By Laura Latzko
While COVID-19 has not stopped pride, it has had an impact.
Organizations putting on pride celebrations in different cities throughout Arizona have been affected differently, including financially, by the pandemic. A drag tour stopping in a few cities in Arizona will help to raise money for these organizations.
The tour stopped in Tucson and continues on to strategic spots around the state: Yuma on Feb. 13, Bisbee on Feb. 20, Casa Grande on March 6, and Flagstaff on March 27.
The fundraising tour is presented by drag performers Miss Nature and Justin Deeper-Love, the Lady and Lord of the Imperial Court of Arizona Reign XV.
As line members for the court, the two help the reigning emperor and empress to raise money. The Imperial Court of Arizona, which includes drag performers, fundraises for different causes throughout the year.
During the shows, drag performer Dirtee X from Coolidge will host.
The drag queen, who tries to be fun, campy, classy, and feminine in her drag, performs a range of country, comedy, classic, and top 40 numbers. Her name was inspired by Christina Aguilera and her song “Dirrty."
During the tour, all shows are all ages, with limited quantities of tickets available to ensure adherence to social-distancing guidelines.
Before the shows, the tour has already raised almost $2,000, and some venues are nearly sold out.
The shows will take place in different LGBTQ-owned and friendly businesses, including coffeehouses and bars.
Proceeds from the tour will benefit Phoenix, Bisbee, Tucson, and Flagstaff Prides, as well as Yuma PFLAG.
Deeper-Love said he and Miss Nature wanted to help out pride organizations that had been impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through the fundraising tour, he also hopes that audiences become more aware of all of the different pride organizations in other parts of Arizona, in places such as Bisbee, Flagstaff, and Yuma.
“A lot of the pride organizations, especially the small-town ones, are hurting during the pandemic. We want to give that exposure as well for each of these Pride [organizations] because people think it’s just Phoenix Pride as the main Arizona pride,” Deeper-Love said.
Seasoned and emerging performers, including members of the Imperial Court of Arizona, will perform in the shows.
“I think the mixture and the melting pot of performers that we have throughout this whole tour are going to bring a diversity to the shows,” Dirtee X said.
The tour will provide opportunities for drag performers from different Arizona cities, some of whom don’t have regular venues to perform.
Miss Nature said many of these performers don’t get credit or attention because of their locations. This includes Alandra Rains of Sierra Vista, Faffy Monay, Lady Tino and Bae Le Stray of Yuma, and Jewel of Flagstaff.
When putting on shows, Miss Nature tries to bring together performers with good energy, who have the drive to help others.
“I look for individuals that are very charitable, people who have good hearts and want to give back to the community,” Miss Nature says.
The tour will expose audiences to performers who are just starting in drag, including Lady Blowpop of Tucson. She will be performing during the Bisbee show.
The shows will be slightly different than typical drag shows because of COVID-19.
Performers have to wear face shields and cannot interact with audience members as they have in the past. Deeper-Love said this means drag performers need to find other ways to connect with viewers.
“It’s actually helped me be a better performer in a sense because I’m a little bit more cautious about my movements. At the same time, it’s all about eye contact,” Deeper-Love said. “This is connecting with them via your eyes, or you shoot them a wink, depending on the song.”
The drag king, who lives in Tucson, was born in Germany in a military family and grew up in Sierra Vista.
Deeper-Love performs an eclectic mix of R&B, pop, and ‘80s numbers by artists such as Justin Timberlake, George Michael, Adam Lambert, and Jason Derulo. He also does male covers of female originals.
He started performing in 2017 as part of the Entertainer of the Year Pageant system. He has held the titles of Arizona EOY King and Mister Tucson Pride.
Dirtee X said that performers’ energy levels can also impact how the crowd reacts.
“People feed off of energy. That’s just natural. If you are having a good time, people are going to see that. If there’s an energetic performer dancing around, they are going to get into it,” Dirtee X added.
Dirtee X, originally from California, started putting on drag shows in Casa Grande almost ten years ago with another local performer, Krisstina Fatale Christian. She continues to produce monthly shows there, although she has taken a slight hiatus during COVID-19.
She has always found it important to have LGBTQ representation in smaller towns such as Casa Grande.
“There’s such a huge LGBT community in between two big cities, Phoenix and Tucson. There are so many people in between there that have no outlet, and that’s why I still continue to do my shows,” Dirtee X said.
In some smaller communities, audience members may be seeing drag for the first time.
“As a host, my ultimate goal is that they leave excited and want to come to see another show somewhere. There’s a lot of people that bring other people. I have friends that always bring other friends that have never been to shows because they want them to experience it and have that exposure,” Dirtee X said.
Miss Nature, who grew up in Florence and now lives in Tucson, has put on shows in smaller cities and towns in Arizona through her drag career.
She started performing in 2012 when she held the position of director of Central Arizona Rainbow Education. For her, drag has always been a way to give back to the community.
Her performances often fit with a theme and relate to the causes that inspire her to raise money.
She said that it is essential to perform in these places to bring a sense of community to LGBTQ people in these towns and broaden others’ views on LGBTQ people.
“It’s important for people to get a better understanding of who we are,” Miss Nature said.
Miss Nature said that when performing for any audience, whether in a smaller or larger city, she always tries to bring strong performances that are engaging to audiences.
“I find it hard for any of us to ask an audience to get behind us in our art if we are not investing in ourselves. I’m there to entertain them,” Miss Nature said. “I feel like you should always have your audience in mind every time you get on stage.”
2021 Arizona Pride Tour:
American Legion Post 19 Yuma, 2575 S. Virginia Ave., Yuma. 7-10:30 p.m. Saturday, February 13.
Chuckleheads Comedy Club and Bar, 41 Brewery Ave., Bisbee. 7-10:30 p.m. Saturday, February 20.
Boston’s Pizza Restaurant and Sports Bar, 804 N. Cacheris Ct., Casa Grande. 7-10:30 p.m. Saturday, March 6.
Civano Coffee House, 30 S. San Francisco St., Flagstaff. 7-10:30 p.m. Saturday, March 27.
Tickets are $15. Visit imperialcourtaz.org/2021-arizona-pride-tour.