A year ago, Jon Dobbie was jobless due to the pandemic. Now he has people mailing him presents and telling him how much he has impacted their lives.
“I have a fire underneath me that I will not let COVID ruin my life,” said John Dobbie who launched his TikTok page in January to showcase his work as a drag queen named Crystal Quartz. He now has over 60,000 followers.
But TikTok was never on his radar until COVID pushed his limits.
Prior to the pandemic, Dobbie was working at Onyx nightclub in Downtown Guelph as a bottle service manager for three years. With COVID leaving him jobless, he decided to commit to a long time passion of his, drag.
When the first lockdown was lifted, Dobbie launched Crystal Quartz Events, an event show that featured drag artists and talk shows and was hosted by Crystal Quartz in Onyx. The show had to shut down when the second lockdown hit, leaving Dobbie jobless once again.
“It went very well. I sold out every show. It’s a positive experience. I help mentor younger drag queens, I make them feel good about themselves and help bring them up. That’s basically what my motto is,” said Dobbie.
A month ago, Dobbie’s friend and publicist told him to give TikTok a shot.
“She said it would do well with my personality and that I would really make it on there so I decided to go for it about a month ago and then it blew up really quickly."
He created a TikTok page (@crystalquartzqueen) where he posts videos in which he transforms himself into popular artists and celebrities such as Britney Spears and Reba McEntire singing.
“I got to 1,000 (followers) within one day. I got to 10,000 within 2 weeks. By the month I had 50,000,” said Dobbie who currently has over 61,000 followers from across the world.
“Making everybody feel comfortable with themselves and being accepted and feeling beautiful would be my end goal with TikTok,” said Dobbie.
“Everybody is beautiful. There are so many different kinds of beauty and so many people don’t realize that they're beautiful.”
Making videos is now a full-time job for Dobbie. On average it takes him four hours to do his makeup and a minimum of four hours to prepare a wig. He also sews his own outfits and shoots and edits all his videos.
He said Madam Absinthe — who owned Party Corner Guelph prior to the pandemic shutting it down — also helps him design his costumes.
“I spend on average eight hours filming a day,” said Dobbie, “and then I go live for about five hours to connect with my audience, make friends, find out what they want to see. It’s really quite touching what people say.”
He said drag is all about self expression. The Guelph native learned how to do makeup at the age of 15 at the cosmetology program in College Heights Secondary School.
“I entered competitions and stuff. I was always making others feel pretty. I was handsome but I never felt pretty myself so doing this art form made me feel pretty.”
At 18 he tried drag makeup. “I finally got to feel what I made everybody else feel,” said Dobbie who later began performing in drag at local bars and even won the drag queen race in Elora in 2017.
It's the reactions from his audience on TikTok which makes him grateful and encouraged to continue his work. He said he received messages from fans who’ve said his videos helped them get through difficult times with one even saying they were suicidal.
“I cry every night,” said Dobbie. "You have no clue what you can do for somebody.”
He said his audience plays a large role in the production of his videos with many sending him character wigs to get into.
“I’m doing this as a dedication for them,” said Dobbie. “Pretty much how I choose my character is my audience chooses it for me and I do whatever they want to see.”
He said he loves connecting with his fans around the world and in a way, he feels like he’s travelling the world.
“I learn about the culture. It's really interesting talking to people from different parts of the world with different stories. I just love it,” said Dobbie.
His said his goal through TikTok is to make people feel happy and loved. He also hopes to tour around North America with his show.
“There’s just so much going on with everybody. I just think keeping a good mind and a positive attitude helps,” said Dobbie.
“I would love to be travelling with my show and inspiring people and youth in North America. That's what my main vision is right now.”