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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 2, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 35
Four Seattle-area performers head to Portland for La Femme Magnifique International Pageant
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Four Seattle-area performers head to Portland for La Femme Magnifique International Pageant

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

After hundreds of hours, thousands of feathers and beads, and pounds of make-up, four Seattle-area drag queens are headed to Portland as contenders in the 30th Annual La Femme Magnifique International and La Femme Magnifique Plus International Pageant at the Oregon Convention Center (777 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Portland Ballroom).

Make no mistake about it; for local drag sensation and R Place house queen Lady Chablis (reigning La Femme Magnifique Washington), first runner-up Jada Lumpia, Athena Kiss (reigning La Femme Magnifique Plus Washington), and first runner-up Celys Saint James-Black, this is the most important pageant of their careers. Being crowned La Femme Magnifique International is a triumph, to say the least.

And this year, as founding pageant creators, the legendary Darcelle XV and Roxy LeRoy celebrate 30 years of pageantry, making the prize that much sweeter. Contestants and pageant alumni are flying in to compete or perform from as far away as Hawaii and California. This is to be the best La Femme Magnifique International and La Femme Magnifique Plus International Pageant to date.

La Femme Magnifique International 2010 Lily Armani and La Femme Magnifique Plus International 2010 Adrienne Alexander will step down at the pageant. The time has come to pass on the title after a year of glamour and benevolence.

This year's winner will join Seattle's Lily Armani (La Femme Magnifique International 2010), Gaysha Starr (La Femme Magnifique International 1994), and LaVanda (La Femme Magnifique 1996) and 26 other flawless drag queens from a number of different states that make up the La Femme Magnifique Honor Roll.

Nobody knows the pressure, preparation and execution of a La Femme Magnifique International Pageant like Lady Chablis. The 2011 pageant will mark her 10th year as a competitor.

'I am the longest-running contestant in the history of the competition,' Chablis told Seattle Gay News. 'I am happy to know that during the 30 years of La Femme, I was directly involved with 10 years that helps make up the 30. It's a great competition and I am honored to be apart of it.'

'I remember when I first ran for the title at Neighbours Seattle and I thought I would just do this for the fun of it,' she said. 'Then they crowned me first runner-up. I'm like, 'OK, now what?' Then I had to head down to Portland. I was sick to my stomach because I'd never ran for anything like that before, and I'd only been doing drag for four days.'

Chablis said when she arrived in Portland, she didn't know what to expect. She soon found out just how competitive La Femme is, as she had to compete with 15 other contestants from cities from around the country.

'When it was time for crowning, they would first name the first runner-up,' said Chablis. 'They called my name and I almost passed out. I can remember wondering, 'How in the hell did I get first runner-up when I purchased a $40 evening gown from J.C. Penney?' So that was my first experience 10 years ago. I have great memories that I will continue to cherish and more to add. I need to write a book called La Femme Magnifique Lady Chablis: I am the Susan Lucci of La Femme.'

So just how tough is the competition? 'Well, I've been running for 10 years and I still haven't won yet,' laughed Chablis. 'What does that tell you?'

'It's not an easy competition. You're against some great performers who have worked just as hard as you have to win,' she said. 'It really depends on the judge's eye. They have to like you from the beginning to the end. Each judge is different in their scoring so you can have three judges who score you very high and two judges score you low and that will hurt you so they have to like you as soon as they see you and you have to please them to the very end. You have to work!'

Chablis describes the pageant as 'a pill I take every year when I get started on La Femme and never stop.'

'Competing in La Femme allows me to be creative and to think outside the box,' she said. 'I love this competition!'

Chablis has spent so many hours on her preparation she admitted she stopped counting long ago.

'If you are asking for the number of months, days, and hours I've spent over the last 10 years competing in La Femme, then girl, we are going to need to add pages to your newspaper,' she laughed.

'This year will be a fun year for me, especially since I'm celebrating 10 years,' said Chablis. 'It would mean more than anything I can imagine to win this year. If they told me that I was the winner ,I think that I would have to get someone to call a doctor because I would go crazy with disbelief.'

Athena Kiss, the La Femme Magnifique Plus International frontrunner who is 'a glamorous female impersonator with stage presence, great outfits, and matching shoes,' is part of what makes La Femme Magnifique International so amazing. The 2011 pageant marks Athena Kiss's fourth go-round as a competitor. She told SGN that if a drag queen is taking the contest seriously, they begin to prepare a 'full 12 months for all five categories.' Contestants are judged in formal, theme, showgirl, and talent categories as they work the gigantic stage and runway at the Oregon Convention Center's Portland Ballroom. Style, beauty, talent, glamour, beaded gowns, rhinestone jewelry, and Vegas-style showgirl costumes are all part of what is needed to win over the judges and wow the audience. 'I usually spend the last two weeks cramming in the final rhinestones, sequins and glittering,' said Athena Kiss. 'This pageant is one of the first I ever attended after starting my female impersonator career, 15 years ago,' she said. 'When I first watched the pageant for the first time, I remember the winner, Tosha Lee, being crowned and she was just so beautiful, talented, and statuesque. It was that night that I decided I wanted to be on that stage and have that moment in my career.' Athena Kiss says she is thankful to all of her family, friends - and husband - for being so helpful in all of her preparation for the upcoming pageant. Most of all, she says, she wishes 'the best of luck to all of the contestants this year.' 'It's going to be a great competition,' she said. 'Go team Washington!'

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