In college, Rudy Flesher joined the rugby team, not only developing a love of the sport, but also gaining the name he now goes by. Rudy explains:
It’s a name I got playing rugby, based on the movie “Rudy”, where he’s small and scrappy but he hung in there. … I broke my nose in one of my first games. All I knew is that [my teammates] were cheering for me because I was bleeding and that they were excited and if I could stop the bleeding in 15 minutes I could get back in the game. [My teammate] points out, and was like, “Dude,” and he gets everyone’s attention first so all eyes on me, and, “Dude, he’s Rudy because he’s scrappy.”
Years later, Rudy experienced new challenges as he picked up another physically demanding hobby:
I was presented the opportunity to start doing drag performances so this transition from, “I’m going to be the biggest baddest guy I can” to “I’m going to master walking in 6-inch heels and a 22-inch corset.”
Continue Reading to watch Rudy’s story and see how his rugby teammates reacted to photos from his first drag performance:
My name is Rudy Flesher and I’m from Mt. Laurel, New Jersey.
I think the story of my queer experience was going from very involved in my church and dealing with a minister who was fired actually for being a lesbian to being the first out rugby player at my school and somehow transforming from a hard-hitting, beer-drinking athlete into like glamazon drag performer in Philadelphia, so it’s been a crazy ride.
So something actually probably most people don’t know is that Rudy is not my given name. It’s a name I got playing rugby, based on the movie Rudy, where he’s small and scrappy but he hung in there. Nicknaming is a huge thing in rugby. I got the name Rudy because I broke my nose in one of my first games. All I knew is that they were cheering for me because I was bleeding and that they were excited and if I could stop the bleeding in 15 minutes I could get back in the game. That’s one of the rules of rugby. So I refused to go to the hospital, I insisted they cut a tampon in half, shoved it up my nose, threw me right back in the game, and I had never seen the movie Rudy, so when my teammate Scooter nicknamed me, at that point, I was pretty toasted it was the after party, I drank more than usual because my face was throbbing from taking a hard skull to my nose. And he points out, and was like, dude, and he gets everyone’s attention first so all eyes on me, and dude, he’s Rudy because he’s scrappy.
And later on, moving to Philadelphia I was presented the opportunity to start doing drag performances so this transition from I’m going to be the biggest baddest guy I can, to I’m going to master walking in 6-inch heels and a 22-inch corset. I wanted to embody being sexy and I started to but didn’t know how to do it and didn’t know how to be sexy and be a part of masculine and feminine. To me they were somehow separate. To be feminine would be to stop being sexy. So just being out there in a small black cocktail dress showing off my really beautifully built hairy quads from running a marathon is so empowering and so liberating. I think Notorious OMG brings it all together. People talk about me having the character of Notorious OMG, I don’t think it’s the character, it’s just Rudy turned to 11. But I really think it’s the combination of rugby and running and being, learning to be comfortable with my body. And the best, best, best part about it was the first show I ever did was for the Liberty City Kings and I’ve never done traditional drag, I’ve never shaved my chest or my beard, I’ve never worn a wig, I call it gender fuck royalty, it kind of brings together burlesque and leather and all these queer looks and combines them. And pictures start going up on Facebook and I’m like oh what’s everyone going to say, I’m wearing leather boots, leather jock strap, and a corset, and literally the first 3 people to say positive things about my first drag performance are my rugby teammates who are my friends on Facebook.
So there’s this appreciation of, oh maybe we’re all a little sadistic and masochistic because you have to to play rugby, it’s 80 minutes of one of the roughest sports in the world with no pads, you’re wearing shorts and a jersey and a mouth guard and that’s it. But I think they saw this other kind of physical extreme of this tiny corset and these heels and I don’t know, they were proud of me, and, oh, that’s so awesome that you’re expressing yourself, I don’t know how you wear that corset, that’s so badass. And so to have this outpouring of love and support from all of these straight rugby hooligans was just the most affirming and unbelievable experiences that a drag performer who was also an athlete can have.