Entertainment: Local drag scene celebrates Pride Month

By Stephanie Meditz
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With Pride Month well underway, Brooklyn’s drag performances are more lively and glittery than ever before.

Three queens, Purss’ophonie, Piper, and Adra Quartz, shared their experiences in the Brooklyn and Queens drag scenes as well as their own stories of self-acceptance and expression.

All three queens revealed that, although drag allows them to transform both physically and mentally, their drag personas give them feelings of freedom and confidence that remain even after they remove their makeup.

Emilio Moreno, known by their drag name, “Purss’ophonie,” never felt inclined towards drag until they hit a rough patch in their life, rediscovered RuPaul’s Drag Race, and felt represented by the queens on the show, specifically Bob the Drag Queen.

The 29-year old’s drag persona is influenced by the Black and Brown communities that raised them.

The name is a reference to Persephone, the Greek goddess of the Underworld, but it’s also a literal reference to a phony purse as a nod to their roots.

“It’s basically an homage to when the culture gets stolen or we can’t afford it and we have to get our own bags,” they said. “So instead of coming from the underworld, I come from the sewer with my fake bags. No spring.”

Moreno’s performances are usually dance routines to Black, Brown, female, or queer artists, such as Doechii, Azealia Banks, Beyoncé, and Alex Newell.

Pedro Suarez similarly crafted his drag persona, “Adra Quartz,” after a difficult time in his life.

Doing drag was only a thought in the back of his mind until a friend gave him the opportunity to try it out using her makeup.

Suarez got his start after a New York City queen, Iodine Quartz, adopted him as her “drag child,” meaning she took him under her wing, taught him how to do drag makeup, and introduced him to other queens.

He gave his first drag performance on his 22nd birthday at a competition in Philadelphia, which he won.

Adra Quartz struts her stuff in one of her favorite outfits.

Suarez earned a BFA in dance from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria in 2017. His performances reflect his background as a dancer and artist.

“I think of myself more as a choreography queen,” he said. “Like I’d rather pull out an 8-count than do a little split. And I feel like you’re just showcasing a little bit more talent. You just made this up, whether it be on the spot or prepared in your head.”

Audrey Long, a performer under the drag name, “Piper,” also has roots as a competitive dancer.

Originally from Fort Worth, Texas, the 23-year-old discovered drag through RuPaul’s Drag Race and regularly attended drag shows in college before trying it out themself.

They see drag as an outlet for the performer in them, and their performances typically include high kicks, splits, audience interaction, and high-energy movement inspired by early 2000s pop divas like Britney Spears.

Long is a graduate student in social work at New York University to become a gender therapist.

“I think, being a queer kid in a small southern town, New York was always the epitome of really making it,” Long said. “Like getting out of the small town and moving to the big city was always something I had thought about but never really thought that it was possible.”

The Brooklyn drag scene, which described by Suarez as “disgusting in the best way,” is characterized by unpredictable, often shocking performances and a strong sense of community.

“There are no limits to the drag in Brooklyn,” Moreno said. “Meaning I’ve heard stories of people doing crazy stuff onstage and actually getting physical reactions from the audience.”

They described one performance in which a queen acted as a human wrecking ball during a crowded barbecue at The Metropolitan in Williamsburg.

The scene’s openness to a variety of unconventional performances, however, is a testament to its diverse members and the unconditional support between them.

“Where everyone comes from, they bring a little bit of themselves,” Moreno said, referencing the personal and cultural relevance behind many drag performances. “And I feel like Brooklyn is a place where they’re celebrated rather than tolerated.”

Long shares the sentiment that Brooklyn is a hotspot for some of the strangest drag performances, but they also see it as a land of opportunity for newcomers to drag and a safe place for performers to showcase their art without fear of judgment.

“In Brooklyn, you can do anything and people will still live for it,” Long said. “You can literally stand there to cricket noises for four minutes and the crowd will go wild and you’d probably make lots of money. It’s the silly, fun things like that that really make me love Brooklyn as a borough and as a community scene.”

Piper’s look is completely self-styled.

As a nonbinary drag performer, Long expressed that although many drag spaces are centered around cisgender men, they have never felt excluded from the Brooklyn scene.

They see drag as an outlet for expressing the femininity that they don’t always present, and performing as Piper has boosted their overall confidence.

“Piper has taught Audrey a lot,” they said. “I feel more comfortable in myself. Having Piper be able to wear the frilly costumes and put on all the makeup, it makes me feel like I have more of a balance in my day-to-day identity.”

Suarez, who is masculine-presenting outside of drag, also uses drag to express another aspect of his identity that often goes unseen.

“My drag is a different side of who I am,” he said. “Once the wig and the lashes go on, then you definitely see that personality switch.”

Such self-acceptance and expression are major components of Pride Month in the drag scene.

“To me, I think Pride is almost like renewing your wedding vows,” Long said. “Just that reaffirming of how grateful I am to be queer and be able to live my authentic self with the people that I love.”

However, Pride is still fundamentally a call for action and political change.

In addition to performing at bars, parties, and parades, many New York City queens participate in political activism or community-based events like those in public libraries.

