201 E Chapman Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832


201 E Chapman Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832


201 E Chapman Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832


Alum wins Emmy

Class of 2012 Blake Danford honored for drag costumes
Photo courtesy of Blake Danford
Danford (left) was on the set of a photoshoot for Studio Tenn’s production of Cinderella in Franklin, Tennessee.

As a student at Fullerton High School, Blake Danford discovered his passion for drag as an outlet for self expression and creativity. As he stitched the final touches on his Cruella de Vil costume in 2012, he didn’t know that his passion would lead him to winning an Emmy 12 years later. 

As a member of the theater department at Fullerton, he labored over intricate details and fabrics, using clothing as a device for storytelling. Since then, Danford has added to his resume professional plays, music videos, and now reality television. 

Danford took home an Emmy for Outstanding Costumes for Variety, Nonfiction or Reality Programming Jan. 15 for his work on the HBO series We’re Here.

Danford and lead costume designer Marco Morante (“Marco Marco”) pose with their Emmys at the 2024 Emmy awards.
(Photo courtesy of Blake Danford)

We’re Here follows three former stars of Ru Paul’s Drag Race as they travel to small US towns and find locals willing to participate in one-off drag performances.

“My job entailed a lot of things,” Danford said. “At times, I followed around a queen with a tackle box full of sewing supplies and hoped nothing fell off, but I was also really involved in the process of creation and design.” Danford worked primarily with host Eureka O’Hara, helping to put together the queen’s eccentric costumes.

Featured in the award winning episode “St. George, Utah” were queens Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O’Hara and Shangela Laquifa Wadley. The episode won Best Costumes for a Variety Nonfiction Reality Programming. Alongside Danford was lead costume designer Marco Morante, better known as Marco Marco. For the episode, the two worked together to create Eureka’s tumbleweed inspired outfit.

Community members who participate on We’re Here wear costumes that are inspired by their lives. These costumes tell their stories, often about what it’s like to be a member of the queer community in a place that isn’t always accepting. By presenting extravagant performances by locals, We’re Here hopes to provide a safe queer space and advocate for inclusivity.

Middle School and High School 

Danford took charge of costuming for the Ladera Vista Junior High’s production of Cats in 2009 after doing extensive research on the costumes used in the Broadway production. By high school, Danford realized costuming could be not just a hobby but a career.

“I started doing costuming more intentionally in high school,” Danford said, “I had been doing some acting in the plays and then really switched over hard into the technical side.”

While a student at Fullerton, Danford costumed productions including Damn Yankees (2009), Thoroughly Modern Millie (2010), The Diviners (2011), and Anything Goes (2012). Fullerton’s technical theater program taught Danford the ins and outs of theater production, like how to build sets and how to operate backstage equipment.

Danford on the set of FUHS’s production of Anything Goes (2012) with Stephanie Pugh Hoese (left) and costume adviser Beverly Shirk (right) who, according to Danford, is the reason that he “learned how to do anything at all.”

“The importance of learning how to do all of those things in an actual theater cannot be understated,” Danford said. “It’s so deeply valuable because, fresh out of high school, you know how to do things that it takes other people years to figure out.”

Danford was a queer teen during the debate over Proposition 8 that effectively banned same sex marriage in California. Although Prop 8 would later be overturned on appeal, at that time “[t]here was a lot of [social] tension,” Danford said. “Tempers were running high. Gay people were such a topic of conversation at that point that it was very easy to know who didn’t like you and who did.” Danford found sanctuary in Fullerton’s Gay–Straight Alliance, which he calls “a magical thing.”

Earning recognition for We’re Here is especially satisfying says Danford as he recalls the first time he went out in drag at age 15 when his friends went to a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show and followed the longtime Rocky Horror tradition of dressing up as characters.

Danford’s Cruella de Vil Halloween costume pictured in the FUHS 2012 yearbook. (Photo courtesy of The Pleiades)

For his outfit, Danford borrowed a sailor skirt from the FUHS costume department that would later be used in Anything Goes (2012). Later, in a scene for his theatre class, Danford played a character who wore a matching dress with his wife. When Halloween rolled around, he decided he would dress up as Cruella de Vil. “I just kept ending up in drag,” said Danford.

Danford says he was made “peripherally aware” of the art of drag in 8th grade when he went to his friend’s house where season one of Rupaul’s Drag Race was playing on the TV. On the screen, young Danford saw drag queen Shannel’s performance in which she juggled bowling pins while lip syncing. 

“It blew my mind in such a specific way,” said Danford, who also knew how to juggle. “I was like, ‘You can do all of this at the same time?’”

From Local Theatre to We’re Here and Beyond

After graduation, Danford pursued costume design at Fullerton College until 2013 when a friend presented him with a life-changing opportunity: Danford’s friend asked him to help with costumes for a production of I Love Lucy: Live on Stage that was set to tour the country. Danford rightly thought that the job would give him experience that a classroom couldn’t, so he took it. Danford, then only 18, worked on two Lucy tours and ultimately decided to continue working instead of going back to school.

Danford was the costume designer for Studio Tenn’s production of Beauty and the Beast (2018). (Photo courtesy of Blake Danford)

When Danford came home from touring, he felt like he was “starting his career from scratch,” Danford said.  Most costume designers break into the professional world starting in local theater; Danford bulldozed through the local step and was already working professionally.

Danford went back to working on some local theatre productions such 3D Theatricals’s Tarzan the Musical (2015)  and Beauty and the Beast (2016). “That was kind of it for the local theater,” he said. 

Danford began working on higher profile jobs like assistant costume designing shows for Celebrity Cruise Lines, taking him all over the world. He also toured with Disney on Ice for a few months, working in the costume department. He feels that We’re Here is the right place for him after spending so much time costuming on the road. 

We’re Here is a perfect job for me because it combines so many things that I’ve done over my life,” said Danford. “Learning to find resources wherever I am, specifically for costuming things is something I became really accustomed to.”

Currently, Danford is working on a production of Drag the Musical, written by former RuPaul’s Drag Race star Justin Andrew Honard. The show is coming to the Bourbon Room in Los Angeles and will be running from March 15-30. 

Embracing Drag 

From left to right, We’re Here hosts Bob the Drag Queen, Shangela, and Eureka O’Hara in her tumbleweed inspired look, pose on set in their Emmy award winning outfits. (Photo courtesy of Blake Danford)

At age 16, Danford met his “drag mother,” season three winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Raja Gemini, through a mutual friend. That was when he officially broke into the drag scene. His involvement in drag and his work in costuming eventually led him to working with Marco Marco at his studio in Los Angeles where the duo meets with primarily drag queen clients, many of whom are competitors on RuPaul’s Drag Race, including Olivia Lux and Nick Simone as well as featured judge, Todrick Hall.

It was through Marco that Danford was able to get the job as assistant costume designer on We’re Here.

“We’re Here is a show that is instantly rewarding,” Danford said. “It is truly the hardest job I’ve ever had. The workload is so insane. You’re working around the clock. You show up to a small town, and ten days later you put on the most magnificent show that the town has ever seen. It’s crazy.”

The HBO series has not gone unchallenged. Usually, it’s just social media backlash or a small town’s city hall getting cold feet, but the show had to relocate an event in Texas because of threats of violence. With the current negative climate surrounding drag queens in the United States, these types of incidences are becoming more prevalent. 

“With We’re Here, we come to small towns, we get a taste of what life’s like for local queer communities, then we leave,” Danford said. “It is heartbreaking to know that there are a lot of queer people that live in these small towns and that have to deal with [intolerant] people all of the time. We’re Here holds up a mirror to places around this country.”


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