West Hollywood is set to select its first-ever Drag Laureate to serve as an official ambassador for the city’s robust drag culture, following an updated approval of the program by the City Council in March 2023.
The Drag Laureate program was initially proposed during an October 2020 City Council meeting, with an intention to highlight and promote West Hollywood’s drag arts through a designated representative. The application for the program, released in September 2022, was briefly halted to incorporate community feedback.
Once selected, the Drag Laureate will serve a two-year term from July 16, 2023, to June 30, 2025, with their tenure starting on International Drag Day. This honorary role includes a commitment to enhance the presence of drag culture, inspire emerging drag artists, and promote partnerships within West Hollywood’s business and community organizations.
The Drag Laureate will be expected to attend approximately 15 city-approved events per year, including key city events such as WeHo Pride and West Hollywood Day, and local business community events. The Laureate will also organize an annual event to celebrate drag history and culture.
The position comes with a $12,500 annual honorarium and a $2,500 stipend for the yearly event. These funds will cover any costs related to the Laureate’s participation in events, activities, and required insurances, as well as expenses associated with the annual event.
A selection panel, comprised of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission and a member from the Transgender Advisory Board, evaluated 13 applications from both Drag Kings and Queens. The applications were assessed based on several criteria, including a significant connection to West Hollywood, quality of cover letter, introductory video, qualifications and experience, visual portfolio, performance excellence, and recognition of the applicant’s work locally, regionally, and nationally.
Staff will compile the scores and present the applicants in ranking order at the Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission meeting on May 25, 2023. The Commission will then recommend one applicant for the West Hollywood Drag Laureate to the City Council for final approval.
Here are the 13 applicants and the unedited cover letters they submitted:
My name is Aunduh, and that name itself has a history to it. When I first started drag, it was Aunduh Dix, and then Aunduh Estemated, to finally Aunduh. I know I’d be a great fit as West Hollywood’s Drag Laureate, not only because of my personality but also because of my work and education history. From my experiences and projects in community college to my recent parlay into music and comedy have all helped me in not only being comfortable with speaking front of large groups, but also interacting with my community.
While I attended Fresno City College, I created a student organization along with a few students called The Latino Student Organization (LASO); and it was in creating this that we created our own rules of order and held several fundraisers and events for the organization as well as participating in community service events. I was also part of PUENTE which was a program geared at bridging the gap between community college and university education. It was with PUENTE that I spoke at several fundraisers and group events, as well as had some of my poetry featured by deans that attended. Even in high school I helped out with community events and outreach, but I feel Fresno City nurtured my passion for it. It was also this time in my life that worked for the county as an HIV/AIDS peer counselor, where we would go into the community and attend events where we would discuss prevention and education about HIV/AIDS.
I then attended the University of California, Merced where I was a founding member and the first openly gay student to graduate from there. While at UCM, I worked as a tour guide for the admissions department of the University and would not only give tours, but would also travel throughout California to represent the University, discuss my experiences, and boost our enrollment; I maintained this job throughout my time at UCM till I graduated. At UCM I was also employed as an orientation leader my last semester; in this job we would help to acclimate new students to the university as well as help their parents to feel at ease with leaving their students with us. And I would say that it was in my outreach at UCM that I found my love for helping underrepresented and underprivileged communities, admissions sent us individually to various schools around the area that did not have much representation in terms of higher education.
After receiving my bachelor’s degree, I briefly worked with Autistic children as behavioral therapist and then later for the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles as a licensing registration examiner. It was around this time that I discovered my love of drag and of the gay community as a whole; this was also the time of Meet In The Middle which was a protest to overturn Prop 8 and a march of which I participated in. And during this time, I attended my first Pride in WeHo; one in which I felt free, safe, and like I finally belonged.
It is from this feeling of freedom, safety, and belonging that I have built my drag persona and my approach towards being a representative of the queer community as a whole. Growing up in a rural area, I know first hand the opposition one might receive just for existing and I want to be the person that lightens that load for others and to remind them that they not only deserve to be who they but that they have an unalienable right to do so. And I can truly say that that feeling for me was birthed and nurtured while becoming a drag queen in West Hollywood, a place where some think might be superficial, but I have found to be the most welcoming and loving of any city I’ve gone to.
I wrote a song titled: Born To Be Queen, and it’s about how we’re all born to be queens in our own way and it’s rooted in a story about my mom. When I was younger I wanted the ruby slippers, and she was going to get them for me, but before she did she said : “I want you to know something, some people are going to like you for them and some people are going to hate you but no matter what I’ll always love you.” And for me, love is and always will be the key to battling any kind of adversity; and Drag is an expression of self love.
And in terms that of BIPOC representation, I was raised with family members that were activists and that worked alongside Delores Huerta and others; and because they were in college when I was young, they’d bring around people from all different backgrounds that we viewed as family. And for me growing up in a lower socioeconomic area, I want to bring the love and especially self love to people because truly you cannot progress or find success without. And understand that terms like Black Excellence aren’t meant to divide us, but to make up for the years of being told otherwise.
