UPDATE: Bradley Morgan won the Miss City of Columbia contest Saturday night and will now compete in the Miss Gay Missouri contest.
COLUMBIA — Bradley Morgan likes to wear his navy blue sweatpants and a sweatshirt with sneakers. But his nails are perfectly French manicured and his eyebrows look as if they have been plucked and trimmed recently.
Morgan, 42, is a drag queen, also known as a female impersonator.
He will compete Saturday to be named Miss City of Columbia, a title he has coveted for the past five years. The contest is a preliminary stage in the female impersonator pageant circuit. The winner will vie for the title of Miss Gay Missouri.
Last year, Morgan was first alternate in Miss City of Columbia and placed fourth in Miss Gay Missouri.
Brian Collins, a close friend of Morgan's who performs under the name Brianna Stevens, has followed Morgan's seven-year journey as a female impersonator.
“He’s always talking about what he can do to capture the title, and I feel that this year is his year,” Collins said.
Saturday marked the first time Morgan’s mother, Barbara Morgan, saw him in a show. Morgan lives with his mother and spends every Friday night at bingo with her.
“My mom is my world,” Morgan said. “I always sneak in right before I go to bed to check on her.”
Barbara Morgan is the only immediate family member who has seen Bradley perform.
“It’s not that (the family is) not supportive,” Barbara Morgan said. “It’s just something they’re not comfortable with.”
She has seen her son dressed the part and said she offers motherly guidance.
“I make suggestions," Barbara Morgan said. “If you’re gonna get up and do this, then be classy.”
But out of his mother's earshot, Morgan's eyes lit up.
“Oh, I do have slutty outfits," he said with a childlike chuckle. "It’s just something Mom don’t need to know.”
Elaborate outfits, costume jewelry, wigs and perfumes fill Morgan's room. He keeps the rest of his costumes and 50 wigs in the backyard shed.
Although Barbara Morgan might be unaware of her son’s rebellious streak, she is not alone in noticing his recent spike in self-confidence.
Eight years ago, Morgan, who weighed 660 pounds at the time, decided to have gastric bypass surgery.
“I’ve lost over 300 pounds so far,” he said. “And that’s when I started living. (Before) I didn’t live for me. I lived for food. Now I live for me.”
Keith Wilson, a bartender at The SoCo Club, where Morgan performs, noticed he has been much happier and “way more friendlier" since the surgery.
About a year after the operation, Morgan began performing as a drag queen, impersonating country singer Wynonna Judd. Morgan said it takes three hours to make the complete transformation.
“LaDreama Funn. She’s my alter ego,” Morgan said.
Morgan chose the stage name LaDreama because of his grandmother, whose favorite song was “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” He wears a necklace with two pendants — a rectangle that reads "dream" and a circle engraved with “follow your dreams” — in honor of the name.
“He’s definitely more outgoing as LaDreama, which has transpired into his ability to be confident offstage,” Wilson said.
Barbara Morgan remembers her son getting picked on for his weight in grade school.
“People wouldn’t give him a chance before,” she said. “Now that he’s lost the weight, it’s different.”
The newfound confidence led Morgan, who earned his GED shortly after dropping out of high school, to pursue a bachelor’s degree in human resources at Moberly Area Community College. He expects to graduate in 2012.