“Pride month is definitely still a resistance movement and there’s a lot of work to be done in our society as well as our own community in terms of misogyny, transphobia, racism, classism, and a lot of gatekeeping,” Moreno said. “We have come a very long way so we do get the privilege to celebrate where we’re at, but it’s always a reminder that there are people that are still marginalized.”

For Moreno, the very act of doing drag is a political statement, especially given the beginning of the gay liberation movement.

“There are people that don’t even have rights in this world the same way that we do,” Moreno said. “And we have to fight as best as we can to just make sure that we’re bringing everybody up… It was one brick thrown at Stonewall, but fifty drag queens behind it.”

Thousands turn out for Queens Pride

Thousands filled the streets in Jackson Heights on Sunday to celebrate the 30th annual Queens Pride Parade and Festival. Having been absent for the last two years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s festivities took the event to a whole new level.

Lasting over two hours, this year’s Queens Pride Parade featured more than 100 different groups, including local activists, LGBTQIA+ organizations, and elected officials.

Mayor Eric Adams helped lead the parade along with Grand Marshalls Adrienne Adams, speaker of the New York City Council, and former City Councilman and parade co-founder, Daniel Dromm.

The event also included representatives from nonprofit organizations such as Colectivo Intercultural TRANSgrediendo, the Caribbean Equality Project, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the CUNY LGBTQIA+ Consortium, End Trans Detention, and many more.

It also included several performances by Fogo Azul, The Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps, Gotham Cheer, CitySoul NYC, and City Cheer.

The Queens Pride Parade was founded by Dromm and gay rights activist Maritza Martinez in 1993 to improve the visibility of the LGBTQ community following the death of Julio Rivera, a 29-year-old gay Puerto Rican man who was viciously attacked by three skinheads at the schoolyard near 78th Street and 37th Avenue.

His would become the first gay hate crime to be tried in New York State. The street corner where the attack took place was later renamed “Julio Rivera Corner” as a symbolic gesture honoring his life and memory.

Jackson Heights has been home to one of the largest LGBT communities in the entire City since the 1920s, but when the attack took place in ‘93, activism was largely non-existent in what was at the time a socially conservative borough.

“If it wasn’t for Julio the Queens LGBT movement would not have gotten as far as it has gotten,” Dromm said back in 2015. “Julio did not die in vain. He changed people’s lives.”

Every year, the parade—which spans over a dozen city blocks—concludes the festivities at this historic corner. But Pride doesn’t stop there. The festivities continued long into the night with live music, presentations, food, drinks, and more.

Some of the many colorful costumes worn during the 2022 Pride Parade and Festival.

Looking regal. The Imperial Court of New York participates in the 2022 Queens Pride Parade.

Fogo Azul NYC drummers get the crowd moving in the streets during the parade.

Participants with Apicha Community Health Center enjoying the annual Pride Festival.

 

30th annual Queens Pride Parade and Festival

Tens of thousands of New Yorkers will flock to Jackson Heights on Sunday, June 5, to celebrate the 30th Annual Queens Pride Parade and festival–one of the City’s largest celebrations of LGBT rights and advocacy.

The parade’s Grand Marshals include New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, who will headline the festivities, as well as the nonprofit organizations Colectivo Intercultural TRANSgrediendo, and the Caribbean Equality Project.

In addition, this year’s parade will pay special tribute to Julio Rivera, a gay Queens resident who was brutally murdered in 1990 and helped spark the LGBT movement in Queens. Rivera was the first crime against a member of the LGBT community tried as a hate crime in New York State.

Joining in the festivities are the founders, organizers, and marchers from the first parade 30 years ago, including Queens Pride Parade co-founder and former New York City Councilman Daniel Dromm.

Dromm will join LGBT Network President/CEO David Kilmnick and the Grand Marshals at 12 p.m. for the ceremonial step-off of the parade–signifying three decades of advocacy and progress in Queens.

“I am thrilled to announce our Grand Marshals for the 30th Anniversary of Queens Pride,” Kilmnick said in a statement. “Speaker Adrienne Adams has been a longtime champion for the rights of the LGBT community and her advocacy has been unmatched. We are proud to commemorate three decades of activism in the borough, which emerged out of a tragedy, and has now become a symbol for pride in the City, State, and nation.”

“I am deeply honored to serve as a Grand Marshal for the 30th anniversary celebration of Queens Pride,” Adams said. “Our beautiful and diverse LGBTQ community deserves to be supported, uplifted, and celebrated. For the last three decades, the Queens Pride Parade has provided a safe space for authentic expression of pride, visibility, acceptance, and empowerment. I congratulate my fellow Grand Marshals, Colectivo Intercultural TRANSgrediendo and the Caribbean Equality Project, and the LGBT Network and I look forward to celebrating Queens Pride with all New Yorkers on June 5th!”

Dromm said that Council Speaker Adams, along with Colectivo TRANSgrediendo and Caribbean Equality Project, have continued to be committed to serving the LGBTQIA community in Queens and are helping to provide a strong representation of the diversity of the movement.

“Their work to make the world more accepting is truly commendable,” Dromm said. “It’s a good reminder that LGBTQIA people are everywhere. We are your family, friends, and neighbors. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone on June 5, 2022, on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights when Queens Pride returns.”

For more information or to register for the New Queens Pride parade and multicultural festival, visit www.NewQueensPride.org

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