Also, recently I’ve traveled the US to promote my music, and because of that I’ve visited various cities and Prides that are nowhere near as large as West Hollywood, but still help in the progress of queer culture. It is also from my experiences in Albuquerque and Charolette that I discovered the esteem that comes with representing West Hollywood; and that is an esteem I’d like to continue to uphold.
In closing, I’m the perfect fit as the drag laureate not because I am a drag queen, but because I understand and emote perfectly the last word of the phrase Drag QUEEN. Queens may be born into royalty, but they cannot govern without love, inspiration, or people, and truly you cannot be tyrant and expect change. Change only comes from love and respect, and it is that love and respect that will guide me as West Hollywood’s Drag Laureate.
Hello to my beloved West Hollywood City council members! My name is Cake Moss and I should be your first drag Laureate.I have been living, working, performing, protesting and marching in West Hollywood for over 12 years now. I should be selected as the first Laureate because i AM West hollywood. When people talk about weho and its drag, My name is on the TOP of that list for a plethora of reasons! Being a representation of such an amazing thing is very fitting and would be such a full circle honor! I hope to accomplish what I’ve been working on for years, and that’s making Weho a welcoming safe haven for EVERYONE that comes into our amazing city! My involvement in the weho drag community is vast and long! It all started 12 years ago, gogo dancing at Mickys in drag, to performing regularly at all of our amazing queer spaces, creating multiple stages for all types of entertainers, putting together and leading protests, to giving our community the voice it deserves, to creating jobs for my queer/trans BIPOC counterparts that don’t always feel so welcome here. I love and appreciate all forms of drag so much! I’m always going to shows and supporting when I’m not creating the space itself! Some of my favorite accomplishments vary from crazy to humbling. The vmas with miley cyrus, hosting multiple talk shows, traveling the world doing drag, advocating for my fellow people all over the country, leading multiple protests marching miles to the weho city council, and of course doing pride with Cardi B! My biggest inspiration in Weho Drag history is the late Levonia Speaks. What they did with Sassy Inc changed weho forever. I had the honor of working alongside Patrick for several years before he lost his battle to cancer. I won Sassy Prom Queen one year and knew I was meant to use my voice to better the world. I miss Patrick very much and know she’s watching over me, and I hope she knows we are trying to keep her legacy alive. I intend on centering around racial, gender, and queer equity during my reign the same way I have been for years! I am one of the most inclusive humans you will ever meet and I ALWAYS use my privilege to uplift someone elses voice. I use my drag platforms daily to promote equality, activism, and philanthropy! I make it a point every month to host some sort of event by donating my time for a chosen cause! I will be speaking and performimg at a highscools GSA day of silence Friday April 14th and I am EXSTATIC! I hold fundraising events for people struggling in our comminuty and do anything I can to help! I advocate for many causes! I anticipate on promoting and uplifting drag history by being a positive, intelligent and GORGEOUS representation of our community and our amazing city. Congrats and thank you for April 9th becoming the official Day Of Drag here in West Hollywood, the drag march was intense in the best way! I apprecite the time you’ve spent reading this and I cannot wait to see how this turns out! Thank you
I am thrilled to submit my application for the position of the City’s first Drag Laureate. I believe that I am the perfect candidate for this role due to my passion for drag and commitment to promoting equity and inclusion in the West Hollywood community.
As the City’s first Drag Laureate, I hope to accomplish several things. Firstly, I aim to celebrate the rich history and artistry of drag and its significance in LGBTQ+ culture. Additionally, as a person of color, my visibility in this role makes a strong statement about West Hollywood and promotes diversity and inclusivity within the West Hollywood drag community while advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and social justice issues.
My involvement in the drag community started in 1995. As a background extra in two films (To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar and Stonewall) over the summer, it changed my life. You can read all about it in my blog post, “FREEda SLAVE: Mask of a Diva.” It allowed me to move to Los Angeles in 2000 where my show ran for 4 months at the Hudson Backstage Theater. I actually got my first apartment in West Hollywood on Alfred Street. After booking roles in television and film as a drag artist, I enrolled in college and got a master’s degree in education, which I use to promote using the arts as an educational tool for social justice. Currently, I work for the City of Los Angeles in the Department of Cultural Affairs as an Arts Educator.
As an active member of the West Hollywood community, I was a vendor in the 4th Annual West Hollywood Book Fair. I wrote an “adult” fairytale based on West Hollywood called “Sissy Sammy in the Land of WEHO 90069.” The animated short based on the book was selected to be included in WeHo@30 Film Festival: A Digital Time Capsule. I worked at the LA LGBT center for 5 years empowering youth of color in HIV prevention. We used events like my annual Drag show to honor and celebrate the art of drag while sending messages of HIV prevention. My work at the center had me doing outreach at many venues in West Hollywood. I even wrote and directed a short film at a WEHO local venue called The Condom Bar using one of my guys as a drag character. In 2013, I had the honor of having my second one-person show, “My Life in 3 Easy Payments,” be a part of One City One Pride. I was also extremely honored to be selected to be in the “I AM” campaign for WEHO Life in 2011.
