21 November 2014

The Sydney showgirl talent keeps on flowing

The DIVA Board held a tremendous Awards event a few weeks ago with Minnie Cooper, as this year’s host and headliner, getting reviews that will be remembered as some of the best.  One aspect of the show that really interested me was that Minnie had awarded the weekly winners of duets week at her current talent quest ‘Drags to Riches’ with a DIVA performance – can you just imagine?

Talent quests have been one of showgirls main sources of ‘being discovered’ since regular drag shows became popular on the scene. The prizes can vary from a holiday, to cash, to casting in a show - but the biggest prize is being seen.
We learnt in the recent SX interview that the 2014 DIVA Hall of Fame inductee, Keren St James, got her start through a talent quest called ‘Search for a Tragedy’ at The Albury Hotel in 1984. I’ve discovered that Amelia Airhead won the ‘Supermodel’ talent quest at The Flinders Hotel in 1994 and she has 12 DIVA trophies in the pool room.  Charisma Belle our new Entertainer of the Year got her breakthrough from Mitzi Macintosh in 2002, when she won the role of ‘Janet’ in a talent quest to find the cast of ‘Rocky the Drag Show’ at the Imperial Hotel.
Talent quests have had a resurgence in popularity since RuPaul’s Drag Race became a massive hit all over the world. It may have the biggest prizes - a cash prize of $100,000 and the title of ‘America's Next Drag Superstar’ but the winner can travel the world for years as a ‘new’ headline act.
With Bianca Del Rio, photo In the Dark
 
I got a moment to chat with Bianca Del Rio, the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6, after her spectacular performance in Sydney some weeks ago. Del Rio told me she has been performing regularly in various New York City nightclubs for the last ten years - but here she was playing to thousands of adoring fans in Australia because of the opportunity this particular talent quest has given her.  

In Sydney we’ve enjoyed four seasons of Tora’s Drag Race which borrows from the US concept, in as much as the contestants have to perform different challenges each week, with one being eliminated each time after a ‘lip-sync for your life’ mime off.
Krystal Kleer is a Tora’s Drag Race success. She began her career by entering the weekly ‘Drag for Dollars’ talent quest at Arq and continued doing that for a couple of years, learning the ropes and gaining valuable experience.  Next up was Tora’s Drag Race with Krystal winning first runner up, she entered again and was fourth, but on the third time she was crowned the winner in 2012.  
Charisma  Krystal  & Ivy
In just two years Krystal has certainly found her footing in the drag scene. She currently produces the Friday night show at Stonewall Hotel ‘PopulART’ who along with Charisma Belle and Ivy Leaguee, another sensational showgirl graduate of Tora’s Drag Race - received a coveted nomination for Show of the Year at this year’s DIVA.

The latest talent quest hitting the scene is Minnie Cooper’s ‘Drags to Riches’ which gives the formula a very interesting creative spin.  Twelve emerging drag queens compete for a cash prize of $2,000, a feature profile in SX Magazine and a pile of other bits and pieces. Here no one is eliminated each week and with the celebrity judges scoring each performer, the winner with the highest score at the end wins. There’s also a popular prize where fans can go to the Facebook page and vote for their weekly favourite.
Auspicious for the contestants is that Minnie acts like a mentor. Each Monday evening they can roll up and get performance coaching for that week’s challenge. They’ve also received classes in make-up, wigs, costume on a budget and even tucking from Minnie and some of the judges.
So back amongst Minnie’s DIVA hosting preparations, the idea is born that the prize for the winners of duets week would be the opportunity to perform that number as part of the DIVA Awards entertainment line-up.
Those winners were Scarlet Fever and Victoria Anthony who performed Shake it Out by Florence and the Machine. Victoria told me when they got together for their coaching session with Minnie the creative juices were flowing. “We didn't want to take the song so seriously and we wanted to have a lot of fun with the number. In the end we decided the only way we could perform the duet was to battle it out to the finish, and see who could shake better while fighting for the spotlight.”
Victoria Anthony & Scarlet Fever at DIVA 14
They did a great job. But the buzz of the night was all around Victoria Anthony. Who it’s fair to say is one of the most beautiful and exciting Trans showgirls to hit the scene in years. I had to meet her and ask her about her ambitions as a showgirl? She told me “I have realised through my involvement in 'Drags to Riches' that I have a real love for performance and I think it is important for drag to exist in our community and I hope I can somehow keep it alive and kicking.”

Ah, there’s that power of the talent quest and of being seen. As they say in the classics: Watch this space!

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