It’s Saturday night at the Neighbors nightclub on Broadway in Seattle, and I haven’t seen this much glitter since David Bowie and his Spiders from Mars escaped their webs. All around me are gorgeous girls so glamorous they make me feel like I don’t have on enough make-up.
I’m at the 2010 Mr. and Miss Gay Asian Pacific Islander Pageant on Sept. 25 and, like the rest of the crowd, eager to learn which beautiful and handsome contestants will be crowned tonight.
Soon, the show’s hostesses, known as Gaysha Starr, Shaka Kwan, Regina King and Teriyaki Temple, sashay onto stage in their dazzling drag. As the ladies giggle over dirty jokes, I can’t help but envy their shiny red lips that sparkle like dew drops.
As I wonder where I can get a tube of the same lipstick, contestants pose in their national costumes. Jada Lumpia arrives on a platform carted by several brawny boys. Hailing from the Island of Cebu, in the Philippines, she shines in glimmering gold. Next, are Gene Osias (who represents the Philippines, China and Spain), Vanity Fair (Philippines), Rodelio Francisco (Philippines), Lady Saharah (Thailand), and Julian Gatsby (Philippines) — each a piece of sumptuous eye candy. And, when Marion Malena of American Samoa appears, her entire entourage begins screaming.
Between the swimwear, talent, formal wear and contestant question and answer competitions, we’re entertained by breakdancers, a stripper, lip-syncing, and a celebrity impersonator.
It’s easy to see how Teriyaki Temple, also known as David Nguyen, spent four months planning this event with her co-producers, as she explains below.
Q: Why are you called Teriyaki Temple?
A: There are factions (drag families), and drag queens learn the art from drag queen mentors. My first mentor aka Drag Mother was Sushi Temple of Oregon. I took the last name and, because my family has several restaurants and my favorite dish was teriyaki, I chose the name Teriyaki Temple. It’s a campy name that I believe a lot of people remember. Also, like teriyaki I’m sweet and saucy! The name has worked to my advantage, too, because there are several “schools” of drag and the one I follow is known as the more gender illusion drag (where we typically appear more authentically female). If I had a name like Denise Chang, most people wouldn’t even think twice about whether I was a man or not — except for the fact that I’m an unusually tall Asian woman. In heels, I’m 6’1”!
My drag mother now is Gaysha; my drag sisters, Shaka and Regina.
Q: What inspired you to create the pageant?
A: I created it along with co-founder Gaysha because the GBLTQ Asian community didn’t have an event to call its own. When I first moved to Seattle, I attended the Mr. and Miss Gay Latino Pageant and wondered why we didn’t have an Asian pageant. After being elected Miss Gay Seattle, I decided that I would found the pageant and then donate money to a different charity each year. This year, we elected to donate some of the money raised to GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) of Washington State.
Q: How long does it take contestants to prepare?
A: They’ve been preparing for months. Many sewed their own costumes, and it takes a team of individuals to get a contestant ready. Hair, make-up, costumes, and performance numbers takes a group of people backing one individual. Pageants are great because they bring people together for one purpose. In this case, it helps a contestant put their best foot forward.
Sparks crackle at the end, as Gene Osias is crowned Mr. Gay API International and Marion Malena becomes the reigning Miss Gay API International. Congratulations to the new ambassadors of glitzy glamour.