Throughout my career as a drag performer, I have had the pleasure of experiencing many wonderful moments, milestones, and accomplishments. My favorite moment was having Taylor Mac in the middle of his “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music” sing “Happy Birthday” to me with a packed audience at the Ace Hotel Theater. Sharing the screen with an actor like Andre Braugher is also a wonderful moment in time for me. I will always treasure being a part of the “A Brief History of Drag” exhibition in 2016.
In terms of West Hollywood drag history, I am inspired by the groundbreaking work of legendary performers such as Marsha P. Johnson and RuPaul. I gave Shangela her very first opportunity in drag in my short film, “The Panty Man.” I have had the opportunity to sit with transgender icons like Sir Lady Java. Their contributions to the art of drag and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole have been immense, and I aspire to continue their legacy by centering racial, gender, and queer equity during my time as Drag Laureate. I look up to local icons like Miss Barbie-Q because of her talent and desire to help the community.
As a Drag Persona/Performer, I have always made it a priority to promote community service, philanthropy, and activism. I have used and will continue to use my platform to educate on HIV prevention and to advocate for causes such as LGBTQ+ rights, racial justice, and gender equality. I have chaired organizations such as Connect2Protect (C2P), sat on social service boards of WeHo, and have been honored by the City of Los Angeles for my work with the Black LGBT Project. I have been a keynote speaker at many LGBT events and conferences.
Finally, I am committed to promoting and uplifting drag history during my time as Drag Laureate. This includes showcasing the work of pioneering drag performers and educating audiences about the art and significance of drag. I look forward to making public appearances, speaking to audiences young and old, being there for events to spread love and share my stories. As a former QVC host, I have excellent presentation skills. Combined with my educational background, I am confident that I will represent the city of West Hollywood as an ambassador with pride, grace, and understanding. I am currently the VOG (Voice of God) at OUTFEST events and would love to partner and bring film screenings and panel discussions throughout the community.
Thank you for considering my applica.on. I look forward to the opportunity to bring my skills, experience, and passion to this role and to help make West Hollywood a more inclusive and vibrant community. Sincerely, Dale Guy Madison
a.k.a. FREEda SLAVE
I am happy to say that my drag career has spanned more than 2 decades and I am thrilled at the strides and accomplishments that I have had as Imagene Autry. From beginning my drag career in Tennessee while working for Dolly Parton to where I am now as a matron of drag in West Hollywood, I have been able to bring my character and the art of drag to a VERY wide variety of audiences throughout the nation. I have set a standard with audiences that range from young children in schools to straight, right wing couples in middle America to LGBTQ+ audiences in West Hollywood to become “that little ray of sunshine” in their day that brightens their path to the understanding that we are ALL created equal and with a little tolerance, education and love we can all live as HUMANS.
I have been able to use my drag character to help raise millions of dollars for various charities across the nation. I believe that one of the reasons that God created Imagene Autry was so that she could be a positive inﬂuence, help others and bridge a gap between ALL people… no matter their sexual identity, race, religion or socioeconomic background.
I believe that as the inaugural Drag Laureate of West Hollywood, I can ﬂy my ﬂag higher and prouder and provide a platfo\orm for the city and young drag performers EVERYWHERE to feel safe, be seen and show their positive light.
In order to make change of any kind, you have to make some noise… and no one makes more noise than Imagene Autry.
Sincerely, Imagene Autry (aka Chester McCurry)
As seen on ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, The CW, and other news outlets around the world, Jackette Knightley is a multi-award winning, recording artist. Her LGBTQ+ Dance Album BREAK FREE garnered international attention. And her philanthropic work has received acclaim from Oscar winning Mira Sorvino; Grammy winning Paula Abdul, Leann Rimes and Melissa Etheridge; Emmy winning Carson Kressley, Glen Alen, Delta Work and Director Robert Iscove, of Whitney Houston’s Cinderella. Jackette Knightley’s music and work were nominated for 9 and won 4 international awards from Anthem (for Passion and Mission Driven Work), which includes voting board member, Lady Gaga. Oscar, Grammy and Emmy winners love Jackette Knightley and her work, which celebrates LGBTQ life and offers upbeat nightclub music to lift everyone’s spirits.
Ms. Knightley’s LGBTQ+ Dance music has been streamed 500,000+ times around the globe, across all platforms. She also has her own music channel: Jackette Knightley Radio. She tours internationally and was:: the opening act for West Hollywood’s & Orange County’s PRIDE Festivals 2022; Host of Burbank PRIDE Family Zone 2022; and Entertainment Chair and Host for San Gabriel Valley PRIDE 2022. Costumes from her BREAK FREE album are on display at The Hollywood Museum from PRIDE month of June 2022 through June 2023 for icons and legends in LGBTQ+ media & history. Her latest album NEON LOVE dropped in time for Valley PRIDES in October & Christmas 2022, when she played for close to 1 million people at San Diego’s mainstream December Nights Festival in Balboa Park. She is also Entertainment Chair and Host for the following 2023 Prides: San Gabriel Valley, San Fernando Valley and Burbank. She is also performing at these 2023 Prides: West Hollywood, Orange County, Riverside, Oceanside, Palm Springs; and Burbank’s MultiCultural Fair. She makes guest appearances at Weho events such as The Red Dress Party, The White Dress Party and APLA’s Toy Box Drive. She performs regularly at Weho nightclubs such as Rocco’s and Heart.
