This Saturday, February 9, queens will be battling for the crown in the fourth annual Miss Queen of Aces pageant. One of the Colorado Gay Volleyball Association's biggest fundraisers of the year, the competition isn't just about beauty -- it's about serious talent, too.
With talent displays ranging from elaborate color-guard routines to a three-minute summary of Steel Magnolias using only Barbie dolls, participants are graded just as much on their creativity as they are on the sheer fabulousness of an evening gown. Held at Hamburger Mary's Club M, the charity event invites drag fans to hoot and holler along with the girls as they are graded, Star Search-style, in this rowdy twist on the classic pageant.
"Our host this year is the first-ever winner of Miss Queen of Aces 2010, Daniella DeCoteau," says Luke List, aka Zoe O., last year's pageant winner. List says Daniella -- also known by his given name, Todd Peckham -- has set the bar for future winners.
"There is an obligation when you win this title," says List. "You are the spokesperson for the league for the next year. We host a national tournament called the Last Dig in the spring, and people come from all over."
List says Miss Queen Of Aces is not only the face of the league within the volleyball community, but for the community at large. The Colorado Gay Volleyball association expects a positive representation in the city's annual Pride festivities, as well as various charity events throughout the year. Peckham took that role to the next level by building relationships with community partners -- like the drag show the Queen Of Aces winners put on in conjunction with RAFT, to benefit McElwain Elementary last year.
"I think that says a lot about where we are in 2013," says List, describing how a drag show can become a way to raise money for students.
2011's winner, Stuart Sanks -- aka Shirley Delta Blow -- followed Peckham's lead, throwing several benefits for Rainbow Alley throughout his reign. "It's sort of like an ambassadors program in a way, and Stuart really took on that role," says List.
Something else Sanks did was bring the Aces girls center stage. After hosting a few events at Off-Center@The Jones, Emily Tarquin, co-curator of the venue, asked Sanks to collaborate. The result was Drag Machine, a historical-musical-comedy-drag party that featured all three Aces winners. The show's popularity resulted in an extended run at the theater.
With each new Miss Queen of Aces pageant, the reigning queen of the previous year will do a final performance before handing the crown to the new winner. When the pageant began, only members of the league could participate, but then it was opened up to all: "Our league has a great talent pool, but Denver does, too," says List. So this year's contestants include Marion Swallows, Isis Champagne, Ruby Bouche and Daphne DeCoteau.
Another special feature of this year's pageant will be a special performance by Laurie Lynch, aka Dan Delight -- a drag king in her own right. She won't be competing, but Lynch will be part of the judges' panel (which also includes Keith Garcia -- and me).
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The 2013 Miss Queen of Aces pageant goes down Saturday, February 9 at Hamburger Mary's Club M. The show is 21 and up; doors open at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door; seating is first come, first served. For more information, visit the Miss Queen of Aces Facebook page.