Last week, RuPaul's Drag Race premiered with a fresh batch of Queens eager to dance drop, lip sync, and read us to filth. The show is not only Logo's biggest hit, it's responsible for making drag, and lace-fronts, a topic of national discussion.
Yet as the drag superstars take their rightful place on the national stage, it's still important to support Miami's local scene. Monday night, Score hosted the 22nd annual Shelley Novak Awards, described by its eponymous founder as the "Oscars of Drag." The festivities kicked off at midnight with a show-stopping opener by Nicole Halliwell recreating Katy Perry's Super Bowl Halftime Show.
"I really didn't know how we were going to top ourselves after last year's blow-out," said the fair voiced Shelley Novak (AKA Tommy Strangie), who also hosted the night's ceremony. "but after Katy Perry performed at the Super Bowl, knew what we had to do."
For the drag neophytes in the audience, the artform is all about aping femininity. Queens use traditional hallmarks of contemporary womanhood- make-up, hair, heels- and turn up the volume on all of these facets, as a parody of gender, sexuality and the incongruity of modern life. And what could be more incongruous than a 30-year-old pop star dancing with googly eyed sharks at the nation's biggest sporting event?
Photo by Chris Carter
Once Halliwell got things started on the right stiletto, it was time to hand out some awards with Novak MC-ing. The seasoned queen served up her take on Broadway legend Elaine Stritch, in the white men's dress shirt, black tights, and heels. While the show has had its ups and downs in it's two decade long history, the trophies have never changed. "For the first show I just ran to the local dollar store, bought up as many barbies as I could find, stripped off all their clothes, and spray painted them gold," explained Novak.
Local favorite T.P. Lords took home the crown for Best Hair & Make-Up and Best Dressed. The young queen is known for pushing the boundaries of drag with out-of-this-world costumes. "I live for her, she is so incredibly creative and talented, no one can do what she does," gushed Brandon Sands, a local who came out to support his favorite performers last night as they basked in Score's warm spotlight.
Drag isn't just about the looks either, the night was filled with witty barbs and jabs thrown out by all the queens who had the mic in hand. South Beach veteran Joanna James took home the gold for Best Host. Last night she also took on the role of the late-great Joan Rivers, serving up raspy jokes and one liners at the venue's red carpet. "I consider myself to be the Madeleine Albright of drag," said James as she thanked the audience for the award.
Just as Novak was chastising one of the many photographers for what she called, "those Blair Witch angels you keep shooting me from," bearded Hialeah queens Juleisy and Karla stepped on stage decked out in self-described chonga glory. Juleisy's porn couture gown was encrusted in swatches of cheap XXX magazines. Karla, not to be out-down, showed up in a gold wheelchair clutching a blow-up doll with yard stick ruler was a proto phallus. Sensing comedic gold, Novak quickly leaped off the stage, yelling at the DJ to queue-up Chita Rivera's rendition of "America" from West Side Story.
The Shelly for Most Comedic was a tie between Daisy Deadpetals and Fernan Dcute. The two performers could not be more different. Deadpetals looks like a beauty queen who's not winning Ms. Congeniality anytime soon. "I hope you all took your Boniva tonight," said Deadpetals of the audience during her acceptance speech. Dcute, on the other hand, exemplifies the art of shock drag. The Argentinian performer was serving up a cross between Gone With the Wind and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Photo by Chris Carter
Former RPDR contestant Serena ChaCha was also in the house, and took home the award for Best Choreography. The Palace Bar took home one of the night's top honors for Best Drag Venue. The Ocean Drive institution just celebrated its 27th anniversary, as the crowning jewel of Miami's drag scene. Just as the festivities drew to a close, at the sensible hour of 3 a.m. on a Tuesday, Miami Beach Fire Rescue were called in for an impromptu photo session.
It's no secret South Beach's gay culture has seen better days. In the '90s, the small barrier island hosted over 20 gay bars, each with an established cabal of queens. With the slow migration up north, some of the town's most established acts have left for greener and less tourist-filled pastures. But as last night's ceremony proved, there are a fresh batch of queens, and core veterans, eager to revive the town's drag culture.
It just takes a willing and discerning crowd of locals to support their cackling voices.
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