Jackette Knightley has a proven history of expanding the transformative power of drag locally and globally through her music, performances, hosting events and demonstrated abilities to partner with and plan City and County Prides across SoCal. She even successfully petitioned The City of San Fernando Valley to allow its first ever Pride March to take place in September 2023. In addition, she has over 15 years of giving back to The City Of West Hollywood by donating her time as a counselor and program writer for West Hollywood’s first HIV/AIDS program: LA Shanti and it’s current program, The Life Group LA, which serves Weho and beyond. She maintains a Doctorates degree in Counseling Psychology and a Masters in Business and Health Care Management which has equipped her with business savvy, public speaking skills, and the ability to respond quickly and professionally in public situations where timing and diplomacy are crucial. Her radio show on LA Talk radio from 2014—2016 also equipped her with expert media experience. She has received Letters of Recognition and Commendations from: The LA Mayor, The California Legislature and Congress: The US House of Representatives. She proudly identifies as a gender-fluid, Eurasian-LatinX, neurologically-diverse (ADHD), drag recording artist. As Emmy winning Robert Iscove puts it, “Jackette Knightley is a force to be reckoned with!”
My career combines show business and advocacy for over 30 years. My first national television appearance in 1984 was on the talent show Puttin’ on the Hits. Since then, I’ve played several drag queens and transvestite characters in film and television. My first role on television came in 1997 on The Wayans.Brothers. I’ve had notable roles on Roseanne and the CSI series franchise. I’ve appeared in over 50 shows and films, including The John Larroquette Show, MADtv, Punks, Gilmore Girls, CSI, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Sons of Anarchy, and Glee. Also appeared in music videos for Gloria Estefan’s “Everlasting Love” and RuPaul’s “Little Bit of Love,” and a starring role in the first black romcom “Punks,” the darling of Sundance in 2000.
Throughout my career, almost every television or film opportunity for drag queens and transgender actors has been for the roles of transvestite, streetwalker, detainee, or trickster. Sometimes we want certain people to validate us in a certain way, but they don’t know how. Knowing how important it is for transgender people to be able to see ourselves reflected authentically in art and media. I collaborated with director David Hays Gaddas to create and write “Lovely Bouquet of Flowers.” This performance art production had a predominantly transgender cast with music, dance, and powerful spoken word pieces that reflect many unheard narratives of the transgender experience. The development of this production and the stories of cast members were captured in the documentary “In Full Bloom”. I give voice to community members from all walks of life and challenge viewers to move past their preconceived stereotypes and see the commonalities we all share. I explore situations that are easily relatable to the Transgender community that deals with family, inner conflicts, coming out, surgery, hormones, and the complexities of sexual identity and orientation.
I began speaking out more publicly about insecurities gender nonconforming and transgender people have and the violence our community faces, discussing my experience with being punched by a stranger. When I walk down the street, I still look over my shoulder. But it did not prevent me from still walking down the street. I teamed up with transgender actors Alexandra Billings, Trace Lysette, Jen Richards, andRain Valdez to send an open letter toHollywood about miscasting, tired clichés and tropes, and strategies for change.
Im the best candidate for this opportunity because for several decades, I’ve been a drag performer at various venues and clubs in West Hollywood. I’ve been working as an unofficial ambassador for WeHo by enhancing the presence and appreciation of drag culture and arts in Weho. I’ve actively promoted partnerships with WeHo businesses and community organizations. As a proud Queen, although not a resident of WeHo, I’ve celebrated the spirit and special qualities of WeHo and its residents. My legacy has inspired emerging generations of drag artists by celebrating and promoting drag history. If selected to serve as WeHo’s Drag Laureate ambassador, I will continue to do the abovementioned work to uplift us, unite us, entertain us, and provide positive representation at all fifteen (15) events throughout the year. For WeHo Pride or WeHo Day, I propose Drag in the Park Day, a day of performances and poetry. We would start with drag queens at all major stoplights in WeHo doing outdoor performances at the top of the hour from La Brea and SantaMonica to Robertson and ending in WeHo Park.
After many years as a female impersonator, I announced (circa2008) that a transgender woman. “It’s not so much physical but mental and spiritual for me.
As drag queens, gender nonconforming, and Transgender individuals, we are frequently invisible during our lives, and our existence is often disregarded even in death. Our names are barely remembered after we pass away. I combat this invisibility by using my plays and films to build a community, validate LGBTQ+ lives, and safeguard our stories. My art and activism educate, entertain, and enlighten people about gender non-conforming and transgender individuals while raising awareness of the broad spectrum of human sexuality and gender, showcasing the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community, and leaving an indelible mark on our world.
I serve the community as Associate Director at Access Prevention Advocacy Intervention and Treatment (APAIT). I develop and oversee programs serving communities that are underserved and marginalized. As an extension of my capacity as an HIV Counselor and Associate Director, I serve as Coordinator of the Midnight Stroll, which brings awareness and needed self-care supplies for street-based sex workers to enable and empower them to move from street-based sex work into comprehensive community resources such as HIV testing and treatment, housing services, substance use counseling, legal and victim advocacy, and medical services.
