I first met Vanessa when she won the Miss Louisiana Leatherette in 2016, and to be honest I didn't know anything about her. I had never even heard her name before, which wasn't strange since I'm into the drag scene. But what I found unique about her was that she didn't lip sync to any music, but instead played an actual instrument. I had no idea that Vanessa was "straight", and I mean as in straight, married with children and grandchildren. This took me by surprise, and only because in my mind you had to be gay or Trans to be a drag performer.
It came as no surprise that she would become Ms. New Orleans Pride 2016; I remember her platform was unity in the LGBT community, and she had a real passion about being a part of the community. Working to understand and somehow bring at times a fractured community together As a gay man I can tell you it's hard, but as someone who is straight it would be even harder. It takes a lot of courage to be yourself and at the same time want to affect change in the LGBT community.
How does someone who is straight transform themselves in drag? Vanessa explained that for her "it's me being in touch with my feminine side of who I am and accepting that part of myself" and explained that it's a complete transformation from Juan to Vanessa. That every aspect of becoming Vanessa is a total transformation, which she must understand and feel 100%; from how she dresses, acts, and voice, it all must be there. She is complete.
I have to admire Vanessa, to know that there are people in the LGBT community that would never accept her or hold some resentment towards her accomplishments. Recently she has begun to accept herself and to live her life as she see fit and not to conform to what society say she has to be or do. I consider myself lucky to count Vanessa as a friends. I find her down-to-earth, direct and very open about her life, and for that I have to give her respect.
You can see Vanessa perform Tacos, Tequila and Tiaras at Buffa's Lounge and Restaurant every Tuesday located at 1001 Esplanade Avenue. I found it interesting as well that Buffa's mostly straight establishment; with that in mind Vanessa takes the opportunity to take questions and inform the community about drag.
This past weekend I went to the opening to the Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes & Culture, and was surprised by the amazing costumes on display. Now I’ve seen many exhibits held at various museums; each with their own display of costumes, and other artifacts. However, this museum is smaller in size, but what makes this one so different is that it holds many costumes from the personal collection of Carl Mack. The museum was founded by Mr. Mack not only to display his own collection, but to house costumes, pictures, and other artifacts from around the city and region. Museum Director Helen del Guidice stated that “it’s not only a place to house an extraordinary collection, but to educate the public about the culture of Mardi Gras as a whole”. Ms. del Guidice is currently working to expand museum services to hold workshops and educational courses.
One such program is a food drive for St. Jude community center and the Acadian region. This program will be held on Thursday, January 26, 2017 from 6-10PM at 1010 Conti Street, New Orleans, LA. This food drive will help provide needed food for low-income and the homeless. There is a $10.00 donation and please bring non-perishable food items. If you cannot attend the event, please feel free to drop off your non-perishable food at the museum.
I highly recommend that you take the time to visit the museum on your next visit to New Orleans. The museum is open from 10:00AM until 5:00PM daily, located at 1010 Conti Street, New Orleans; admission $15.00/Adults, $10.00/Louisiana residents, $5.00/Ages 16 and under, and discounts are available for seniors, students and military. For more information please call: (504) 218-4872, or visit their website at: www.themardigrasmuseum.com.
After President-Elect Trump takes office there could be several possible fights that the LGBTQI community throughout the United States will have to prepare for. Not only do we have a Republican President, the Republicans control both houses of Congress. It's easy to become comfortable with status-quo since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015.
There are still serious issues that the LGBTQI communities throughout the United States must stand up and fight for. I don't believe that anyone thought Trump would become President, much less have one of the most anti-LGBT Vice Presidents in recent history. So, I've listed 5 areas that we have to pay attention to. If we think the fight is over, think again, in some cases it's just starting.
While the LGBTQI communities in the United States has made amazing progress there are still areas that need our attention. If we fail to use our voice for change we encourage others to take away the progress we have fought for. If we ignore the fight we dishonor those in our history that gave so much and in some case their lives so that we can live a free life.