The best drag performers from Atlanta, Decatur, Marietta and even Athens took the Atlanta Pride stage for Sunday evening’s Starlight Cabaret, closing out the annual festival in a fitting finale of wigs, glitter and glamour.
The show opened with the Armorettes, the camp drag troupe that recently celebrated raising $2 million for the fight against HIV, and closed with all of the performers and Pride volunteers on stage for “Seasons of Love.”
In between were dozens of drag queens and kings who strutted, posed, twirled, shimmied and shook to tunes ranging from hip-hop to country, with plenty of dance divas in the mix.
“Love you nigger.”
When Sharon Needles, winner of season four of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” used those words to autograph a photo of herself after an April performance in Nashville, she ignited a controversy that followed her to Atlanta late last month.
Out of drag, Needles is a white gay man. The autograph recipient identifies as a queer woman of color.
For critics, including the small group of activists who protested Needles’ June 27 performance at Atlanta gay bar Jungle, the contrast makes Needles a racist who had no right to use the slur.
Janis Ian was only 15 when her first hit thrust her not only into fame, but controversy.
“Society’s Child” tackled interracial romance, coming out right in the middle of the turbulent 1960s.
“People got crazy. A radio station in Atlanta dared to put ‘Society’s Child’ in rotation, and someone burned the station down,” Ian recalls in her 2008 autobiography, also titled “Society’s Child.”
“Strangers walked up to me in restaurants and spit in my food. … The mail I got spanned the gap between heaven and hell; one letter would thank me for bravely speaking out, the next would have razor blades taped to the envelope so I’d shred my fingers opening it,” Ian writes.
Funny man Leslie Jordan is a popular fixture wherever he performs, but his brand of humor hits home particularly in the South. He returns to Atlanta this weekend with his new holiday show, “Deck Them Halls, Y’all!”
The work is a complete departure for the openly gay performer – and the best thing he has ever written, he admits. He was supposed to perform in London over the holiday season but instead will be there in February. With a few free months, his booker asked him to write something about growing up in the South. Jordan agreed, but his one stipulation is that he did not want to write about himself, feeling like he had exhausted all that material.
“In “Deck the Halls, Y’all!” he brings three original characters to life – “three generations of white trash,” Jordan quips.
The Starlight Cabaret has long been a staple of Atlanta Pride and the perfect send off to an event-filled weekend. This is the 15th anniversary of the cabaret, so organizers are making it extra special.
Not only is it always entertaining, but it’s a way to show support for and acknowledge the drag community, says JP Sheffield, executive director of Atlanta Pride.
“The drag community was so instrumental during Stonewall,” says Sheffield.