I’m a Board Member of the City of Los Angeles Transgender Advisory Council, which advises elected officials and civic leaders on critical issues facing the Transgender community, such as economic development, public awareness, safety, and healthcare accessibility. I affect policy changes and legislation that advances the empowerment of the Transgender community and allows us to live fulfilling and enriched lives by influencing Trans-inclusive housing and employment policies. I’m a staunch supporter and award recipient of many of the organizations that serve the communities with the greatest needs, such as APAIT, St. John’s Community Health, the Unique Woman’s Coalition, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and the Imperial Court of Los Angeles and Hollywood. Last year I received a Weho Rainbow Key Award and an award from the LAPD for community service. This year I was Miami Beach Pride’s, Grand Marshall.
A miracle is just a shift in one’s perception from fear to love” is a mantra that I live by, as it exemplifies the belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to rise and achieve our greatest potential with grace and ease if given the chance and a nurturing loving environment because all healing happens at the level of the mind.
Jazzmun’s one of the pillars of our movement. She’s brought her personality and awareness in the entertainment industry before we were acknowledged as individuals and as a community. Jazzmun’s presence, spirit, and essence to our movement provides assurance that we are all going to be ok, despite horrible experiences and challenges that we may face. Looking in her eyes tells many of us that we are loved. -Bamby Salcedo, Founder of TransLatin@Coalition
My name is Johnny Gentleman and I am a drag king in Los Angeles looking to be considered for WEHO’s Drag Leareate position. A bit about myself: I have been doing drag for over 5 years, 4 years in Los Angeles and have produced and hosted virtual drag shows and live brunches for the past 4 years. During my years doing drag, I have made it my main focus to bring awareness of the validation that drag kings are just as talented and should be given equal opportunity as any drag queen in Los Angeles. With this as my goal, I worked harder, competed over and over in multiple competitions against queens, and with every loss, I made sure my numbers were what made people know my name. In 2019, I was the first drag king to perform and win Delta Work’s Weekly Amateur Competition at Hamburger Mary’s WEHO, placed 4th in KornBread Jete’s Big Chicks and Breadsticks competition, and won Mr. LA Pride in 2021; being the first trans masculine, Latinx, and drag king to win in Imperial Court of LA’s history. In 2022, I was the first drag king to perform at WeHo Pride and produce the first ever drag king show on the WeHo Pride stage.
Over my five years of drag, I’d had the stress and struggle to prove myself to be seen as serious in the eyes of the drag community because drag was my way of expressing my stresses, my emotions, and the person I wanted to be like. After competing in Dragged Out, by Billy Francesca at Roccos, I wanted to show that drag kings and non-binary artists are here, present, willing to woe the WEHO people. Since then I have had the blessed ability to partner with WEHO drag icons, such as Billy Francesca, Nyx Litre, Lacienga Bouldvardez, Calypso Jete, Cake Moss, etc, to open their minds to the idea of booking BIPOC, TRANS/ENBY, and drag king and in-between artists in West Hollywood.Being given this title, I am able to collaborate with the city of West Hollywood and drag community and producers to start a conversation to make WeHo more diverse, more inclusive, more open to new and broadening forms of drag, so we can make it a better safe haven for the future of our LGBTQ+ community. My goal would be to make WeHo a place where BIPOC, transgender, nonbinary, bisexual, kings, nonbinary artists, and every shade of the rainbow would be able to see people like them in this beautiful city. They feel like WeHo is a place where they can be their true selves and find people like them. That’s the WeHo of the future in my eyes and we can make that a possibility if we work together and communicate as a community.
My name is Jordan Reyes. My drag name is Jordan Jayro. I have been doing drag for nearly six years and got my start in West Hollywood (Flaming Saddles was my ﬁrst paid spot). Since then, I have been performing consistently at venues in West Hollywood, Downtown LA, Palm Springs, and beyond. This past summer I even got the chance togo perform in Hawaii. Working as a drag artist in West Hollywood has not only taught me a lot about myself, but it has taught me a lot about what it means to be an outqueer person today. I should be selected as West Hollywood’s Drag Laureate because I have been an active member of the drag community here for several years, and I am passionate about uplifting and bettering my community.
I started doing drag back in 2017 while I was studying Theatre Arts at Fullerton College. I would often wake up early before school and do my makeup, then go to class (wearing sunglasses all day, as if that would somehow make me less noticeable), then leave school and drive to the gay bars. At that time I was juggling a full-time job, afull-time school schedule, and drag all while still performing in plays and musicals. Ilook back on that time as the most challenging time of my life. My family had justmoved back to Georgia (where I moved from in 2011), and I stayed here by myself. I knew that I needed to be here, even if it meant not having the support of my family. At that time I was sleeping on an air mattress on a classmate’s living room ﬂoor until I could get on my feet. Despite every obstacle, I knew I was doing what was best for me.
