National Coming Out Day gets the star treatment from Albuquerque’s best drag performers
Hallelujah, I have a drag name! It was bestowed upon me by royalty, an Empress of both Albuquerque and Boise, Idaho, known as Fontana Divine. But most days you can just call him PJ Sedillo. A capstone in Albuquerque’s gay community, PJ has been organizing New Mexico’s largest drag performance event, called “Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are,” since its inception nine years ago. “Come Out” returns for one night of stellar drag performances at the king-sized National Hispanic Cultural Center Theater this Saturday, Oct. 6. A royal word of warning: This show sells out and starts promptly at 7 p.m.—the ladies have never been late. Get your tickets now.
What’s “Come Out” all about?
It’s a commemoration of National Coming Out Day, which started in 1987. We honor that each year with a new theme. This year’s is “Fabulous ... A Performer’s Life.” We have the history of drag queens—how drag got started—which we’re including as an education piece in our program. There’s a little cute thing on drag names, like “Page Turner,” “Ida Slapdher.” My drag name or persona is Fontana Divine. There’s even a little game called “How’d You Get Your Drag Name?” Have you ever played it?
What’s the first pet you ever had?
I think Charlie was the name of our dog.
OK, Charlie. And what street did you live on?
Charlie Richmond is your drag name. It’s a very pretty drag name, too!
“Come Out Come Out” is a charity event, right?
We’re a 501(c)3. We’re also paying members of the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is kind of outstanding for a drag organization. Of the money that’s raised, the majority is given to organizations. This year we’ve chosen the Anita Salas Foundation, an organization for women with breast cancer who cannot afford to pay their co-pay. The other organizations are the AIDS Emergency Fund and Albuquerque Pride.
How did “Come Out” start?
Originally, the concept of the show was to take drag out of the bars. We wanted a safe environment for kids and families. And, of course, most drag queens in Albuquerque perform to give their money out to different organizations. So with this show, we’ve probably given close to $10,000 back to the community over the nine years. Looking at what I’ve given out since I started performing 15 or 16 years ago, I’ve probably raised about $70,000.
And you’re saying that’s typical of drag performers? Why do you think that is?
I think it’s because, in a sense, we’re sort of not accepted, or we’re sort of taboo in society. It’s a way to give back to those who might be less fortunate than we actually are. It’s taking care of your own, those people who don’t have a voice—but we just do our voice by lip-synching (laughs).
People have been fascinated with drag for centuries. What do you think the appeal is for audiences?
When people go to this show they start looking and—wow!—they can’t believe that man is actually a woman. Before the first half is over, they start to realize it really doesn’t matter because it’s just good entertainment. But still in the back of their heads is “I can’t believe what I’m seeing.” It’s like seeing a magician and wondering, “How’d they do that trick?” It throws your whole sense of what really is a man or woman.
Do straight people come to the show?
I’d say the breakdown is 60-40. Sixty percent straight, 40 percent gay. Which is very good, especially since it’s National Coming Out Day. In a sense, they’re “coming out” for us. Coming Out Day is not necessarily just for the gay/lesbian/transgender/bisexual community. It’s for the straight community to say, “You know, I also have gay friends or a gay son or daughter.” It changes their whole perception because they say, “Wow, these people are really doing something good for the community.”
What would you say to someone who doesn’t accept drag as being good for the community?
I’m a strong believer that if you’re a afraid of something, there’s usually something within yourself that you’re afraid of. When we hate certain kinds of people, it’s because we have that hatred of something inside ourselves. I think the thing that people have to realize is: We all do drag. If you’re a lawyer, you’re doing drag. You’re putting on that costume because you’re not a lawyer 24-7. You might be a father and play with your kids, and when you come home from work that layer comes off. Police officers are in drag, firemen are in drag. We’re all in drag, becoming a different person. Drag shows call attention to that, and that it doesn’t make a difference whether you’re a man or a woman. You’re really just an individual. You’re a human being and you have something to offer that’s good.
Come Out’s “Fabulous ... A Performer’s Life” is Saturday, Oct. 6, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center Theater. Tickets are $15, $20 and $25 through the NHCC box office, all Ticketmaster outlets or by phone at 724-4771. For more info, visit www.sinatradevine.org.