Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pageant Queens

Dear Drag World, 

Pageant contestants, both traditional and drag, often get pegged as beautiful shells, as artificial and vapid as the barbie dolls they seek to emulate. In season 1 and 2 of Drag Race, Rupaul crowned pageant queens. But in season 3, Mimi Imfurst then Raja, began to chanllenge the pageant princesses. After Sharon Needles shouted "tired ass show girl!!" at Phi Phi O'Hara in season 4, being pegged as a "pageant queen" pretty much meant you were gonna come in third.  

In light if the painful performance of Miss Utah at this year’s Miss America pageant, and the generally bad rap “pageant queens” get on Rupaul’s Drag Race, I’d like to show you my two favorite pageant performances.  These two examples should serve as stark rebuttal to anyone who says pageant girls are simply walking stereotypes, pretty drama queens with no real edge or talent.

First is Shangela Laquifa Wadley, competing for California Entertainer of the Year in 2010

This performance has a bit of everything I like about drag, the classic satire of popular culture, the caricature of pop iconography, as well as the big hair, high heels, and high energy. Shangela shows herself as a smart, funny, talented queen. 

Still, some might argue that her performance is too classic, simply too typical. They claim, with cause, that we've already seen queens in big wigs dancing to Britney Spears, backed up by shirtless men in tight shorts and eyeliner. They point out that pageant queens may be talented, but they never push the envelope. They are too main stream, too traditional. In fact, many claim that the pageant system itself perpetuates established standards and only rewards convention.  

In response, I submit this clip of the brilliant, cutting-edge pageant princess, Queen Bee Ho

 (Miss Continental Pageant 2012)

Queen Bee's performance is similar to Shangela's.  They both begin with pop culture references, Shangela to Twilight, Queen Bee to Saw.  But while Shangela's builds to a classical emotional climax, Queen Bee's performance is emotionally jarring. Her music and choreography shift dramatically from sharp and explosive to graceful and feminine. As she mixes beauty with horror, romance with addiction, and aggression with seduction, she speaks directly to the twisted duality at the heart of drag and contemporary culture.

While her style is distinctly her own, I think she at least matches, if not surpasses, the avant garde image of Raja and the shocking, cutting edge style of Sharon Needles, and she does it like a pageant queen.  

What do you think? Do you like pageant queens? Do you think they get a bad rap? Which ones? Do you think there is any chance a pageant queen will be crowned in season six? Thanks for reading, comment below.

Hugs n' Tugs,

Femalé Amerícän 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Potentially the Best Part of Pride

Dear Drag World,

Over the past few years my interest (borderline obsession) with drag has driven me to make pilgrimages to drag centers from West Hollywood to Miami, so I was ecstatic when I heard that some of the top drag queens in the country were coming to SLC pride.

I saw Chad Micheals preform alongside Nova Star, while Detox, Willam, and Vicky Vox put on a full concert at the Depot, and I swear I saw Yara Sofia and Shangela strolling through city creek. But potentially the best performance I saw was this little gem on Sunday afternoon. In her first time on a main stage, young Miss Augustine St. Lavon showed great potential, and her performance was potentially the best part of pride.


Now, when I say Augustine St. Lavon has potential, I don’t mean it in the snarky “well...she’s got potential” voice. I mean she’s brimming with young, vibrant, possibility. She’s nervous, you can tell by the way she flips her hair and paces the stage, but there are times when the music hits her and she starts to dance. At these moments she really starts to show her potential and perform. She’s on beat, she’s got great, sharp musicality, and she’s got attitude.

 Her look is subdued, she doesn’t even wear heels, but it’s fishy and clean. Far too many new queens come out looking like cheap Ga-Gas or a crusty Marilyn Mansons, it was nice to see a kid going after something beyond gritty-skanky-shock factor. I have also seen a few photos of Augustine in some really interesting avant-garde photo-shoots. I hope we get to see her working more intense looks soon.

Potentially the greatest things about Miss St. Lavon's  performance was how emblematic it was of Salt Lake City and the LGBT movement within it. The movement is young, but vibrant. It’s coming along, not violently or shockingly, but securely, confidently, almost sweetly. The culture in SLC, though reluctant to change, has great potential for love and acceptance.

 Nothing is better for this movement than brave, talented kids pushing through their nerves, facing down the crowd, and showing their potential.

What do you think of Augustine St. Lavon's Performance? What parts of SLC pride did you like?Comment below and check in for updates and insight into the SLC drag scene,

Hugs n' Tugs, 

Femalé Amerícän 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Femalé Amerícän's Top Under-rated Queen

Dear Drag World, 

Recently posted a series of top ten lists about the queens of Rupaul's Drag Race. One queen was repeatedly, noticeably, tragically left out.  Yara Sofia has been, and continues to be, the most underrated queen of Rupaul’s Drag Race. From the judges, to the other contestants, to the general drag-world following, she really hasn’t  been given her due.  

Consider this. Yara didn’t place, she was not even included, in any of these top ten lists:

The fact that Tyra Sanchez was included at all is confusing, but lets stick with Yara. Compare Yara to the 4th place Lineysha Sparx.

It is an good comparison because they have similar looks, but Yara’s features are smaller, less prominent, and her jaw line is less distinctive. Her face is fishier, not to mention her body.  I’m not saying Lineysha shouldn’t be on the list. But how did she place fourth when Yara didn’t even make the list?  

II. Hottest: Out of Drag

You would think Yara’s would have won her place on this list when she won the Macho Male Mini-challenge (Allstars Episode 3), but she was not. Tatianna came in fifth with her glasses and stubble,

but Yara....

Come on bitch, who wore it better?

Funniest Funniest

Okay, Willam deserved to win this one, and I’m glad Chad slipped in there, but Yara's quick wit and palate of characters, from the echa pa'lante aerobics instructor, to the pop-it-on sales woman, to the s•ting midget, should have been somewhere alongside Tami Brown’s kookiness and Latrice Royale’s witty commentary.

Lip Syncs Lip Syncs

I liked that they didn't just go with the danciest queens, Jujubee's black velvet shows they were looking at who could convey the emotion, and the fact that Coco and Alyssa took first shows they were considering the epic nature of the pairing. But if your are going to use emotion and pairing as standards, how could you leave out Raven vs Jujubee in Allstars, and Yara vs Alexis in Season Three.

These aren’t the only lists Yara has been left out of.

When people talk of inspiring life stories they mention Roxxy Anderws and Tyra Sanchez, who both came through periods where they were abandoned with nothing. Yara came with nothing, by herself, into a foreign land. I don’t care how cliche this sounds, Yara’s story is the American dream.  

Raja Gemini is known for her avant garde couture, but Yara’s designs push the boundries much further.

Sharon Needles is known for her spookiness, but Yara’s looks are just as macabre, just as well put together, and Yara did it first.*

Willam and Roxxy Andrews both gained points with the judges by showing their "vulnerability" with a couple sobs and a tear squeezed out between lashes, but Yara fell to her knees, overcome with real emotion and got sent home.

Season five left us chanting with Jinxx Monsoon, “Water off a ducks back,” But “Echa pa'lante is a much more inspiring mantra.  It is great to ignore what other say about you, but it’s much better to hear them, learn, and carry on.

So Yara, I'm just a tired Salt Lake City queen, with no name of my own, but I'll give you my shout out and my love . 
Echa Pa'lante 
Echa Pa'lante

And what do you guys think? Is Yara underrated? Who else might me? Who is overrated? Comment below.

Hugs n' tugs, 

Femalé Amerícän

*P.S. Nina Flowers did it first but...