After a while, I started to see the fruits of my labor. I ﬁnished school, earning my AA in Theatre Arts. I was a regular performer at venues in West Hollywood such as Flaming Saddles, Rage Nightclub, and The Abbey. I soon began doing fundraisers and charity events, working with other queens to raise funds for organizations like Save The Children. I also did a fundraiser show for The Wayward Artist. I started my podcast HeyGurl! With Jordan Jayro, where I interview drag queens and artists. I also released my album APOCALIPSTICK in 2022, which I wrote and produced myself during quarantine. I’ve gotten to host corporate events for Grindr, and Herman Miller. This past year I got to perform at The Phoenix’s sober New Year’s Eve event in West Hollywood. I have done press at RuPaul’s Drag Con. I have been lucky enough to perform stand-up comedy alongside some of my favorite queer comedians. I have also at times been theonly drag queen on a lineup of cisgender heterosexual men. Drag continues to challenge me and take me to new places.
As a queen, I do feel as though it is my responsibility to act as a martyr for the LGBTQIA+ community. Drag Queens and trans people have historically been at the forefront of the queer movement since the Stonewall Riots in 1969. And although West Hollywood did not become a city until 1984, it had been known as a safe haven forLGBTQ people of all races and ethnicities ever since the early 1900s. Many otherminority groups also settled here in West Hollywood because the city was unincorporated at the time and not under the control of the LAPD. These same people banded together in 1984 to incorporate the area as the City of West Hollywood, electing a city council of primarily queer individuals.
Being chosen as the City’s Drag Laureate would allow me to bring awareness to West Hollywood’s rich queer history. West Hollywood is looked to as one of the most progressive cities in the country when it comes to legislation, LGBTQ rights, and social justice. As a young person who works and plays in this city, I know how far we’ve come as a society in recent years. But I also see the work that is still to be done. This year alone, the ACLU is tracking the progress of over 450 di.erent anti-LGBTQ bills in the United States. It is extremely important to me that we, as a more inclusive city, continue to do our part to show other cities and states the importance of protecting LGBTQ people. It is so important for queer people to remain as visible as possible. Visibility leads to exposure, which leads to conversation, which leads to understanding, which leads to acceptance. I know that it may seem like there is a lot going against us right now, but I have so much hope for the future. And I can not wait to be a part of it.
When it comes to drag, there has been an evolution and revolution! From the Japanese geisha to Milton Berle and a powder pu, the notion of drag and its entertainment purposes has been under debate and still is. But drag has been here for a long time. I have been doing drag for over 30 years, starting in the spring of 1992. I have always seen drag as a way to create community, advocate social justice, and start dialogues that are needed, not just between the straight and queer communities but between the sub-communities within the LGBTQ communities as well.
Let me say this from the start, I love doing drag! From my ﬁrst high-heeled step onstage and seeing the smiling faces, I knew I was doing what I was meant to do! I am proud I’ve been able to take the power I’ve found in drag on stage and to sit on panels, like the USNC LA for UN Women, Trans Summit at Outfet or LA Trans Pride, writing for the Body.com, being published in The Palgrave Handbook of Queer and Trans Feminisms in Contemporary Performance or featured in Los Angeles magazine, direct & producing my own solo work and plays for the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Acting in the movie musical Leave It on the Floor, the stage production of Denin Doves with Sacred Fools Theatre, and my unique feature in Lady Gaga’s Telephone video with Beyonce, I sing, create and do workshops with organizations like Naval LA and Models of Pride, host events like the AIDS LifeCycle Finishing Line event or for the United Teachers Los Angeles Queer Event, moderate discussions on TGI Inclusion, the intersectionality of people of color and drag and how to keep yourself sane in the times of COVID, create events, and really merge the intersectionalities of being a person of color, a person of Trans experience, and as an artist all to the various platforms while staying true to myself. This staying true to oneself in a culture that devalues every intersectionality my Black, Trans body represents. Female impersonation and the art of female illusion have gone mainstream. The visibility and representation are at their apex, and the opportunity for missteps, cancellation, and critical reception is also at their highest.
Through my stumbles and witnessing those in my beloved community, I know I can pass on knowledge through the Drag Queen Bootcamp workshops. I have been sober for nine years and know the pitfalls of nightlife. Part of my work has always been helping artists through their trauma, making them better artists. I am a survivor of child sexual assault and worked on a theatre project with Mirror Memoirs called Transmutation, which helped me create an artistic healing space. It’s easy to get caught up in the glitz of glamour and artiﬁcial adversarial relationships on reality drag TV shows, but teaching other artists how to advocate for themselves with bookers and bar patrons, how to help within the community, handle ﬁnances, ﬁnd inspiration, and expand their artistry is what I see as so exciting and what I would bring to the table as Drag Laurette.
With my reputation in nightlife, I am open to engaging with all levels of people and the public. I can use my thirty years of theatre and publicly speak in numerous forums. In addition, I have experience training organizations on how to be gender inclusive at Trans Can Work, my social justice work with Gender Justice Los Angeles, the TG ENBY Project (TRANS -Non-Binary), in which I am the Director.
Drag is under so much scrutiny these days, and it is essential to begin to mend the bridges that have been burned by those who wish to demonize drag performers and get to the root of those fears. We need to not shy away from what is happening but start town halls and talks to get back to the humanity of this. And I am the person best qualiﬁed to do that.
