by Robin Beaudoin | photos courtesy of Krystal Actis
(Above photo: Actis says that her husband Marcelo, shown here in drag as his alter, Katie Amor, is her best friend and life partner. Actis bought him his first set of cosmetics about five years ago after he showed an interest in trying it out. She says that being an ally to the LGBT community has helped her be a better nurse because she understands the importance of relating to people as their chosen gender.)
If you haven’t seen her, you may have heard her sweet, lilting voice floating through Regional One’s Emergency Room, over the piano music at Zebra Lounge, or on a local stage. Krystal Actis, 35, is a petite powerhouse of personality, bringing lots of love and creativity to Memphis. With her husband, Marcelo, by her side, a modest Actis bursts into the world of service and drama.
Actis was reared as a performer from an early age. “I grew up in Hamilton, Ohio, which is just north of Cincinnati. I grew up kind of loving music and theatre. I played flute, piccolo, and sang all through my childhood. I did theatre, especially in high school. I participated in, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, My Emperor’s New Clothes, Addict, and I’m just returning to theatre again in adulthood. Theatre took a backseat following college, and in early adulthood. I’ve been in a couple local shows, and I am taking vocal lessons.” Actis leans toward the smaller community theaters for parts. “It seems a little more personal, and sometimes even in the audition process, you’ll get direction about what they want, as opposed to the anonymous feel of the bigger stages.”
Actis performed recently with Emerald Theatre Company, at Theatreworks in December, in Cabaret Noel. She’s also assisted behind the scenes at the 2018 Friends of George’s Dragnificent. “Besides that, I’m doing something in the Mystic Krewe of Pegasus’ Mardi Gras Ball (January 26th, Minglewood Hall)- a My Fair Lady medley. Actis is eager to help Mystic Krewe of Pegasus reach its full potential. She says, “Pegasus- this is my first year. I started right after the ball last year, where we had a table. We decorated it like Munchkinland. Katie Amor, Nathan Tipton and Paul, Meghan Pannell and Nicole Brooks.” These good friends would introduce her to more LGBT friends in the community, and expand her horizons as a volunteer in the area.
Perhaps her most important role yet is that of wife to her best friend Marcelo (a St.Jude Chemist) and budding drag queen Katie Amor. “We met two weeks after my 18th birthday. In Hamiltion, we have a county fair, and I had just seen the demolition derby at the fair. We were driving back to my friend’s house, and one of Marcelo’s friends, Luke, called my phone and asked what we were doing. We drove to this guy’s apartment, and all of us girls went to meet all of the guys. They introduced themselves, and I thought, ‘Who the hell names their kid Marcelo?’ I decide he’s cute, I 411ed him and called his house phone, to say I thought he was cute. He called me the next day and told me that he’d mistaken me for a telemarketer. We went on our first date to Olive Garden, like every 18-year-old, and have been together ever since.”
The loving friendship between Krystal and Katie defies definition. “A few years ago, maybe five or six years ago, I was taking pole dance classes, because they were popular at that time, and so I wanted to be cute and I got some stripper heels. Marcelo decided he wanted to try a pair too. Later he mentioned to me, “You know, I think I’d like to try some makeup.” Without skipping a beat, because I love cosmetics, I went to the drug store and left some makeup, in his colors on the counter for him. He was beside himself because he didn’t have to argue about it, and it just flowed. He’s still the man I love whether he’s in makeup and a wig looking pretty (as Katie Amor), or whether he’s Marcelo. I’ve noticed I feel a little more protective of him when he’s Katie. He never really thought about performing, he just used to play with makeup at home, and he slowly started to come out into the community’s safe places – like to drag shows at Zebra Lounge, and we both enjoy Wiseacre a good bit.”
When she performs, Katie usually does shows with Moth Moth Moth, or House of Azengraber, but is type A and doesn’t like to throw on a wig
without rehearsing extensively, and having an outfit to a T. She just does it for fun. Krystal adds that his drag plugged them into the community. “He came out and we had a good old time, and it was before we became more involved in the community. We just kept coming to more LGBT-friendly events, and he started to feel more comfortable just being himself in drag. Now we’ll go out to dinner, and it’s nothing.”
Actis insists that all of their extracurriculars prepare her to be a more compassionate nurse. “As a nurse at Regional One (formerly the Med), I
work with several types of people within the community, and I’m exposed to that in the Emergency Room. Say a transgender person comes in—it’s difficult for them, because some people might use their ‘dead’ name, but I’m able to give them that little bit of empathy where another professional might not make the effort or understand. Hospitals use the M or F gender based on patient ID, but while you’re at the bedside you have to show them that respect.” Actis will continue to work with Pegasus and Friends for Life Events, as well as work with Choices and Planned Parenthood- attending their events, and give knowledge- based information, as a nurse. “I have befriended Mary Jane Goodman, and helped keep an eye on their needs with the upcoming birthing center.”
As for her marriage, “We’re hoping to adopt, starting in the new year.” Marcelo and I are together most of the time. He is my family, my best friend, and my life partner.