Far from the nightlife of disco balls, alcohol and loud music like one might have imagined for such an event, books and artwork could be seen as guests entered the gallery store to the main stage. Inside was a wooden catwalk, lightning, and a simple backstage were built up for the drag queen competition.
The old factory building setting and the dim white lights only added curiosity for the guests and excitement for the dolled-up participants.
”I have been at the show for a couple of hours, watching all of the girls go from male to the fabulous drag personas that they are,” one of the five judges, Miss Diane Dzhaketov said. “I’m really excited to see what they could bring in the talent show.”
“We are judging them by how polished they are, their presentation, look, their talent, and their evening wear. Cohesiveness is a big part of the pageant.” Dzhaketov said.
The show started at 7:30 with a hot performance from the hostess, Calypso Jete. Her opening dance was a reenactment of Beyonce’s “Run The World (Girl)” music video which sent the crowds into enthusiastic cheers and applause.
The rest of the show was filled with performances by the contestants dressed in detailed, beautifully crafted outfits. Their performances included dancing to music and expressing themselves through their movement.
Originally with 32 potential contestants, ReachLA, the non-profit organization working for LGBT youth self-care awareness, chose 9 performers, who all work and perform as drag queens in different locations across Los Angeles.
The winner of the night’s show will become the new ambassador for ReachLA. Sean Milan, ReachLA’s social enterprise managers, explained that the contestants were chosen based on their commitment to the community, knowledge about HIV, and just “genuine, great, beautiful people.”
“We also want someone who has the passion and desire to address issues that our community faces,” one of the ReachLA team members, Adrienne Adam, explained. “Basically we are trying to get folks to know their [HIV] status, and to see what the process is like of getting tested.”
Tickets for the event were given at no cost for people who have taken an HIV test at ReachLA. Ethan Swan, the 356 S. Mission gallery’s director, explained all the money raised from ticket sales would be given to ReachLA towards its other events.
“Drag is completely about the parody of life; being satire about life, you know? You can always be sexy, fishy, dark, or any alternative,” Miss Foxie Adjuia, one of the contestants, said while trying to glue on her purple wig. “Like the layers and layers of makeups that I have on; drag is about layers, so put layers of concepts into your arts, too, you know?”
Miss Foxie Adjuia main performance, which was embedded with many political and patriotic messages, stood out from other performances. Foxie showed up her dancing skill while dressing up as a navy woman, ended her performance while standing in the infamous magazine “Times” newspaper front page frame, waving the LGBT rainbow flag.
With the help of two backup performers, Kelly and Barbee, Foxie won the grand prize of the contest: $1000 in cash, bags of brand makeups, and a place to stay while performing at a club in Long Beach.
“I’m almost in tears three times in the show and right now,” Sean/Milan expressed after the competition. While the show was going on, he could be seen greeting guests with warm hugs and thanks. “I have been doing this for 11 years for ReachLA, and it’s so great to feel fresh and new every time we do an event.”