PARKERSBURG, W.Va. – When it comes to LGBTQIA+ history in West Virginia, there are few resources where it can be accessed. However, if you ask certain people in the community, there are a few people who come to mind when talking about trailblazing LGBTQIA+ West Virginians.
One of these people was Amanda Love.
Amanda Love was an activist, fundraiser, community organizer, club owner and drag queen from Parkersburg.
“She was a trans woman, out and proud in the 80’s in West Virginia which was unheard of,” said Robin Hearts-Love, the show director at Vice Versa and Amanda’s drag daughter. “She showed a lot of people through the course of her life and her bravery that it was okay to be who you are and it’s okay to be proud of who you are.”
Robin first met Amanda when she performed at Morgantown’s gay bar Vice Versa in 2000.
“She was over-the-top, she was glamorous, you couldn’t see her on stage without being sucked in and hypnotized and hanging on to every move she made, every word she would lip sync,” she recalled.
Amanda was not only known for her dynamic stage presence and humor, but also for her contributions to the community outside of the bar. She would use her knowledge as a hairdresser to make and style wigs for women undergoing cancer treatment and her expertise in makeup, to give makeovers to women at domestic violence survivor shelters.
“She was probably one of the first entertainers in West Virginia to throw an HIV benefit, back when we were still scrambling and didn’t know what it was,” Hearts-Love said. “If there was a fundraising opportunity or benefit, Amanda was the first one there to do it.”
Amanda Love passed away suddenly in 2013, and Robin keeps her memory alive not just with hyphenating her stage name, or by wearing her iconic hair clips, but also through fundraisers like the Relay For Life Drag Queen Bingo that was held back in March.
“[Amanda Love] was more than a drag mother to me– she became another mother figure in my life,” Hearts-Love said. “This is such a see-it-now, forget-it -now generation, and people need to be aware who she was and the impact she had on the community in West Virginia.”