Jonah Parra is also 100% Angel LeBare


Angel LeBare (Jonah Parra) strikes a pose after a drag performance while another performer takes the stage at Durty Nellie’s on April 16, 2022. (Photo by Lydia Schultz.)

A voice echoed through the now-darkened room, compulsively piquing the interest of the mingling crowd. 

Although the heart-pounding pulse of 2000s pop music was blaring, the unidentified narrator behind the curtains immediately captured attention. 

“The more you drink, the prettier we look,” the voice stated dramatically. 

The cheers and shouts of the crowd became magnified as a performer dressed in a sparkly, form-fitting gown and a hot pink cloak boldly entered the stage, lip-syncing to “Get the Party Started” by Pink. 

Angel LeBare opens the show lip-syncing to “Get this Party Started” by Pink at Durty Nellie’s the morning of Apr 16, 2022. (Photo by Lydia Schultz.)

Almost every chair in the room was occupied; almost everyone held a drink in their hand; everyone was smiling. 

It is the world of Angel LeBare: an experienced drag queen based in the Chicagoland area— and a current full-time student at Harper College. 

Suddenly, the music transitioned to Pink’s “Raise Your Glass,” and Angel strutted into the audience, now flaunting a sparkly multi-colored bodysuit and hot pink, thigh-high, six-inch heels. 

They worked the floor in twirls and flamboyant poses, occasionally inviting a member of the audience to get up and dance. 

Drinks were indeed raised, as were handfuls of cash. 

By the time the show ended, the room felt more like a family party than a Saturday morning drag brunch. 

Friends, couples and family members of all ages were beaming, laughing and cheering warmly inside the venue of Durty Nellie’s, a tavern restaurant in Palatine that often hosts entertainment events. 

The cheeky touch of Angel LeBare’s flair instilled a sense of community inside the roomful of strangers, many of whom had never experienced a drag show before. 

Creating a celebratory community is one of Jonah Parra’s biggest passions. When they are not hosting or performing drag shows as Angel LeBare, they are advocating for LGBTQ+ rights or engaging in college life at Harper. But no matter what they’re involved in, Parra is always giving their 100%. 

Parra was born in Chicago and raised in Niles, Illinois.

At school, Parra is currently majoring in communications, and they are set to graduate this spring. They also write for The Harbinger, Harper’s school newspaper. 

Outside of school, they work as the program coordinator at ArtReach, a non-profit musical theater production for kids that is run by their partner, Dan Walsh. And of course, they perform as Angel LeBare. 

Parra admits that they’ve always been a little bit of a show-off. Evidence of their inner performer is archived in videos of them at four years old performing the robot dance on top of a table at family parties. 

However, being a drag queen was never something that Parra planned. While they did have experience acting in theater, they were spontaneously pushed into drag for a benefit show that Walsh was raising money for in 2008. 

“Why not?” Parra recalled saying when asked to play the character Angel in “RENT.” “Let’s do it.” 

Their openness toward new experiences has now led to a professional career as a drag artist. They have performed in Florida, Texas and Hawaii and are currently on tour for several upcoming shows. 

But performing at Durty Nellie’s is an achievement that Parra is especially proud of. Since high school, they have been going there to watch some of their favorite artists play, such as Lucky Boys Confusion. 

Parra sees their time as LeBare as an opportunity to simply let loose and have a good time.

“I want to make it a party,” Parra emphasized. 

And their objective is clearly felt by attendees, who described LeBare as having high energy and being very interactive and thoughtful in their performance. One first-time guest rated his experience as an 11 out of 10. 

While many people that come to the shows are first-timers, LeBare also has a loyal following. 

One of their self-proclaimed superfans is eight-year-old Blakey, who’s already been to four Angel LeBare shows with her mom. 

“Wherever Angel goes, we go,” Blakey’s mom confessed as Blakey nodded, standing next to her in an Angel LeBare t-shirt that fits like a dress. 

When asked what she likes most about Angel, she responded with “Everything!”

LeBare’s magnetism felt by fans is not only exuded as a drag artist. Walsh recognized a “special spark” in Parra when they first met in a community theater production of “Cats” where Parra played Skimbleshanks. 

“Jonah is a people-person,” Walsh described. “What I love most about them is their zest for life.”

Parra’s energy often appears effortless. 

In the second act of the drag brunch, LeBare paraded through the tables rocking a glittery sapphire blue and gold outfit with long blond crimped hair. Their matching ankle boot heels were still six inches. 

LeBare dances and lip-syncs in the second act of their performance at Durty Nellie’s on April 16, 2022. (Photo by Lydia Schultz.)

Later on, when they called up ten women to share the spotlight, LeBare exuded charisma as they engaged in playful dialogue with them, resulting in waves of laughter. 

However, having the energy for shows is not as easy as it seems, and their character as Angel has significantly changed over time; for example, rhinestones and a face full of makeup were not always the case. 

Parra described their transformation as equivalent to an “evolved Pokémon.” 

When they first began doing drag, they were inspired by a more vintage, burlesque look. They also felt a stronger pressure to project a convincing female image. 

“I wasn’t really aware of my identity as I am now,” Parra recounted. “I just knew I wanted to entertain.” 

Now, they strongly believe that drag is a form of artistic expression that is not exclusive based on a certain gender. 

“Drag has no boundaries,” Parra asserted. “It’s anything you want it to be.” 

The biggest challenge as Angel LeBare now is the ability to cultivate enough energy to vibe with the audience during shows. 

Underneath Parra’s assertiveness and unapologetic confidence, they can actually be quite introverted; behind the scenes, they like to recharge by playing video games, watching movies and hanging out with their dogs. 

But ultimately, their motto in life is to go big — or go home. 

Parra’s biggest fear in life is not giving their all in things that matter. This was a lesson that they learned the hard way.

Parra first attended Harper to pursue a degree in education, but when a loss in their family made it difficult to keep up with schoolwork, they stopped going to classes. 

This is their biggest regret; however, it now drives them to finish what they started and manage things more efficiently. 

At first, balancing their seemingly double life was overwhelming. They recalled often giving too much energy to one thing, leaving other things neglected. 

It’s taken a while for them to be in the mental space they are now, but Parra affirmed that they are now in a place where they can balance everything more harmoniously. Above all else, they’re most proud to have created a delicate balance between all of the areas of their life. 

“I think I’ve been the truest form of myself than I’ve ever been,” Parra proclaimed. 

Parra intends to use this newfound fortitude and resiliency to advocate for others to do the same. 

They plan to transfer to Northern Illinois University and obtain a master’s degree in communication with a goal to work in LGBTQ+ advocacy. 

Parra asserted that they want something that they can fight for, no matter what stage of life. In particular, they wish that Harper would put more effort into their LGBTQ+ support. Rather than putting on occasional special events, Parra wants continuous support. 

They envision that the implementation of a specialized LGBTQ+ counseling facility would go a long way toward the college fully embracing the community, making everyone feel more visible and celebrated. 

As far as what role drag will play in the future, they aren’t quite sure. 

Parra said with certainty, though, that “It’s never gonna be something I don’t do.” 

At the conclusion of the brunch, LeBare half-jokingly reminded the audience that they should “Run, don’t walk” to the meet-and-greet after the show because their time is precious. 

It is through this playful sarcasm that anyone who knows Parra would agree that the two personalities are really one and the same.

Though outsiders may think of Parra and LeBare as two separate identities, Angel is just as much Jonah as Jonah is of Angel. 

Angel LeBare is just a different name, not a different person. They are simply varying manifestations of who they are as a person. 

“I’m just being me the whole time,” Parra expressed with conviction. “I’m me, whether I’m here or there.”