OXFORD, Miss.— As the stage lights came up on Code Pink Oxford, a monthly dance event at The Lyric that showcases amateur drag queens and serves as a safe space for members of the local LGBTQIA+ community, Jay Lee emerged from backstage. The frequent Code Pink performer wore a black mesh top, hair gems and a bedazzled silver skirt that glittered in the light.
As Jay Lee took center stage, the speakers blared music from his personal playlist of iconic pop divas like Ariana Grande, Beyoncé and Rihanna. The crowd roared as Jay Lee strutted and danced to the music with all the skill of a seasoned drag performer. There is a reason Jay Lee, 20, was considered a staple of Code Pink Oxford; his performances were, as Jose Reyes described it, “mesmerizing.”
The first time Reyes, a University of Mississippi student and close friend of Jay Lee, saw him perform, it was December of his junior year, in 2019. “At that point, it was only Jay Lee’s second performance. It took only seeing one of his performances to give me the confidence to get on that stage myself,” Reyes said.
“The first night I ever performed, we got ready in his tiny apartment and, when we got to the Lyric, to kill the jitters, we instantly took shots. I remember that night so, so vividly. He is the one that got me out of my shell. It was just so much fun.”
Jay Lee’s graduation photo now sits on the memorial table at Code Pink, a monthly dance event at The Lyric in Oxford, Miss., as a way to keep the missing man a part of the event where he used to love to perform. Photo courtesy Justice for Jay Lee Movement
Braylyn Johnson, another of Jay Lee’s friends, agreed. “Jay Lee was really, really good at getting on stage and being confident in himself,” she said.
“When you go back and watch his drag performances, you can see and feel the personal touches he put in, like the little things in his hair or the songs; they were
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