A tall, red-lipped blonde steps onstage wearing a fringe bodysuit embellished with rhinestones. At a crowded venue bathed in sunset-colored lights, Swifties scream along to the lyrics of “Cruel Summer.” She bends, gazes, and gestures—just like Taylor Swift—in front of 300 fans at the Hollywood Theater in Vancouver.
The 30-year-old is Carrie Dawn or Canada’s top Swift impersonator, a title given to her by local event organizers.
@thecarriedawn LISTEN TO THE CROWD GO OFF ON THE “CRUEL SUMMER” BRIDGE WITH ME!!!! These are the moments I live for 💖✨😭 Iconic footage from our Taylor Swift Drag Show Tour in Vancouver last weekend! If Taylor won’t bring the Eras Tour to Canada – then we’ll do it ourselves! 😍 Tag Taylor so she brings the Eras Tour to Canada! 😭 @Taylor Swift @Taylor Nation @HollywoodTheatreVan #taylorswift #swifties #erastour #erastourtaylorswift #speaknowtaylorsversion #drag #dragqueen #carriedawn #vancouver #pride #taylornation #taylorsversion #swiftie #impersonator #swifttoker #cruelsummer #cruelsummerbridge #erastourcanada #erastourcanadadates ♬ original sound – Carrie Dawn
Since Swift began the first leg of her Eras Tour this year, several drag queens have gone viral on TikTok for faithfully imitating the superstar’s sets and appearance, from reprimanding a security guard during “Bad Blood” to spinning in her shimmering Fearless dress.
“Anything Taylor Swift-related turns to gold and will sell out,” Dawn, a Swiftie since 2006, told the Daily Dot.
Swift impersonators spread joy and make a living through performing. As Swift continues to rise in popularity and demand, these drag queens showcase a glimpse of the Eras Tour experience to Swifties who have or have not watched her concerts.
Regular Eras Tour tickets usually range from $49 to $449 at face value on Ticketmaster, excluding fees. Meanwhile, as of Tuesday, resale ticket prices for the second North American leg in 2024 start at $708 on SeatGeek.
Fans have gone to extreme lengths to see Swift, with some spending $3,000 for nosebleed seats and $9,000 for two floor tickets.
@amanda.pulitano memories last a lifetime 😍😍😍😍😍 #erastour #taylorswift #eras #taylorsversion #metlife ♬ Maroon – Taylor Swift
“Money comes back, memories don’t,” said a commenter under a fan’s TikTok video about how much they spent to see Swift.
The Swiftie economy extends to the drag industry: Dawn said drag queens spend hundreds to thousands of dollars behind the scenes for their artistry.
Not only do Swift impersonators perform Eras Tour-inspired numbers, but they also hope to see the singer live like any other fan. Dawn and her partner drove to see her in Seattle, and she also plans to secure tickets for Swift’s shows in Toronto, over 2,000 miles away from Vancouver.
“I thought I was good with just seeing her in Seattle, [but] I was like, ‘I’m gonna do what it takes to fly to Toronto and see her again,’” she said. “Nothing can stop me this time.”
‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’
The cost to do drag varies from queen to queen. In Dawn’s case, she took sewing classes in high school, has prior experience as a makeup artist, and now makes all her outfits. While more cost-effective, she said the creative process can take 30 to 40 hours.
Dawn performs monthly Swift drag shows at the 1181 Lounge. For her show to celebrate Swift’s Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) release in July, Dawn said she spent roughly $300 to create her clothes and props, including a new dress and spray painted microphone.
In Vancouver—the second most expensive Canadian city to live in—entertainers expect to earn $110 plus tips from doing two to three numbers per night, Dawn said.
“It’s the pride and energy from the crowd that I’m walking away with,” Dawn said. “Money comes and goes, but having a loyal connection with an audience is the most important thing to me.”
For Lana Luxx, a full-time drag artist based in Kansas City, Missouri, she spent at least $3,500 on her Lover bodysuit, Fearless dress, rhinestoned guitar, and rhinestoned boots. She said she considered this price a “deal,” especially since she worked with drag designer friends to ensure that her outfits stayed identical to Swift’s tour wardrobe.
In addition to performing at shows and events, Luxx wore these outfits to two nights of the Eras Tour in Kansas City. On the second night, she had floor tickets that she bought for $1,200.
@thelandonpatterson Eras Tour Night 1 look BUT with the iconic guitar! #kctstheerastour night 1 WAS INSANE!!! Cant wait to be there tonight on the Floor Section D!! #taylorswift #erastour #taylornation #speaknowtv ♬ fearless sped up – r & m <33
Luxx said that even though drag doesn’t follow a normal 9-to-5 schedule, she constantly has to think of planning for her next show, paying for new outfits, and learning new numbers. It’s a lifestyle, she said.
“You really have to set aside time. If you want to have a normal day or get a weekend off, it’s always so hard because you always want to say yes to all the opportunities,” Luxx told the Daily Dot. “For me, saying no to something… That’s potentially losing money, and I rely on drag to pay for everything like my life.”
