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[Video] Inside the world of South Florida’s drag queens

South Florida’s drag community, according to two drag queens, is an incredibly supportive one. Stavros Stavrakis, known as Athena Dion, and Alex Velez, known as TP Lords, share their insights, including a few places to catch a good show, some quick drag etiquette and some insider tips about the scene in general.

By Cassandra Cabal and Alexis Ramos
South Florida News Service
@SFNS_NewsInstagram• Facebook 

Stavros Stavrakis: In my interpretation, the way I live my life, a drag queen is a man dressing as a woman and an entertainer.

Alex Velez: I don’t even consider it, you know, drag. I consider it being an artist.

Velez: I have been doing drag now, I just celebrated my 20 years of doing drag. My name is Alex Velez, but you might know me as TP Lords.

Stavrakis: I think the one thing they do need to understand is that underneath all that makeup, we are people. I am Stavros, but all of this fabulous stuff here belongs to Athena Dion. The drag community in South Florida, I feel, is overlooked sometimes by the rest of the country. We have so many national title holders from gay pageants across the country. We are such a destination spot. We have so many amazing entertainers here. A lot of people want to come. They want to have a good time. We are here to entertain you while you’re on vacation basically.

Velez: Here in South Florida, drag does pay. Luckily for us, we have a lot of places we can work. We are allowed to pay our bills and maintain our career and stay relevant by creating new looks and costumes.

Stavrakis: There is a lot of places you can see a good drag show here. Score, Twist and Palace right now on South Beach. In Coral Gables, there’s Azucar. They have a really good show. In Fort Lauderdale, just the Wilton Drive, the strip. From Alibi, Village Pub, Rumors, Progress. You can catch them any day of the week on Wilton Drive somewhere.

Velez: The drag community here in South Florida is very supportive of each other. I hear it is different in other cities. There are so many places to work. There isn’t really an issue with girls fighting.

Stavrakis: Drag queens can tend to be very competitive, especially with one another. Everyone wants to be the diva of this club or the diva of that club. There’s shade, there’s attitude. But at the end of the day, we all know we are here together. It’s a sisterhood.

Velez: Back when I first started in 1998, ‘96, it was harder for us to find shoes, so we used to just squeeze our foot into women’s shoes. If we found a 12, we were very lucky. Now it’s a lot more comfortable for drag queens.

Stavrakis: They didn’t have the platform of Facebook or social media to get big. It was a subculture in the gay community. The way you heard about them was through people’s actual experiences seeing them in person. The misconception about drag is that people think they know everything about it right now. People really think that they can look at a drag queen that they may see for the first time and just know what she is doing wrong. So I think people need to stop generalizing and saying “oh, that’s a drag queen.” Until you have walked a day in these people’s shoes, or in our case, stilettos, you’re not going to know how to tell us what to do or how to do our job. Every single drag queen is not a footprint or like a snowflake, we are completely different.

Velez: We don’t all want to be women. We are not out trying to dress up in women’s clothes. We do this for fun.

Stavrakis: This whole thing is who is that internal diva that you are letting out.

Velez: Our blood. My heart, my blood, my brain, it’s always just actively performing. We just want to entertain.

Stavrakis: It is always important to know, if you go to a drag show, you are supposed to clap a lot when the girl comes out, you’re supposed to tip her at least a dollar when she is doing her show, and you know, have a good time. Just be nice to your local queen.

SouthFlorida.com published this piece on March 16, 2017. Interested in having low-cost, timely and professionally edited work for your news organization? Read about us here and contact News Director Dan Evans at daniel.evans@fiu.edu.

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