I am so proud to see all the work and progress West Hollywood has done, from your round table work with artists to the advocacy for an LBGT liaison with the sheris to the Trans Day of Remembrance ceremony annually. I have received grants from the city of West Hollywood, sat on Arts funding boards, performed at the Chambers, and attended many board meetings of West Hollywood. With my qualiﬁcations, I would be a perfect addition to your vision for the Drag Lauerette Program.
I look forward to hearing from you all!
I am writing to express my sincere interest in the inaugural position of Drag Queen Laureate of West Hollywood. As a dedicated and experienced performer, I am confident in my ability to bring creativity, energy and joy to this position.
My passion for performance has been with me since a young age, and upon discovering drag and attending my first Dream Girls review at Rage in 2010 I became completely entranced with this art form that I am lucky enough to now do as my full time career. Through years of practice, I have honed my skills in makeup artistry, musical story telling and performance techniques. I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to perform at various venues and events, gaining valuable experience and recognition in the city and industry.
As Misty Violet, I aim to not only entertain, but also to educate and inspire my audiences. I believe drag has the power to break down barriers, challenge social and gender norms, and promote inclusivity and acceptance. I strive to embody these values in not only my performances but in my appearances and outreach opportunities to help to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all.
I am excited about the possibility of working with the City of West Hollywood and the Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission, and contributing to the success and elevation of drag in our beautiful city. Thank you for considering my application and I look forward to hearing from you!
I was a kid the first time I did drag. I would dress up as different characters with my sister and play out scenarios, draped in pink dresses with eighties ruffles and scarves fashioned into turbans. Drag captured my imagination in a way that very few activities could. It spoke to my humor, my desire to create, and my love of female characters. Throughout high school and college, I discovered that drag was, in fact, the best medium for me to fully express my creativity. As a drag queen I sing, host and sew costumes for myself. There are always new skills to explore that I can apply to my work. As a result, I have developed and fallen in love with Pickle, a powerhouse host, performer and community activist. Pickle is my art, my career, my self-expression. She has allowed me to become a respected professional and community leader, which has equipped me with the skills and experience I believe are required for the distinct honor and privilege of being Drag Laureate for the trailblazing City of West Hollywood, where I got my start.
My experience as a professional drag queen takes root in the city of West Hollywood. For three years, I hosted and produced the drag shows at Flaming Saddles West Hollywood including cabaret shows and pageants that allowed new drag talent to perform on a large stage and develop their craft. I connected brands to the events to add budget and resources and handled marketing. I have also hosted at the Abbey and Rocco’s, performed at fundraisers in Plummer Park and at Heart WeHo, and marched down Santa Monica Blvd in Pride Parades. I partner with businesses and organizations with West Hollywood campuses and offices like Tinder and Slalom Consulting to bring fabulous shows to their employees featuring all sorts of incredible drag talent. Other organizations and companies I have partnered with include The Academy Museum, Amazon, Aquarium of the Pacific, The City of West Hollywood, Gamble House in Pasadena, Independent Shakespeare Company, LACMA, LA Music Center, LA Public Library, The Natural History Museum, Otis College, Pasadena City College, Youtube and VidCon. I have written comedy material for drag superstars like Heidi N Closet, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo and La La Ri. I have appeared in national ad campaigns for Gilead and Dollar Shave Club and guest starred on Tyler Perry’s hit television show Sistas. Along with my professional work, I have dedicated time to serving the community of West Hollywood as an organizer and activist. This last year, upon discovering that there were no plans to put on the yearly “#BOOM” sober New Year’s Eve party, I reached out to my friends at The Phoenix, a nonprofit dedicated to serving the sober community and together we partnered with the city of West Hollywood to present Vibez, a New Years Eve party that gave hundreds of members of the sober community a safe space to celebrate the holiday with sober fellows. I co wrote the application for funding, helped plan the event and produced the entertainment. At the party we presented a fabulous array of diverse drag artists and performers. I am also a proactive member of the Safer Weho Coalition with the Institute of Public Strategies. We hosted two outreach events in West Hollywood to provide fentanyl testing strips and Narcan as well as educate members of the public. We are currently developing new strategies to get safety resources into the bars and clubs of West Hollywood to fight this terrible problem in our community.
My dedication to the power of drag as a diverse and compelling educational tool strengthens my ability to carry out the duties of Drag Laureate. I have had the honor of presenting youth drag workshops at Models of Pride through the LGBT center, and am in the process of developing original drag curriculum for middle and high schools that highlights the history and the practice of drag. I run the LA Chapter of Drag Story Hour and have for five years, working closely with many organizations and institutions including the city of West Hollywood. We recently signed on to present the program at the West Hollywood Library for two more years, during which time we will gainfully employ many more drag artists. I developed another educational program in collaboration with the LA Public Library called “Shakesqueer,” where students learn a Shakespeare speech from a drag performer and have presented the program at the free Shakespeare in the park series as well as libraries throughout LA County. Teaching young people the power and versatility of drag is a joy that speaks to my younger self wrapping scarves around my head, and having the opportunity to share that joy with my peers is one of the bright spots of my career.
