COLUMBUS, Ohio — Corey Williams, a resident of Columbus, is your average man. He’s a husband, a friend, a sports fan and loves to travel. 

What You Need To Know

  • There have been more than 140 anti-drag protests and significant threats this year

  • A drag story-time event was canceled in Ohio because of protests from Proud Boys and other extremist organizations

  • One Ohio drag queen thinks people have misconceptions about what drag is

  • He wants to share a bit about who he is and what drag means to him

“I like to cook," Williams said. "I play video games. I'm a musician, so I like to play my piano.”

By day, he works for a medical supply company and is also a makeup artist, but by night he transforms into the drag queen known as Anisa Love.

“Drag is exactly what you make of it,” Williams said. 

Corey Williams is also known by his drag name "Anisa Love." (Spectrum News 1/Taylor Bruck)

Williams said drag is a term used to describe what people wear to transform into whatever character they create. It’s a type of entertainment where people dress up in clothing and makeup to exaggerate gender identities. Historically, drag queens are performed by men and drag kings by women, but people of any gender and sexual orientation can be drag queens and kings.

Williams started drag in 2000, while in college at Ohio State University. It was a dare from longtime friend Chris Equizi, the creator and performer behind the drag queen Virginia West.

More than 22 years later Williams is still doing it, but today the performances are taking on a whole new meaning. 

It's been a year of increasing anti-LGBTQ sentiment. Threats from right-wing extremist groups have led to drag events being canceled across the country, with some accusing performers of being pedophiles and confusing children. On Dec. 3, a “Holi-Drag Storytime” event, hosted by the Red Oak Community School, was canceled.

Local drag queens were set to read story books to children at the family-friendly event, but protests from the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist organization, sparked security concerns.

Just two weeks before, on Nov. 20, a shooter killed five and wounded many others in an attack on Club Q, a gay bar in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“They look at men dressed as women — like myself, I am a man — and they think, 'Oh, God, they must be a freak, they must,'" Williams said. "No, no, I am a man. This is theater. Ignorant people assume that drag is something that’s sexual. They assume it's something to, to groom and to like, reach out in a, in a not positive light. At the end of the day, we're here to entertain. We're here to stand up for our community. We're here to love everyone.”

Williams, like many other LGBTQ people, is no stranger to discrimination. He said he has been called every name in the book and that he was even stabbed while in drag. 

“It's not for the faint of heart,” Williams said. “You have to be mindful of your surroundings at all times. That doesn't go for just being LGBTQIA+, there are nut jobs with guns that want to hurt everyone.”

Still, he performs as he’s comfortable with who he is, and no matter what walk of life someone is in, he wants them to feel comfortable in their own skin.

“We literally just are a unit of people that want to help create and let people know that there are safe spaces and people that care about you,” Williams said. “Society tells people to not love all Black people, to not love queer people, to not love trans people, to not love everyone. And you look for the faults in people first. But once you break the wall down, we are literally all the same people. Some of us are just a little bit more loving and a little bit more tolerant, where some just choose to stay ignorant.”

Corey Williams performs as Anisa Love at his show "The Glow Up" on Nov. 25. (Spectrum News 1/Taylor Bruck)

He said while some people preach hate, he preaches love. At all of his shows, he wants to make sure the audience knows they’re seen, loved, heard and supported. 

“I’m very adamant about making sure wherever I am, you are home,” Williams said at one of his show this year called “The Glow Up.”

To Williams, drag is art. It’s his fearless piece of armor that allows him to stand up to bullies and uplift the LGBTQ community. 

“We create a fostering environment for safety, for love, protection and entertainment, hopefully,” Williams said. “At the end of the day, we are entertainers, so we want to make people happy and take their minds off of their daily crap.”

He uses drag as a way to create change. No matter where he goes, his message remains the same: spread more love to drown out hate.

“It took us long enough to come out of the closet and be comfortable with ourselves, so I'm not letting anyone scare me away from my safe space and being exactly who I am,” Williams said. “I refuse. I will fight to my death to make sure that I will always be protected by my own spirit.”

Williams is being featured in season 2 of the streaming show "Treading Yesterday," available on Amazon Prime and, Tubi and Dekkoo.