Luxx’s city knows her as “KC’s Taylor Swift Illusionist.” She said her platform grew when she began impersonating Swift, whom she’s loved since the release of her debut album.
“Drag is like being a pop star without the pop star budget. We’re making so much stuff out of nothing,” Luxx said. “But to me, the rehearsals for Taylor shows or even all my other shows—it’s all worth it.”
‘Come back, be here’
Since Swift announced her international tour dates, Swifties whose countries were left out have been making themselves heard. Filipino Swifties—one of Swift’s largest fanbases—are promoting Taylor Sheesh, a Swift impersonator in the Philippines, as a way to get their country noticed by the artist and her team.
For her Eras Tour leg in Asia, the singer will only go to Japan and Singapore. The last time Swift played a show in Manila was her Red Tour in 2014.
Sheesh garnered millions of views on social media for performing a free Eras Tour mall show that lasted for almost an hour and 24 minutes. The drag queen has been performing across the Philippines in various cities, with her audience and venues rapidly expanding.
@spotmerenzyy @Taylor Swift come to the PH please!! We are soooo ready for you!! #taylorsheesh #Lipa #swiftienight ♬ original sound – spotmerenzy
Fan-organized events like Sheesh’s shows also foster unity and happiness within the community. Mycaella Sindayen said around 30,000 people attended when she went to watch the performer in July, with many Swifties watching from outside the mall.
“Whenever there’s an event connected to Taylor, people really go to it. TikTok has a big impact as well; a lot of [Swifties] post videos, wear costumes, make posters,” Sindayen told the Daily Dot in Tagalog. “We have karaokes where we sing Taylor songs… We have events that help us feel like we’re in the same world, even if the Philippines isn’t included in the Eras Tour.”
@ryu.jii Grabe kana Taylor Sheesh 😩✋✨#taylorsheesh ♬ original sound – Ryu Anfernee
‘Long live, all the magic we made’
Vancouver’s Dawn said she never fails to get emotional while performing “Long Live” at her drag shows. While Swift was performing the song at her 2011 Speak Now show in Vancouver, a staff member approached Dawn and asked if she wanted to meet the artist backstage.
Dawn’s adoration for the singer and experiences as a Swiftie inspired her to start impersonating Swift in 2019.
At her Hollywood Theater show in July, Dawn spotted a girl in the crowd crying to the lyrics, “Please tell them my name / Tell them how the crowds went wild / Tell them how I hope they shine.” The Swift impersonator, donning a silver dress, smiled at her and continued to strum a bejeweled guitar.
@thecarriedawn “Long Live” is the most special song for me. Not just from the Speak Now record – but in all of Taylor’s discography. It has the most sentimental meaning and great importance to me. Back in 2011 I was lucky enough to see Taylor Swift back to back nights on September 10th & 11th at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. Those were some of the happiest nights of my life, but also some of the most heartbreaking and damaging for me personally due to my stepfather kicking me out of my house, telling me I didn’t “have a home anymore” & my parents separating. It was on September 10, 2011 that I was chosen (with my best friend at the time) to meet Taylor Swift, along with 11 other fans. During the ‘Long Live’ performance, I felt somebody come and tap me on the shoulder.. I was thinking it was security, telling us to move into our seats, since we were right on the edge of the aisle, but it turned out to be Taylor Swift‘s team asking if I had ever met Taylor Swift before. Of course, my response was no, which led to them asking if I would like to meet her – obviously you can guess that my response was a very excited YES! In the morning my friend & I went to the arena to camp out there all day with our huge posters, wearing handmade Junior Jewels T-shirts and You Belong With Me glasses – and her team said they had seen us earlier on & were looking for us. I was so happy they found us. We got to go backstage to the T-Party room, got a tour of her music video & awards show outfits in display cases, had pizza and pop with her band & then Taylor came in to meet us all. She was the kindest person you could imagine. Thanking US for being there – like we were the one’s doing a her a favour. It was the most exhilarating experience and a night am so incredibly thankful for and will never forget. So “Long Live” isnt just a song to me – it’s the end of a very dark chapter, but also a brand new beginning. And without @Ta@Taylor Swiftiding me through, I don’t know how I could have made it.💜✨🐉 #ta#taylorswiftw#swiftiest#storytimep#speaknowp#speaknowtaylorsversiono#longliver#erastourr#erastourtaylorswiftr#dragr#dragqueena#carriedawna#vancouvera#taylornationa#taylorsversionw#swiftier#erastour ♬ Long Live (Taylor's Version) – Taylor Swift
“When I’m up there on that stage, I know I’m not really Taylor Swift, but in those 5 minutes I’m performing, I feel that I can bring that joy to people,” Dawn said. “That’s the most special, beautiful feeling because nothing can take that away… I’m giving people the experience they wish they had.”
Dawn said she feels honored to portray Swift as an artist and that a wide audience gravitates toward her energy and kindness. Her experiences performing in front of other Swifties remain etched in her heart.
“Taylor has such a loyal fanbase that people will literally go into debt for her,” she said. “I may be one of those people, but I haven’t gone into debt for her yet. Not yet.”