Crafting Love, Pride, & Art: An Interview with Alex and Kelly Carpenter

Lovebirds and community faves Alex and Kelly share their love for their crafts and their love for each other.


Cosmetology and hairdressing is both an art and a science. Can you share about your craft?

I’ve been doing hair for about 12 years, and I still really enjoy it! The longer you do it the more you get to push your creative limits. I love SO MANY things about hairdressing. I love working in a craft that is always evolving. I love the way a client’s stress melts away in my hands. I love how I get to create paintings and sculptures from hair. I love the way clients smile when they get their hair done, and the way they trust me to do it. I love how something as simple as a haircut can change the way people see themselves.

Other than the actual art and science of it, hair is deeply personal and part of your identity, which is why I was drawn to it as a medium. Allowing a person to do your hair is a special relationship, and at the base is trust. Hairdressers help sculpt your outer self to feel more like your inner self, and I think that is very special.

What led you to start your own business and how does that propel your creative visions?

I was really led to go independent for myself and my clients, but the pandemic really pushed me. My wife encouraged and supported me in it fully! In the past, working with others has led to problems with the type of environment I want: A welcoming place for the LGBTQ+ community as well as anyone who is different. My love of weird and wonderful people, and getting to create for them propels my creative vision. Humans inspire me the way a sunset inspires a painter.

Kelly at Mid-South Pride Fest. Photo by Bri Helms

What advice would you have for a person branching out on their own and doing their own hair craft?

One. You are never so good at your craft that there is nothing left to learn, so keep on learning. 2. When people say you are too much, too weird, too loud, too gay, too bright, too whatever, they are not your people. Find a place where you feel at home, and never give up on yourself.

Share a little bit more about your board position at Mid-South Pride.

I’ve been on the board since 2016 but have been involved since 2015. Our main goal is to put on Memphis Pride Fest/Mid-South Pride each June (formerly in September.) We also partner with community organizations to do fundraising, organizing, and pride related work in its many forms. As far as our purpose, we want LGBTQ+ people to know that they deserve to be celebrated.

Why is it important to you to craft and curate with like- minded people serving LGBTQAI+ communities?

I feel that our power as a community is in raising each other up and creating space for each other. We can serve best when we do it together, so we try to show up for the community in any way we can. In the past we’ve donated a shipping container to OUTMemphis’ Metamorphosis Project, helped paint the Rainbow Crosswalk in Cooper- Young, and helped organize and paint the Pride Crosswalk and Black Lives Matter Crosswalk in Overton Square. We also donate, attend, or help sponsor events held by other community organizations, whenever we can.

ALEX CARPENTER (Stage Name: Macc Onner)

Drag King art is an incredible craft and form of expression. Can you tell me more about how you got into it?

My mom and uncle were actors who instilled in me a love for theatre. When I went to Backstreet for my 18th birthday, I was mesmerized by the performers. I became fast friends with Memphis legends, Nadya Symone and Cristofer Coxxx, who were truly theatrical artists. I was hooked. I did one amateur show at Backstreet and shelved the dream for a while again. In 2011, I mustered the courage to perform in amateur shows at Dru’s and Spectrum which led to an ongoing career in drag show and community theatre companies.

How has your craft changed over the years?

The beauty of art is that it’s ever-evolving. Nobody knows what they’re doing when they start. I’ve gone through stages of ill-fitting clothes, crazy hair and makeup, and bad song choices. I’ve never stopped stepping out of my comfort zone, though. Trial and error is how you learn! I’m a perpetual student, always seeking growth and improvement in my craft.

Macc on stage. Photo by Kevin Reed

Tell me a little bit about crafting in the drag king community in Memphis.

I began performing at a time when a few other Kings were also getting their start (Freak Nasty and Jack Rock to name a couple), so we had a unique opportunity to learn and grow together. Some Kings who had been performing for a while such as Cristofer Coxxx and Will Ryder Coxxx took us under their wings. The Coxxx family’s Patriarch Cristofer and Matriarch Mama Coxxx invited me into the family where I had support to transform from a girl to a King. Beverly Hills created a pageant specifically for Kings, and we really started becoming more respected in the drag community. I can’t say we’re always thought of or treated as equals to Queens, but we’re definitely making a splash with our King troupe, The Dynasty, and with regular roles in community theatre groups like Friends of George’s and Cazateatro.

What advice do you have for people interested in starting to craft their own interests in drag art, especially Drag King performance?

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Go for it. The community needs your artistic expressions. Find someone in the drag/theatre world who you trust to help you get going. You’ll fail and you’ll succeed, so find a gracious space to perform and learn.