LGBTQ

The Diva Dozen: Denver's Top Twelve Drag Performers

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Bootzy Edwards Collins A prince in the relatively small world of drag kings, where women don't let men have all the fun of swapping genders and pay tribute to the male form by strapping down their feminine assets and injecting their personalities with a healthy dose of machismo, Bootzy Edwards Collins (aka Bo Richardson) is ready to snatch the crown as a true master of his domain. Doing much more than just adding some swagger to his steps, Bootzy embodies the charm, wit and style of a true fella; you'd be hard-pressed to find a woman or gay man who doesn't get a little overheated by his illusions of Usher, Bruno Mars, Andre 3000, Lil Wayne or, in one fevered performance last year, Ruby Rhod from The Fifth Element. "My biggest influence has been my friends," says Collins. "They have encouraged me to step out my box for several different events. They kick my butt, cuss me out when needed, and pick me up to keep on keeping on."

Catch Bootzy at Drag Nation at Tracks every month, and on any other stage fit for a king.

Daniella DeCoteau Like a bolder, bewigged version of Shelley Long's Phyllis Nefler in the film Troop Beverly Hills, Daniella DeCoteau (aka Todd Peckham) teaches the drag children of the world that all you need to get by is focus, fashion, fun and a few thousand rhinestones. Whether she's hoofing in her own independent show, Drag-Stravaganza at Club M (attached to Hamburger Mary's), with her drag daughter Daphne and sister Zoe O, or hosting an event for charity, DeCoteau has all of the drag merit badges at her disposal for an awesome new year. "I plan on continuing to grow my show and hopefully find other groups or venues that would take this crazy girl on," says Daniella. "Helping other queens get started in drag or giving friend queens a show to perform in is my main goal. It's been a fight to claw my way up the hierarchy of queendom in Denver and to get people to understand the value of being a queen. I just hope I'm leaving a trail of cotton candy-smelling glitter wherever I go."

Catch Daniella hosting Drag-Stravaganza at Club M.

Felony Misdemeanor With a heart and spirit as big as her Texas roots, Felony Misdemeanor (aka Theariale St. Cyr) has spent eleven years in Denver building a reputation for sweetness, tenacity, beauty and sex appeal — all with a hearty wink. Embodying the likes of Aaliyah, Janet Jackson, Missy Elliott and really, anyone she wants to, Felony features moves and makeup that are almost effortlessly on point. She also has an eye for new talent that led her to develop her own show, Felony's Cellblock, in which some inspired up-and-comers get a chance to take the stage where her talents have paved the way. Says Felony, "What has inspired me the most this year would be the audience. I can always tell when they are really feeling me or just there for the ride. When I try something and it doesn't work, I learn how to adjust and deliver what I think is needed to get those smiles...and dollars! Sometimes you have to fail in order to succeed." One recent success came when Felony finally performed for her mother, who had never seen her on stage during her fourteen years in drag, and the support and love that filled the room was a testament to how far drag has come as a form of self-expression and art. Says Misdemeanor, "To have her see me perform for the first time ever is a moment that I won't soon forget."

Catch Felony in Dreamgirls at Hamburger Mary's, Denver Divas and her own Felony's Cellblock at Charlie's.

Ginger Douglas (aka Briceson Buck-Ducharme) has spent nearly half her life performing; over the past fourteen years she’s won crowns, conquered stages, mentored young queens and raised over $100K for the Colorado Aids Project and the community with her yearly fundraiser, the Apocalyptic Ball. That hard work garnered Ginger an Out Front Power Award in 2014 alongside Colorado's biggest legislative honorees and history makers. But 2015 should prove her biggest year yet, as she flies from our nest to sunny San Diego, where she’ll offer that city a taste of Colorado spice. "I can finally say that I'm secure in my performance as an artist and what I have done, and can continue to do in the years to come and anywhere I may go," says Ginger. "You can be a part of every show and know every performer and you can still stay yourself. I've proven that by building my name without having to be part of a certain clique. Drag evolves and people evolve. Seeing the things that the new and upcoming girls have to offer is so exciting. These last few years in Colorado have proven that there isn't just one cookie-cutter style of drag. There's never going to be a right way or wrong way to express your art in drag, and there's nowhere to go but up."
Catch Ginger this summer when she returns to host the sixth installment of her Apocalyptic Ball; she’ll also be a special visiting guest at a Drag Nation show sometime in 2015.

