18 October 2013

DIVA 2013 – and whose star is rising?

In 1974 the CAPS Awards were the equivalent of the DIVA Awards, and like the early DIVAs, the entertainment at the CAPS was made up of numbers from the working showgirls and spots from those nominated for an Award.  I had been performing in Loraine Campbell Craig’s Sunday afternoon Stray Girls talent show and was nominated in the Best Newcomer category. I was invited to perform When You Smile my big number at the time by Shirley Bassey. I wore a costume I borrowed from a sister showgirl who, in turn, had bought it from Carlotta. I can remember being very nervous and then disappointed when someone else’s name was read out as the winner.

fast forward…  
For an up and coming performer in the Industry, the only interesting Award is that of DIVA Rising Star, and this year is possibly the most wide open category in years. The current Sydney Industry is in great shape with several different talent nights discovering new performers and many show great potential. This got me wondering - do the showgirls who might be nominated have a similar story to mine? I spoke with some of the possible Rising Star’s to find out.
Ivy Leaguee

Ivy has only been a showgirl for two years, which is amazing when you think of her impact on the current Sydney scene. Being a finalist in Tora’s Drag Race in 2012 launched Ivy on her journey to the top. The two finalists of that drag race went on to join the cast of the Midnight Shifts regular Thursday cast where Ivy began to develop and grow her talent.
Ivy told me “It’s about 2 years ago when I decided I wasn't going to stop until I became a Sydney showgirl. Setting goals and achieving them much sooner than I would have ever thought is crazy. It just shows you can do anything if you want it bad enough and are willing to put in the time”. 
Ivy lists her mentors as Minnie Cooper, for encouraging her to do what she wanted when everyone else said the opposite. Kitty Glitter for giving her opportunity's she’d only dreamt of and encouraging her to dream big and reach for them. And tells me Decoda Secret is truly an inspiration, teaching her and prepping her for everything that could possibly happen.
Ivy is a busy showgirl and performs in the current smashes, Kylie-Made in Heaven at the Imperial Hotel and Manuf#cktured at Arq. She hosts her own night at The Gay Bar and recently produced and starred in the spectacular Shakedown party show for In the Dark.
Ivy told me that “One day I hope to be an inspiration and support to many other baby queens and help them reach their dreams, as so many of us wouldn't be here without the help and support from our showgirls and showgirls before them”.
Karen Kardashian

At 19 years of age (just 3 and a half years ago) Karen entered Drag for Dollars, a long running weekly talent quest at Arq nightclub. He had never seen a drag show before but won for the evening. This threw the switch and Karen continued to enter Drag for Dollars and performed at Pollies Follies. At the Taxi Club Karen won second place in their very popular Make Me A Drag Queen competition and was offered her first job.
Just a year and a half into starting drag Karen was approached my Minnie Cooper to join the Friday night cast at the Imperial Hotel in Hair Spray which lead to being a permanent cast member in several Award winning Arq shows - You are Soul and Thank God It's Thursday-The Katy Perry Tribute Show and currently the brilliant Drag n Fly.
Karen tells me that Pandora Box and Ricki Renee, the girls behind Make Me A Drag Queen, were fantastic in the early development of what has been a very quick and notably climb to the present where Karen says it’s  Minnie Copper and his friend Charisma Belle who are his mentors;

“They have taught me to be a good person above all else while working on the scene. There are no egos or jealousy and no competition - we are all here to do the best shows we can and support one another!”
Karen’s style comes from the foundation of being a trained dancer who leans towards the musical theatre song book, is equally fabulous in a cast routine or a dramatic spot number.   
Krystal Kleer
One evening in 2008 Krystal saw the Arq show ARQEDEMIC and knew what she wanted to do. Befriended by Tora, Krystal returned and entered Drag for Dollars and fell in love with it -  so much she continued doing that for a couple of years, learning the ropes and gaining valuable experience.  Next was Tora’s Drag Race with Krystal winning first runner up, she entered again and was fourth but on the third and final time she was crowned the winner.
Part of that prize was to perform a season in the Midnight Shift’s Thursday night show and Krystal told me working in that show was possibly the most informative and observant journey a showgirl could have. “Minnie taught me so much about performing; the minor details that just finish off a performance and about the business side of drag.”
Penny Tration booked her for Tranny Bingo and taught her microphone skills, comedic pacing and the very specific hostess techniques. Charisma Belle is Krystal’s biggest inspiration and mentor who she says has been a huge influence on her career.

