As of yesterday I began competing in a weekly performance competition called, "Mr Everything," which, according to the description provided by its producers is "The Search for the Guy Who Is EVERYTHING!" What wasn't mentioned is that "everything" is glitter and tassels. I was apprehensive about joining this competition from the first time I was asked to do it. While I am a queer performer who uses elements of what is considered drag, I am not a gay club/bar performer; I don't lip-sync, twerk, give sexual performances or do camp. Most of my performances are laced with a message about society while still being entertaining. But, last night, I realized what I have always known, the "gay community" limits itself…. immensely.
Last night, I performed a medley of songs, preluded by a Kill Bill monologue. I sang live, I delivered choreography, I did my thing. Now, I was already at a disadvantage going on stage 3rd in a competition that lasts for hours, I was well aware of that when it was first brought to my attention. My kind of performance is much easier when a crowd is a little more hype. But, I can do my thing regardless. After performing my number I was told,
"It's clear you can sing, you have a strong voice. Although the system here isn't good for that sort of thing. You can dance, you're a good dancer. But, I felt like we were just watching you perform. I would have liked to have seen a reveal of glitter or tassels."
Glitter and Tassels. Now, I don't mind getting feedback. I like getting feedback, but when my feedback is "glitter and tassels," there's a problem. The "gay scene" is so limited with what it accepts as performance. Granted, there are tons of talented performers in this group. There are. I can't help but feel like I'm at a disadvantage because I don't lip-sync to popular songs, shake my ass or twerk. What does it say about our community when a "good lip-sync” is worth more than good live vocals? Seriously. When twerking is held at a higher regard than dancing. Singing and dancing take a lot of work to master, a lot of rehearsal, a lot of dedication and I'm very disappointed that the "gay community" has cheapened the idea of performance to sex and imitation. I politely responded to the judges,
"I appreciate your feedback and I feel bad that because I don't adhere to the ideas you discussed it will hurt me in the competition. You won't see me in glitter or tassels because it's not my style. I keep it barebones, it's about the talent."
Our judges didn't like this feedback, as I was sure they wouldn't. But, I am cursed with this thing called "integrity". The judges celebrate all things twerk, ass, physique, attractiveness…. things like that. I heard the word "twerk" last night more times than I had in my entire life and this is why I will never be part of the "gay community". I have been studying performance for years, in university, on my own, PROFESSIONALLY… and I realize this is a late night performance competition, but I refuse to cheapen myself so that a few people who have careers in drag or what have you, will say something like, "girl, that was sick. Fierce. All I gotta say is snap!" I would like to challenge the gay community to… well, not be so basic. I just imagine what Beyoncé would say if someone told her, "you can sing, you can dance… yeah, yeah, but where's the glitter." I feel like Beyoncé when her solo career first began, surrounded by all these over sexualized performers who lip-sync and phone in performances and frankly it took a long time for Beyoncé to rise to a place above them, but I ask you this…. where is Britney Spears now? Christina who? Jessica what?
It's amazing that I can do a similar performance at The Trocadero…. yes, The Trocadero, just two weeks prior and bring the house down….. Yes, I brought it down. But, that's because the crowd was mixed, it wasn't filled with just gays who want to see some ass shaking, there were gay, straight, bi, black, white… over 600 of them and not one of them told me after my performance…. "I wish you had glitter or tassels."