The canned laughter from Will & Grace spills from the back bedroom of a small apartment in Normal Heights. Cashmere Cavalier ties a bandana over her braided hair, pulls on a pair of loose khaki cargo shorts and slips on a black undershirt, followed by a baggy T-shirt and bright-white K-Swiss tennis shoes.She—as in the female impersonator who dances, struts and wiggles her ass off at Lips every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night—is more of a he today. The wig, as drag queens say, is off.Beams of light stream through the narrow slits in the cheetah-print Venetian blinds covering Cashmere's bedroom window—the tiny strips of light fall in jagged lines over her unmade bed. Piles of laundry tower in the corner near a crooked closet door that's been punctured, leaving a gaping hole. Opposite the closet hang three poster boards collaged with magazine clippings of Hummers, wads of cash, Rolex watches, a dream house with a pool and the tiny faces of professional wrestlers.What Cashmere calls her 'Vision Boards' are a result of The Secret, the self-help book that she, Oprah, bored mothers across the Midwest and seemingly everyone else in the industrialized world has been reading this year.
'Make life happen your way,' reads one of her board's clippings. And below, 'Young, Fly & Flashy' and 'I did this for me.'Cashmere points to the wrestlers. 'These are my colleagues,' she says, then turning her attention to the cutout head of wrestling mogul Vince McMahon. 'And this is the guy I'll be getting my paycheck from.'And Cryme Tyme,' she continues, pointing to a pair of tag-team wrestlers dressed like gangsta rappers, 'they don't know who I am yet, but I know I'm going to be their manager, and I'm going to take them to the top.'
Cashmere figured out her goal in life long ago, but only recently has she taken steps to make it happen. In her mind, she will be a famous World Wrestling Entertainment manager, and not an actual wrestler—she's too cute for that. She will be the first to merge the world of drag with the world of wrestling, and it will happen before year's end.'I've already had so many visions of me being backstage and people wanting my picture and autograph,' Cashmere says. 'I can see myself backstage, ready to go, and then being like, ‘Aaaahhhhh.'' She snaps her fingers. '‘Camera time.''Growing up in New Orleans, most of Cashmere's time, or little Jimmy Johnson's time back then, was spent running around the Superdome, hanging backstage with WWE's biggest entertainers. Her dad was the Superdome head janitor on nights and weekends, so she had an informal all-access pass. She was a cute little boy with a big personality and a knack for entertaining, and the wrestlers took a liking to her. Guys like Macho Man, Rick Flair, Booker T and Junkyard Dog weren't just television characters anymore—in Cashmere's world, they were badass dudes she could pretend wrestle in person. With all those big, strong men around, Cashmere had her pick when it came to finding an idol, but she looked up to one wrestler in particular: Sherri Martel, aka Scary Sherri. Cashmere promised herself that, one day, she'd be just like Sherri—sexy, sassy and, more specifically, a manager who got just as much attention and airtime as the wrestlers in the ring. Sherri would insert herself into the show by slipping in a trip of an opponent here, a hand-off of a metal folding chair to her wrestler there. The cameras were always watching.'Martel, oh girl, she was mean and nasty, she was totally like a hell cat. I wanted to be just like her,' Cashmere says. And the dream was born.But then life happened. Cashmere got so swept up in the drag-queen life that professional wrestling got lost somewhere in the perfume and feather boas. Entertaining the masses of straight girls at Lips' famous bachelorette parties made the years melt away as fast as the frozen cosmos she serves.
A knock at the front door startles Cashmere. Matthew Page, a Lips coworker and confidant, walks in. 'You ready?' he asks.The two pile into Page's truck and head to a College Area pawn shop. Cashmere mostly calls Page by the name 'Mary,' and she switches seamlessly to calling him 'Francis,' 'Shady' or just 'Matthew.'Page, a skinny, feminine white boy from Arizona, and Cashmere, the beautiful black diva from the South, share a love of two important things: hip-hop and Days of Our Lives. They refer to the soap opera as 'The Story,' and both watch it religiously. Today, sadly, they're missing it, but Page records it daily just in case.'Remember the Nelly concert?' Page asks, turning to Cashmere. 'You had a homemade sign and balloons for him, but we were up in the nose-bleed section.''Oh yeah, and I was wearing that booty-licious outfit, that jacket and zebra hat,' Cashmere laughs.'You looked at me and said, ‘We're gonna get in the front row,'' Page says. 'And I hesitated, but you grabbed me and said, ‘Look, bitch, you're not gonna punk out.'''Then we jumped the fence and ran to the stage, and a whole group of people followed us!' adds Cashmere.The two ended up getting so close that they could see Nelly backstage drinking his Snapple peach iced tea.'Cash gets what she wants,' Page says. 'She is attracted to glitter, and glitter is attracted to her.'It's not that things just come to Cashmere. She works hard to get what she wants. On Halloween night four years ago, the 303-pound version of Cashmere decided to go after her wrestling dream. Bags and bags of Halloween candy surrounded her, haunting and taunting her until she couldn't take it anymore. The next few kids who came to the door got entire bags of candy instead of one bite-size bit. Cashmere got rid of all the junk food in her house and made the decision to lose weight and turn her life around. In her visions of being a wrestling manager, Cashmere always saw the skinny version of herself. She knew losing weight was the first step.Three years of eating right and exercising eventually got her down to 160 pounds. The next step was to keep the weight off and raise enough money to enroll in wrestling school. By July of this year, Cashmere had the $2,000 she needed. Now, every Tuesday and Thursday, she takes the train north to San Clemente to attend night classes at O.C. Dojo, where several graduates of the training program have made it to the WWE.Nov. 3, the WWE is coming to San Diego's Sports Arena. Cashmere already has her front-row tickets and a good feeling that this will be her big break.
'Everyone's gonna see me and say, ‘Who's that?'' she says, rubbing a bit of stubble that's sprouted on her chin. 'After I make my appearance on TV, it will be all good.'