I remember my first drag show like it was yesterday. It was a typical Thursday night in downtown Austin. I was 18. The Forum was the happening gay bar and as a then “closeted” gay woman, it was a safe place of freedom and expression. I was mesmerized at how attractive and talented the performers were. Over the years, I’ve seen my fair share of drag shows including shows in NYC, LA, NJ, D.C., and Philly. But Saturday's 7th Annual Miss Gay Latina Asheville Pageant at the Diana Wortham Theatre was anything but your typical drag show. It was an intricate evening of dance, performance and cultural expression. It took me back in time, but didn’t leave me there. The nearly sold-out event was a masterpiece- a year of planning, coordination and preparation. The entire production was delivered with ferocity and elegance. “Am I on Broadway?!” It was close!
(Editors note: you must check out the photo gallery above!)
I felt the ladies’ power illuminated in the light of the freedom to marry and the incredible victory of equality not only here in NC, but across the country as well. I didn’t get left in the dark ages of memories of oppression back in the ‘90s and the stigmatic oppression faced by all of us since the beginning of time.
As I walked back to the dressing rooms before the pageant, I witnessed raw beauty in its rarest form. The energy of expression and pride was radiating. I asked Lupita, “Are you nervous?” She said, “yes!” To be crowned Miss Gay Latina is to represent what womanhood really is- the journey towards self-realization and to be the voice of identity and acceptance in a world of confusion. It’s like Miss America status, but not. It’s better.
Everything about the evening was vibrant- from the contestant’s personalities and epically designed costumes and dresses, to the ever-apparent dedication and preparation. These women were an incredible representation of equality. In all honesty, I didn’t fully comprehend the amount of time, creativity, dedication and commitment that is required of a professional drag queen. That’s when it hit me. This isn’t a drag show; it’s a beauty pageant. They are women; some have undergone sexual reassignment, while others have not. Who is to tell us what our identity is and if it is right or wrong?
Every detail was perfectly planned and interconnected. Every wardrobe change was an artistic masterpiece- elaborate gowns, professional hair, makeup and designer shoes. I was greeted with open arms as I watched the performers actualize into: Yajaira, Josie, Tamara, Kendra, Lupita and Sherlyn. In what was a very vulnerable moment, we found common ground- at the end of the day, aren’t we all the same?
The crowd was involved and just as much a part of the evening as the performers and contestants. There was dancing in the aisles, dollar bills galore and chants from the audience: “Lupita! Lupita!” I had connected with her backstage and selfishly couldn’t be happier that she was crowned the queen!
Well deserved, Lupita, well deserved!