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Sable Army unites: Seattle's Sable Jones St. James brings message of unity to Miss Gay United States title

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Sable Jones St. James celebrating with her Sable Army at Union — Courtesy photo
Sable Jones St. James celebrating with her Sable Army at Union — Courtesy photo

A busy night at the Union Seattle bar sees her dressed to the nines in a bright red outfit. She towers over the patrons, surrounded by her Sable Army, as she celebrates a win she seeks to share with the whole community.

She is Seattle's own Sable Jones St. James, the newly crowned Miss Gay United States at Large. Just one week prior, on November 10, she won the crown that glitters on her head during the Gay United States Pageantry in Ohio.

Saying of herself that she "like[s] to get to the meat of the issue," the 18-year drag veteran known as Seattle's "First Lady" shared with the SGN her message of unity, community, and the significance of pageant drag.

Passion for drag pageantry as a platform
Sable found herself in Seattle in 2020 during the COVID lockdown, competing virtually in GUSP as Miss Michigan. With ties all over the country, there's not a major city in the US she's a stranger to.

Except for Seattle.

"I sometimes struggle with people understanding my perspective in the world of Queer show business [here]," she said. "I recognize that my style of drag is not exactly prevalent in this region. I believe it drove my passion to showcase [it] in its highest form every chance I [get] to an audience who may not be accustomed to seeing that every weekend."

Originating in the southeast US, Sable's tradition of "pageant drag" is inspired by Black and Brown pop culture icons such as Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, and Celia Cruz, and informed by characters from such cultural touchstones as the TV series Dynasty.

"I like to present that aesthetic to any space that I'm in," she explained.

Mr. & Miss Gay United States Blake Chilton Monroe (Indianapolis, Ind.) & Sable Jones St. James (Seattle, WA) — Courtesy photo  

Pageant drag is not a tradition with which native Seattlites tend to be comfortable. Describing the resistance she has found locally, Sable said, "I have been given a lot of different names [by] others, like elitist, or anti-Black — but I'm an African American male from Jacksonville, Florida!"

Sable's advocacy for the relevance of drag pageantry is passionate. For her, its value is that both the title holders and the contests can be highly visible platforms for important issues facing the community, which is the heart of everything Sable does.

"If someone walked away from their first experience with me and then saw me again in five years, I would hope that the feeling that they had — that she is one who believes in the power of community — never changes."

Her passion shows in her role as a drag mother for her Sable Army.

"I am honored to represent them in these Queer spaces as their mother... The fact that I have 43 and growing basically Gay kids here in Seattle is extremely uncommon for this region. They are amazingly supportive of everything I do, and that's just how I was raised Queer-wise, from another part of the country."

Proclaiming a message of unity
Sable is not shy about highlighting racial divisions and disparities in among Seattle Queer people. From her perspective, she said, "In current times you don't see Black and Brown Queer people leading the community in Seattle. It's not like they're absent."

Sable calls on the community to live out its values on the ground level. "To change what we see now, we need to see people actively living dialogue expressed on social media about community," she said.

"I believe that being united is the intentional act of togetherness," she added, "but we oftentimes see the scene engaging in cancel culture when it benefits just a small group of usually non-POC people."

In her view, these issues carry far beyond Seattle, and far beyond Queer show business. "If you're looking at where we are as a culture and how rights are being stricken from people, it's because we are not united as one unit. We are so incredibly separated."

Her message is to give more space and well-deserved attention to drag artists of different racial, cultural, and gendered backgrounds. "Please, please, please go out of your way to support Queer artists, more specifically Black and Brown and Trans artists of Seattle!"

In the end, that's what most motivates Sable in her work as a pageant queen. While Miss America may wish for world peace, in the words of Sable Jones St. James, "Miss Gay United States plans to unite the country, dammit!"