Krystal has certainly found her footing in the drag scene and works six nights a week. She hosts Tranny Bingo at four different pubs; at the Imperial she is in the cast of Glamorous Life and hostesses the very popular Retro Sundays. It’s good to see a new performer with such potential join the ranks with a microphone in her hand.

“Even though I've been at it for 6ish years it feels like I've just begun, I'm so excited to see what the future holds and where drag can take me. I'm truly honoured to be able do what I love”.

Marie Claire

Since 2010 Marie Clare has been a showgirl in main stage nightclub productions - as big-time as it gets. But she had much more humble beginnings in social drag in fact. She tells me it was Venda Machine and Tora Hymen that helped in those first outings, but with Marie’s big personality it wasn’t long and she was working a nightclub door, before being invited by Will Sabin to join the cast of Controversy at the Midnight Shift.
As part of Controversy, Marie has been seen in some of the most memorable Oxford Street shows of recent years: X-Posed, Carnival and one of this year’s biggest hits MirrorBall. It’s not every day an up and coming showgirl gets to be part of a DIVA Show of the Year as Marie was in the 2012 winner Aquatica.

Marie’s been lucky in the mentors chosen to help develop her talent. She tells me that Decoda Secret has taught her so much and Vanity in helping evolve her look and expand her stage presence, then as quick as a flash added “I’m still learning all the time and look to all those around me as everyone has something unique to offer”.
“I love being able to walk in a venue and have a whole room know who you are  and as you begin to establish yourself punters actually look forward to seeing you and I look forward to seeing them”.
Over the last few months Marie has expanded her skills and produced no girls aloud and apocalipstick for the Stonewall Hotel and is chosen to represent the youth of the Industry in this year’s DIVA poster.

Prada Clutch
Prada started in the talent shows at Arq Nightclub and the Midnight Shift before making drag a career choice in 2008. Since then she has become very successful in the Sydney Industry both as a performer and entrepreneur.
The first queens Prada met were Minnie Cooper and Tora Hymen at the Stonewall Hotel who took her under their wing; helping with her makeup and hair, even put Prada in her first production show Dream Gurls at the Midnight Shift. Prada hasn’t stopped working as a professional showgirl since.
Prada tells me she is inspired by Chelsea Bun who taught her the business side of the Industry and Penny Tration who taught her the skills to be a great hostess.
Prada told me “Working in the scene can be very rewarding, having fans say 'Thank you’ for singing my favourite song tonight; or I’m your biggest fan, can I have a picture. It’s these messages that make what I do all the more rewarding. When you get kind words saying how you have made someone’s day. That’s what it’s all about!”
Whilst we don’t see much of Prada on Oxford Street these days she is one of the busiest showgirls in the industry. For four years she has been the hostess and featured performer at Tharens in Kings Cross and for three nights a week she’s at different venues with her Prada's Comedy Bingo.
She is popular as a live drag artist on the corporate circuit with her Prada's Priscilla's show, runs the very successful Clutching at Curls, has recently opened  Sydney Drag Queen a new talent agency and is preparing a new club show Drags to Bitches with Laydee Kinmee.
So it seems to me some things don’t change. All very different kinds of showgirl but all are making their mark in the Sydney Drag Industry right now. We need our mentors, as I did, and as these five showgirls have shown. It’s the Sydney showgirl way – sure it’s an industry but it’s also a community. Anyone of them would be a deserving nominee for DIVA Rising Star, and whilst for some, there will be disappointment; the class of 2013 is full of variety, talent and a heap of passion. For me, my envelope opened many years ago, for these girls its right here, right now, and we should celebrate them all! 

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