queen story hours. It is the first bill in the country to specifically ban drag performers from reading to kids. All of this has come amidst right-wing extremists hurling baseless accusations that all drag performers sexualize and groom children.

Koshelev wonders what this means for his peers who do this for their livelihood or as a way of expressing themselves. “Drag isn’t hurting anyone and [drag performers] don’t deserve any of this,” said Koshelev. To him, drag is about authenticity and expressing how one feels and that’s something everyone should have a right to do. 

Koshelev knows the right-wing claims are completely unfounded. Drag queens have been a source of mentorship for him. He has referred to former Rupaul’s Drag Race contestant Jackie Cox as “Auntie Cox” during their time together in Drag: The Musical. He said Cox “immediately took me under her wing and taught me everything, and she’s the best.” He adds the backlash is just evidence of the increased need for more representation of all types of people in the media.

“We need to spread the word out there and make sure everyone knows it’s a safe space even if sometimes it feels like it isn’t,” he says, adding that by feeling seen and heard by actors on screen, viewers can be encouraged to be themselves in their own communities.

To other aspiring young actors that may not feel they fit in a specific box, he says, “Just go for it, always.”

Hollywood is not off-limits to anyone, especially not queer people, and Koshelev hopes to see a new generation of talented young actors of all types and identities fill the television screens, even those that don’t feel they fit one label or another.

Koshelev feels responsible for using his rapidly expanding platform to be an LGBTQ+ advocate, especially among queer kids and teens. Even as an 8th-grader, his commitment to live as an ally for those who don’t feel capable is what he feels having a platform is all about. 

“You be yourself and that’s all that’s important at the end of the day,” he said. “We only have one life and you should live it to its fullest!”

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