Kitana Sanchez left home to pursue higher education. Along the way, she also discovered her true identity and life’s calling.
In 2007, her performing arts career began in Corpus Christi, Texas, where she moved to attend college at Texas A&M University (TAMUCC) and finally had the opportunity to experience drag and similar performing arts for the first time.
A year or two later, Kitana began participating in drag shows.
“That’s when I started slowly finding myself and my authentic identity and who I was,” she says.
While attending a drag show at a bar in Corpus Christi, Kitana became inspired to become a performer herself.
“I saw one of the showgirls there, and I was mesmerized by her,” Kitana says. “She was so beautiful, and her performance was very burlesque. And I said, if she can do that, then I can do that.”
Kitana took belly dancing lessons in college, so she decided to incorporate that into her shows to create a unique performance.
“I used that as my talent in the drag scene,” she says. “It was different; a lot of people hadn’t seen it, and it was fascinating for first-timers.”
Initially, Kitana planned to have a career in belly dancing, but her career took a different turn.
“I felt like I found my niche of people that I fit in with [in the drag shows],” she says.
Getting noticed was an uphill battle for Kitana at the beginning. To become more successful, Kitana decided to compete in the local Miss Corpus Christi Sweetheart Pageant.
She did not win her first competition, but Kitana came in second, doing a belly dance number with a group of backup dancers.
It was this win that put Kitana on the map in terms of her performing career. Her dedication caught the attention of certain producers and promoters, so Kitana reached out to them, and they happily agreed to schedule her for shows where she could make tips.
“This is usually how it starts with showgirls in the drag scene,” Kitana says. “You start off doing tips instead of getting a booking fee.”
Kitana moved on to the state level to compete and placed sixth or seventh.
After becoming Miss Corpus Christi Newcomer, Kitana began obtaining bookings from promoters and producers and learned more about the business.
Although Kitana performs in drag shows, she is quick to point out that she does not identify as a drag queen.
“I always tell people, even though I am a transgender woman, I do not identify as a drag queen, but I do the art of drag,” she says.
Through drag, Kitana picked up many valuable tips and tricks to help improve her performances, knowledge she happily shares with new performers.
Kitana’s passion and creative drive fuel her to continue to seek new inspiration from the many shows she views or attends.
“I love engaging the audience, the performance and wowing them with the showcase I bring,” Kitana says. “I’ve had people come up to me crying because of the performance I did.”
As a Showgirl Extraordinaire, Kitana finds her greatest joy in inspiring others who want to pursue a similar career to follow their dreams.
One struggle in this line of work is the many newcomers who upload their performances on social media for viewers to see anytime, anywhere. This situation has created a massive world of competition for performers like Kitana, who solely provide live shows.
Another struggle Kitana consistently has to cope with is the negative talk and drama that comes with the business, but she does not let that hold her back.
“If you follow your passions, things will come to you as needed,” Kitana says. “If you’re on the right path, the universe will grant you the life you want on this journey.”
One day, Kitana hopes to win the Miss Continental Pageant.
Another goal for Kitana revolves around her advocacy work, which is to continue to improve the lives of people in the transgender community.
“I have a voice and can speak for those who feel they don’t,” Kitana says. “I’m always fighting for equality in the LGBTQI+ community. I don’t want our voices pushed to the wayside. Most trans people’s voices are silenced by other cis-gender privileged individuals in the community.”
Kitana’s inspiration to become an advocate for the transgender community started at TAMUCC. The university only had one support group for the LGBTQI+ community, called the Gay-Straight Alliance, and it was not efficiently representing all community members.
Kitana took it upon herself to fix this problem and ensure this group represented everyone, and the group became the Islander Spectrum of Sexuality and Gender at TAMUCC.
In 2015, Kitana met a woman trying to find a transgender support group for her child.
“She wanted a group of parents and trans kids to come together and have a support/therapy group,” Kitana says.
Together, they succeeded in raising money and establishing the group, called the Coastal Bend Trans Alliance, in 2016.
“We’re able to help people with hormonal therapy, document changes, a clothing closet, anything that’s going to help these people on their journey to transition,” Kitana says.
Not only do Kitana and her group support people during their transition, but they also support those who choose to detransition.
“That’s something we emphasize in our group, not to shame anyone who decides to detransition because that’s part of their [personal] journey,” Kitana says. “They’re still family, and [you] support them any way you can.”
Kitana also became the vice president of the Corpus Christi LGBT group.
It is an ongoing struggle for advocates like Kitana, who must deal with the backlash from politicians who constantly fight against the rights people in the LGBTQI+ community deserve.
Another challenge is the lack of support the transgender community receives from other groups in the LGBTQI+ community.
“There are days where it’s so tiring and exhausting because it feels like no one’s listening,” Kitana says. “But I keep moving forward.”
Kitana’s favorite part of her advocacy work is meeting other advocates, such as the elders in the community who inspire her, as well as the younger community members who share their gratitude for all she does to help them.
As a fully open transgender woman, Kitana believes that whenever she shows up in her community — whether grocery shopping, performing or doing something else — she is advocating for this community.
“I have a certain privilege that allows me to traverse between both roles because, at the end of the day, I am a walking statistic in society,” Kitana says. “Most transgender women cannot fully live their authentic lives outside of their comfort spaces like their homes. Every time I do a show, I represent my community and advocate just by being present.”
For women wanting to become entertainers like Kitana, she says, “Don’t listen to what people have to say. Concentrate on you. If you know you’re good, you’re good. If you know you’re talented, you’re talented. Just keep pushing forward. Eventually, you find your groove.
“In this industry, you’re going to have to remain strong as an entertainer because there will be moments where you’re going to have the world as your oyster. Then there will be moments when you feel like nobody is listening to you and you are the only one on this plane. During the low times, know that you’re not alone; you have people who care.”
Kitana warns women who want to become advocates for the transgender community to be prepared for drama.
“I feel you must be in a strong space of self-understanding and self-worth and know that society will not agree with your mission,” Kitana says.