The Pride Issue
Drag's New Dawn in SA
Published: June 26, 2013
Rodriguez says there are Texas cities where drag never fell below standard, like Dallas and Houston. He explains the reasons why San Antonio’s recent golden era of drag broke a heel. “Here I think it stopped because we didn’t pay attention to it. We kind of let it go. We got cheap,” he says. “The quality of our shows fell off.”
But to Tencha and others, San Antonio still sets a certain precedent, and there’s only one way to really get noticed.
“It’s harder for you to make it here...the drag capital,” Tencha says. “You can’t get a club booking without a state or national pageant title.”
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The Peg has two pageants coming up and they help their own showgirls get their dresses, talent, and entry fee together. Rodriguez hopes one of them will win.
“Pageant drag is a whole other level,” he explains, “It’s like my Super Bowl,” he says with a Chris Duel-type enthusiasm. “That’s when you bring out the best of the best. You are judged on every movement and every stitch of what you are wearing.” In the evening gown competition one can lose points for having minor strayaways in the hair. “Any tears in the panty hose, zippers on the dress, scuffs on the shoes?” He shakes his head disapprovingly. “You’ll see girls at these pageants being sewn into their dresses just so there’s no seams. The seamstress is just there sewing them up, taped and pushed up and everything.”
Not all pageant systems are created equal, however.
And as the three contestants line up for the Mr. and Miss Gay San Antonio for Life at SA Country Saloon, emcee Jasmine Blake makes an announcement. The crowns did not arrive. “The sashes are not ready either,” she adds as the organizer shrugs his shoulders and theatrically gestures with his open palms from the stage. “Stupid sash maker.”
If the Strip is Broadway, this is feeling a little like White Plains, New York. So close, yet so far away.
One thing the pageant at the Saloon can offer is the elusive drag kings. Well, just one really. Meet Austin York. He is competing in a pageant for Mr. Gay San Antonio for Life. As he and his two dancers walk off stage, I ask how he thought his boy band-inspired number went. “I think it went well,” he says earnestly. “I think it could have been stronger, but I think we did okay.” York, 37, trained for months to get his complex choreography down, and made his own costumes.
But there is one barrier between York and the coveted crown.
And that’s boy drag.
York says drag kings are afraid to come out and compete against the multitude of gay male performers in SA. “Male performers can come out half naked and do performances that us females cannot do,” she says, jutting out her chin, covered in a small goatee made from her own hair, glued with spirit gum.
"It’s drag kings vs. male performers and drag kings aren't popular," she says. “The lesbians who want to become drag kings will not even come out and try because of what you saw tonight,” she says after losing to a male drag performer.