I am committed to diversity and presenting drag artists representing a broad spectrum of backgrounds, styles and identities. To me, this position would largely be about empowering working drag performers as well as encouraging newer drag artists to take risks, think outside the box, and solidify drag’s place in the national conversation as a respectable and powerful form. We need more programming that challenges drag artists to rise to their fullest creative potential, and more opportunities for young people to explore drag. I want to ensure we show the community, the nation and the world that West Hollywood is not only an epicenter of drag, but an epicenter of bold, excellent and artistically groundbreaking drag.
As a result of my work in the drag community, particularly with our next generations of drag artists, I received a certificate of recognition in 2019 from the LA City Council. I have also represented the city of West Hollywood on KTLA to promote Story Hour and participated in many media opportunities and interviews. Through my experience with the press I have cultivated a concise and engaging media voice, largely from watching my idols such as Coco Peru, Peppermint, RuPaul and Marti Gould Cummings talk about their work on a public level.
If given this position, I would be excited to execute unique and fabulous programs. I would be honored to represent my fellows at events and welcome businesses with ribbon cuttings. Some ideas I initially have would include ongoing public meetings for drag artists to come together and discuss issues affecting our community and brainstorm solutions. It would be wonderful to host professional development workshops for drag artists that are otherwise not connected to resources on small business ownership, taxes, or creative development. I would love to present an exhibition of drag history, partnering with my friends at the ONE archives to bring an installation to the city of West Hollywood paired with an evening of performances highlighting drag throughout the decades and what drag looked like at different points in history. I would love to produce a comedy drag evening of sketches written and performed by drag artists and an interdisciplinary experience with drag, visual arts and live music. These are the beginnings of ideas I would like to explore and discuss with the city.
I owe my creative and professional life to the beacon of hope and joy that drag has become in this world. I understand that the moment I stretch my wig over my head and bat my first eyelash of the night, I follow the many performers both known and forgotten who have forged a path for me and my fellows through their pain, their creativity, and, most importantly, their belief in the magic that lies just beneath the surface of our lives. I did a reading of a personal story about my relationship to drag and Drag Story Hour for KPCC as part of their unHeard LA series in which I said that with drag, I seek to protect people from the idea of permanence. What I mean by this is that I believe drag shows us there is nothing in this world that is exactly as it appears, there is no line of prose that cannot be written as poetry, and there is no creature on this Earth that does not, at some point, shed its skin to become something new. It would be my honor to serve as Drag Laureate of West Hollywood and carry this message (and rhinestones).
My name is Roger-Roger, and I am here to be your inaugural Drag Laureate!
As both a West Hollywood resident and performer, I am excited for the opportunity to serve my community as an ambassador for the city. I recently won Hamburger Mary’s WeHo Sunday Best competition, and I’m a standout up-and-comer in the LA drag scene. I represent a new generation of emerging drag artists with a new perspective of drag, and I am ready to take my drag career to the next level.
As a drag performer, I am based here in West Hollywood, but I have traveled all around LA County from the Valley to Long Beach to Pomona, working with all types of venues and people. I love the art of drag and its ability to spread joy, but I am also very professional and serious about my artwork. Most importantly, I use my platform wherever I go as an opportunity to represent the Trans community and increase our visibility in drag spaces.
I will also bring many years of experience promoting and producing events as the Drag Laureate. During my time as a student at Northwestern University, I focused a lot of my extracurriculars around film and theater production.
I ran an entire season of a TV show as an executive producer, produced several independent films, and coordinated live theatrical performances. I learned how to put together an event from start to finish, and manage all of the logistics including budget and expenses, location scouting, contracts, transportation, and talent acquisition. I also engaged with the surrounding community, often partnering with local businesses. However, the most important experience I gained was learning how to be a leader
In addition, I worked for the University’s student center producing events, and was quickly promoted from a production assistant to a production manager. I am highly organized, intelligent, and hard-working, as I balanced all of this while also attending school full time.
If I were selected as the West Hollywood Drag Laureate, I plan to focus on increasing the accessibility and variety of drag events in the city. Many drag events currently take place in bars and clubs, which is fabulous, but also often creates barriers to access.
I hope to increase the presence of drag in the city by introducing more all-ages, community-focused events. I would hold them in more public community spaces to increase accessibility for people with disabilities, low-income, and West Hollywood’s families and LGBTQ+ youth. These events would hopefully be produced in partnership with local businesses/organizations, and center around promoting queer/drag history, and social equity.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to meet with you soon!
Tia Wanna Ross
Hello! I am Te Jay McGrath, also known as Tia Wanna Ross and I am writing this letter for consideration as your first City Drag Laureate. I am originally from Hawai`i, but have called Los Angeles my home for the last 15 years. I have been performing and hosting in drag for a decade now, and West Hollywood is where I got my start. I have been privileged to perform, host, plan, and moderate various shows, events, and programming all over Los Angeles County-specifically centered around LGBTQ+ efforts and initiatives. One of those being the annual Pasadena National Coming Out Day event that will be celebrating its seventh anniversary this October.
My professional work life has also been centered around this realm of work as well. I have several years of experience in LGBTQ+ outreach, youth engagement, and event planning. I currently work full time for a non profit organization called Youth MOVE National, and am finishing my degree in Hospitality Management. To have this opportunity with you all will be the perfect next step in my career journey. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Tia Wanna Ross