Phoenix proudly stands beside last years Dragnificent winner, Chucky DeVille. / Courtesy photo

Phoenix’s Dragnificent Has Transformed Atlanta Drag for 15 Years

Dragnificent is a drag competition that has shaped the Atlanta drag scene for years, creating space for all types of drag, platforming new entertainers, and helping launch careers to international stardom. The competition was founded over a decade ago by RuPaul’s Drag Race season 3 alum Phoenix.

“It’s something I’m extremely proud of,” Phoenix told Georgia Voice. “It started as just this tiny little competition with the winner getting like $500. Now, we are about 15 seasons in. We just posted about starting auditions. The amount of applications that are already coming in, and the excitement and the buzz, it’s great.”

Today, the competition has grown into a staple of Atlanta drag, with locals looking forward to it all year. Dragnificent is specifically for drag performers with under five years of experience and was started as a way for new performers to dip their toes into the waters of drag.

“Drag is tough to get into,” Phoenix said. “I didn’t have a lot of competitions like this, where not only are you getting your feet wet with a stage, but you’re also being critiqued by established performers. I wish something like this would have been around when I started 23 years ago.”

In its early years, Dragnificent was held at Jungle, a gay club that closed in 2017. It was here that the show began its long-held tradition of launching new performers into the spotlight.

“Violet Chachki did Dragnificent,” Phoenix said. “Abhora from ‘Dragula,’ she did Dragnificent years ago. I remember her on stilts walking in Jungle as this creature; it was insane. ‘Dragula’ winner Biqtch Puddin, and [‘Drag Race’ all stars] Angeria Paris VanMicheals and LaLa Ri also did Dragnificent. When you ask them, they all will tell you that Dragnificent was a huge influence in their drag. Violet has said in so many interviews that Atlanta helped shape her to be who she is today.”

Over the years, Dragnificent moved from Jungle to the Heretic to Midtown Tavern before finding its forever home at Future. The location isn’t the only way the competition has changed, however. For starters, the prize is now ten times as big, cashing in at $5,000. The crowds have grown larger over the years, and the types of drag in the Atlanta scene have grown more diverse.

One thing that hasn’t changed about Dragnificent is the premium quality of the judging panel. Phoenix stressed the importance of a judging panel that respects all types of drag, has decades of experience, and a variety of skill sets, never critiquing a performer on something they can’t tell them how to fix.

“Taejah can sew anything, so she could help you with that,” Phoenix said. “Tahjee Iman is a well-rounded queen and an insane lip-sync artist. Taejah has been with me for a long time. I’ve had Brigitte Bidet as a judge; Raquell Lord and Shawnna Brooks have judged. I love Brigitte being the host of Dragnificent because she’s competed, and she’s won All-Stars. She knows what that’s like and how the contestants are feeling at the moment.”

A hallmark of Dragnificent has been the competition’s diversity in opening up to every type of drag entertainer including bearded queens, creature-esque drag, and drag kings. In 2022, Deacon Slanders became the first king to win Dragnificent.

“I love Deacon, and I think he is such an artist,” Phoenix said. “Everything he presents is so thought through and conceptual and creative. I was so proud that he took home the win.”

Last year’s winner of Dragnificent was drag queen Chucky DeVille.

“Chucky and Ran Diosa exploded in the scene. It makes me so proud to watch them and know that I was a small piece of their launch into nightlife,” Phoenix said. “I love every one of those queens so much. I feel like such a proud mom watching them. Lala Ri did Dragnifcent and is one of my drag kids now. I’ve taken her under my wing the past several years, and watching her on Drag Race and touring the world is so great.”

Three years ago, Phoenix launched the Atlanta All-Stars competition for former Dragnificent contestants and entertainers with more years in the business. So far, there have been three winners of Atlanta All-Stars: Cici Nicole, Brigitte Bidet, and Ivy Fischer. Each of them took home a prize of $10,000, an impressively large prize for a local competition.

“Cici Nicole won the first All-Stars and did a Janet production and danced her face off, and the place went wild,” Phoenix said. “When Taejah and Brigitte competed together two All-Stars ago, that was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in a nightclub. It was phenomenal. They did three different performances and every single one was just amazing. This past All-Stars season, Arrianna Paris – the theme was ‘Drag in the Future’ – came out in this airbrushed glow-in-the-dark floral moment that was mindblowing. It went viral because it was so stunning.”

While this year’s All-Stars crown has already been snatched by Ivy Fischer, a new season of Dragnificent begins August 13, almost one month after the audition show on July 16. Phoenix said the judges are looking for artists who respect the art form and who bring something different to the stage.

“Every season I’m so entertained,” she said. “If I stopped doing this right this second, I would still go to a drag show tomorrow. I’m a fan of drag. I get so excited with All-Stars and Dragnificent because a competition brings out your absolute best. There is so much talent in Atlanta and I’m honored to bring so much of it to a stage.”

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