Denver has lived up to its "Queen City of the Plains" nickname, particularly these past few years, as the city's drag scene has garnered national acclaim. With Pride just days away, there's no better time to check out who's hot and where to see them; you can start with these drag winners from the Best of Denver 2017. If you're looking for a deeper guide to the most promising up-and-coming queens, check this year's edition of the Thirteen Freshest Faces of Denver Drag.
Best New Queen on the Scene
Drag is exhausting. You need to spend hours creating a look, an outfit, a number, and then even more time walking in shoes so high they’ll give you nosebleeds. Anka Shayne, aka Jordan Gilbert, doesn’t just display a willingness to do the work; she takes it to the next level. In or out of guise, you can see her wheels turning. What would happen if I poured this liquid latex on my face over my makeup? What would happen if my nails were five inches long? What if I came out wearing nothing but this sticker? Anka is a mover and a shaker who knows how to slay a stage.
Best Drag Queen Career
Nina Montaldo, Denver’s Grand Dame of Drag, will turn 68 this year. Back in 1968, a young James Martinez began to create Nina — borrowing her last name from a high-end department store that once graced our city — because it was the fierce thing to do at a time when being gay, much less a queen, was illegal. Nina’s reign at the top of Denver drag has always stood for a few things: professionalism, beauty, glamour, joy and, most important, persistence. Today’s drag babies may dismiss Miss Nina’s aesthetics as “old-fashioned” — but there’s nothing old-fashioned about fighting for your art for fifty years. If you see Nina Montaldo on a bill, do yourself a favor and take in the show.
Best Drag (R)Evolution
For some performers, drag only runs skin deep. But for Ultimate Queen Yvie Oddly, aka Jovan Bridges, drag is about more than putting on makeup and a dress and lip-synching to a pop hit, more than entertaining the masses. For Oddly, drag is a way of expressing your innermost personality, coloring outside the gender lines, and using the platform to make a real statement. As a result, there’s crackling electricity whenever Yvie takes the Drag Nation stage or leads her own Odd Hour show at Tracks: What you’re about to watch is not only going to break the rules of everyday life, but the rules of what drag is supposed to be, as well.
Keep reading for more Best of Denver drag awards.
Best New Drag Venue
Blush & Blu
1526 East Colfax Avenue
The last few years have seen the drag population in Denver expand tenfold, which means that more and more queens are looking for a spot where they can lip-synch their hearts out. While Denver lost a few stages over the past year, it gained Blush & Blu, a cozy bar and coffeehouse that has been expanding its relationship within the gay community and offering its space for many different types of performances. And no one has embraced the place as much as this city’s drag stars. Blush & Blu takes pride in its new role, and has secured a critical item any would-be drag stage needs to be legit: a spotlight to show off the faces and hard work of our fiercest performers. The future looks bright!
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Best Place to See New Drag Talent
Ultimate Queen Competition
3500 Walnut Street
For nine years, RuPaul has turned every season of RuPaul’s Drag Race into a gay holiday; viewers make a fourteen-week commitment to see who’ll emerge as the next drag superstar. Here at home, that devotion inspired the Ultimate Queen Competition, which takes the best new drag talent in Denver and stages its own battle royale. If you want to take Denver’s drag temperature, catch an Ultimate Queen night; you’ll soon see who’s polished and who’s about to become polish remover. Gentlemen, start your engines — and may the best woman win!
Best Drag Show
3500 Walnut Street
“This is the top of the nation!” For eight years, Tracks has taken host Nina Flowers’s clever tagline to heart when describing its Drag Nation show, a drag spectacle on the last Friday of every month. On this stage, a queen can realize the fantasy she’s been dreaming of her whole life, complete with lights, stage decor and dancers — via the talents of the hot and nimble Denver Dance members. Most important, these performers get to share the spotlight with Nina and the talented cast members who’ve all earned their place on the show's bill. While Drag Nation also celebrates the guest talents of RuPaul’s Drag Race, our own homegrown hotties are the real stars of the show.