Watch CBS News

Narcan queen: SF performer aims to save lives with drag show

Narcan queen: SF performer aims to save lives with drag show
Narcan queen: SF performer aims to save lives with drag show 03:27

SAN FRANCISCO – The opioid crisis continues to hit hard, particularly in the LGBTQ community. A drag queen in San Francisco is on a mission to educate about harm reduction.

Cary Escovedo can pinpoint the exact moment he knew he had to bring his dream to life. 

"After the 2016 presidential election, I decided that I needed to do all the things that I wanted to do but didn't have the courage to do," he said.

What he wanted to do was perform. 

"As a drag queen I can wear this mask of this persona and it gives me the confidence that I need in order to be an entertainer," Escovedo told KPIX 5

Six years later, he's hosting his own night at Oasis, a poplar bar in SoMa, where he's known to his fans as Kochina Rude

But it's what next that helped him find his purpose.

He was at a party a couple of years ago, when a man suddenly overdosed. People were panicking, not knowing what to do.

Escovedo, whose day job is in public health, sprang into action, administering a life-saving drug called Narcan. 

"In that moment, I realized that there is a big community of people, who were not getting the information they needed," he said. 

That's when Escovedo, or should we say Kochina, came up with an idea to use her newfound platform for good. 

"I had a captive audience literally every Saturday night," she said. 

Kochina Rude performs at the Oasis in San Francisco's South of Market. CBS

At first, her show seems just like any other drag performance. But then it takes an unexpected turn. 

Just as Rude locks her audience's attention, she hits them with a dose of reality in the form of a Narcan tutorial.

"I'll admit, it was a learning curve," she said.  "There were definitely times when I killed the vibe."

This year, the city of San Francisco is on track to record nearly as many overdose deaths as last year — which saw at least 625 people died of drug use.

Rude's unique brand of activism has now become somewhat of a crowd-pleaser. She even distributes Narcan samples to anyone who wants them, no questions asked.  

Jay Steuwe, one of the show's attendees, said it's a moment she won't forget anytime soon. 

"Being told what to do, it's going to stick with you, especially from a drag queen at a bar," she told KPIX 5. 

And that, Rude says, is exactly the point. 

Now she's making a difference, informing her community about a life-saving remedy. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.