Crashing business meetings, weddings and all kinds of gatherings dressed in their holiday best, drag queens with Austin entertainment delivery service Extragrams are bringing the holiday spirit right to your door.
As the first holiday season during the COVID pandemic loomed with no end in sight in late 2020, Austinite Kerry Lynn had more than visions of sugarplums dancing in her head.
Lynn, an event planner who has worked in entertainment, was looking for a way to show her mom love for her birthday that summer while quarantining was at its peak. Instead of a material gift, Lynn wanted to give her mom a boost of human connection during isolating times and decided to send over a musician to give a surprise performance at her door.
From there, a new business idea was born. By fusing her love for old-timey holiday telegrams with the needs of quarantined people and performers who had lost a chance to work during COVID, Lynn created Extragrams—a service that brings the over-the-top joy of drag queen performances straight to a loved one's door.
Extragrams founder Kerry Lynn started the drag queen entertainment delivery service after looking for a gift for her mom during the pandemic. (Extragrams)
"I've always just loved the idea of creating these kinds of random acts of fabulousness into people's lives... and the idea of being able to gift something that wasn't material but was kind of like a memory," Lynn said. "Being able to send this epic entertainment to someone with music and this whole spectacle, it allowed them to feel like they were connected in a way because they were sending this experience that they all got to be a part of... it felt really special."
At first, Lynn was unsure if professional drag queens accustomed to large, adoring crowds would settle for performances in front of just a few people. But she soon received the opposite reaction.
"Performers, they want to perform, they want to share," Lynn said. "Almost all the queens that I reached out to were super interested and really supportive and gung-ho about it."
Since July 2020, what Lynn once thought was a temporary pandemic pursuit has transformed into a multi-faceted business.
"It really was like, 'Okay, the world is burning. Let's just do this,'" Lynn said. "I tried to be smart about it from a business standpoint, but I really was just thinking of it in the moment."
Lynn's passion project soon "spread like wildfire," Lynn said, as people began booking performances for graduations, birthdays and other occasions while miles apart. News of the service began circulating through local media, viral TikTok videos and word of mouth.
@extragramsatx Singing telegrams but make it EXTRA! ##dragqueens##specialdelivery##makeitfashion##congrats
♬ original sound - Extragrams
In a time where people were forced into solitude and bombarded with bad news, queens have spread joy to anyone from nurses overburdened in COVID units to CEOs in need of holiday cheer. As pandemic restrictions shifted, Extragrams did too—Lynn said the company has become a sort of "drag queen agency" and gone on to perform for larger events.
But whether queens are surprising a backyard party with a twerking contest or joining quarantined grads in caps and gowns, Lynn says the shock and joy are universal.
"I really do feel like I have the best job in the world because we just get to surprise people with drag, right?" Lynn said. "We get a lot of people who cry because it's powerful. It just feels so celebratory when someone shows up in like that huge spectacle just for you."
And even as the threat of omicron looms over yet another pandemic holiday season, Lynn said the on-demand drag queen service will continue to adapt and bring joy to those who need it most—all while staying "extra."
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Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.
As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.
“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”
Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.
“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”
Actually, a purr-fect idea.
Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.
At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”
Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.
“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”
Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.
“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”
Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.
“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”
Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.
“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”
And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.
“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”
Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.
“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”
We all have those cravings for an amazing butter chicken or some authentic dosas with coconut chutney, but when I was thinking about where I wanted to go to satisfy my taste buds I realized that my list of great Indian food around Austin was surprisingly short. After doing some research and asking around, here is your list of the best Indian restaurants around town.
This restaurant claims to have the most authentic South Indian food, and from what I've heard, the claims might be true! Their menu features the traditional South Indian dishes of Idlis, Vadas, a variety of Dosas, and more.
If you're looking for an Indian and Tex-Mex fusion cozy restaurant, then look no further! Nasha on East 7th Street prides itself on its specialty margaritas, Tikka con Queso, Biryani, and more creative dishes!