Janessa Befierce
When your name is Janessa Befierce (aka Josh Lucero), you can't help but live your life, well, fiercely. In just a few short years, Janessa has dug her nails into a comet and ridden that sucker right to the top. This confidence may have startled some folks, who at first balked at such a new talent moving at such a clip, but the young performer has put in the time and, more important, allowed for change and reflection. In 2014 she created a face and style that was all her own, and became the new director for Dreamgirls, the longest-running show in Denver, while maintaining a polished and professional persona at just about every other stage in town. "Life has been my biggest influence," says Befierce. "Things always change, and I embodied that concept and put it into my drag. I stopped putting a box around my ideas and creativity and strived for the best! People notice the small details, and in good time it will always pay off!"

Catch Janessa just about everywhere in 2015, including Dreamgirls, Denver Divas, Drag Nation and as a mentor at Tracks' Ultimate Queen Competition in February.

Khrys'taaal Most Denver performers work their way up to the massive stage at Drag Nation — but some seem to pop out of thin air and land there, feet first, ready to rock and roll. Khrys'taaal is one of those wunderkinds who emerged like a goddess in 2014, painted up and prepared to rule the world. Her monthly Drag Nation gig never disappoints, as she infuses every number with a meticulous set of moves that keeps the members of the Denver Dance troupe behind her thoroughly on their toes. "Most folks pay homage to the legends — Fred Astaire, Cab Calloway, Sammy Davis Jr. — as do I," says Khrys'taaal, "but my grandmother is and continues to be my number-one blueprint in the way that I perform. From a very young age she has and continues to instill in me the foundation of what real dance art is. For me, it's not just about the moves, but more the feeling of becoming the music. The feeling of the bass, the strings, the horns, the 808s and so forth. More than anything, she has taught me that if I cannot meet the same standards of those pioneers who have come before to the next level, I have no business performing."

Catch Khrys'taaal every month at Drag Nation and at the Whiskey and Astoria bars in Fort Collins and El Patron in Greeley.

Mariah Spanic Celebrating a strong Latin heritage is one of the many angles that Denver drag has on lockdown, and no one has a firmer grasp on it than Mariah Spanic. Tearing up performances like a phoenix, she commands the stage with a fierce look, a stunning outfit and some massive choreography. Her talents are international; in 2013, she shared her now world-famous Jenni Rivera impersonation on Sabado Gigante. Setting herself apart as an out-and-proud transwoman, Spanic elevates the art of drag by using all of the tools in her belt. Does being a true queen put Mariah two steps ahead? Regardless, she doesn't rest on her laurels, and she continues to experiment with her craft and surprise us every time she sets a steady foot in a comfortably worn high heel on stage.

Catch Mariah every month at Drag Nation and weekly at El Potrero.

Nina Flowers And then there is Nina. The first seismic shift in Denver's drag evolution came when Nina Flowers (aka Jorge Flores) stomped her stilettos onto our landscape in 2008 — and we've been experiencing aftershocks ever since. Her punk rock take on drag: unique wigs that highlight a bald head beneath gender-bending costumes that don't fence her in, and that legendary face that has yet to be duplicated. "My take is, wow, we have come such a long way," she says. "So many fantastic entertainers have emerged in just 2014 alone." Last year was a banner year for her, too; Flowers celebrated the fifth anniversary of the historic premiere of Drag Race, with her season-one castmates flying in to toast her on the Drag Nation stage. Flowers's intercontinental career has exploded as well; she now flies around the globe to perform on a drag stage or get people moving as world-class song spinner DJ Flowers. "Music by Florence and the Machine, Lenny Kravitz, Kiesza, Tove Lo and many more," says Nina. "Music is always the highest source of inspiration." And Nina herself continues to inspire us.

Catch Nina at performances around the world in 2015, including gigs in Australia and Mexico City; check her schedule at ninaflowers.com and watch for her monthly appearance at Drag Nation.

Keep reading for four more Denver divas.
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Keith Garcia is a filmmaker, writer and secret agent looking for love and the perfect slice of pizza. If he looks familiar, it's probably because he introduced a film you watched in Denver sometime between 1996 and 2014.
Contact: Keith Garcia