By Laura Latzko, July 2017 Issue.
Within the Imperial Sovereign Empire of Arizona, Akasha Knight and Dave McQueen have held many complementary titles over the years. Now, the couple will take on a new challenge together as Emperor and Empress of Reign XII.
During this year’s coronation ceremony, which took place May 6 under the theme “Geeks Gone Glam: A Soiree at the Comic Book Store,” McQueen and Knight became the court’s newest monarchs as Sophia Sinclair and SeaJay Moser stepped down.
Although the emperor and empress both ran unopposed, they each received the 50 percent plus one of the community votes to win their respective crowns.
The Imperial Court of Arizona, part of the International Court System, is a nonprofit organization that raises funds for a variety of local organizations and scholarships. And, according to Sinclair, she and Moser raised $38,000.
During their reign, Knight and McQueen will serve as the faces of the court as well as mentors and leaders.
According to the royal couple, they hope to guide others in the same way previous monarchs have mentored them.
“When you see that in someone, you want to nurture it because without that, the court is going to stagnate,” McQueen said. “We were mentored … We have been given the opportunity to grow. That nurturing helps, and that’s why we want to really focus on our lines.”
Meet the Monarchs
McQueen and Knight, who have been together for 10 years, are following in the footsteps of Julie Craig and Michael Gaffney who ruled together during Reign II.
Originally from New York, the Empress has a background as a flight attendant.
While she’s been performing in drag for about four years now, Knight said she isn’t interested in competing in pageants or becoming a show queen. For her, she explained, drag is all about charity and she enjoys any opportunity to combine fundraising and the art of drag.
“To go from a man to a woman and [have] friends who haven’t seen me in years [not] know who I am, she said, “it’s the whole illusion thing that I like about it.”
Unlike most drag queens, Knight doesn’t do her makeup on her own. She and her husband work as a team on painting her face.
The Emperor, a native of Vermont, works for a marketing firm and newspaper doing graphic design, which has allowed him the opportunity to contribute design work to the Imperial Court and other local organizations.
With a background in rock music, McQueen also has been a drummer for local cover bands, including the alternative group Downward Dog. When performing for the court, McQueen said he tends to stick to a similar rock style but has recently made some new developments as an entertainer.
“I’m coming into my own as a performer, but I’m also trying not to copy what I see out there,” McQueen said. “If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it my way.”
The Monarchs agree that Knight is more of the social butterfly, while McQueen is the more reserved one. But McQueen credits Knight with helping him to be more outgoing over the years.
When they each made the decided to run this year, there were no guarantees that they would end up serving side by side as emperor and empress. Now that they both have been crowned, both admit that they can’t imagine serving beside anyone else.
“I never thought of myself as being Emperor without her [as my Empress],” McQueen said. “It would be very difficult if we had to reign with another person.”
Ascending the Ranks
Knight and McQueen joined the court together during Reign VIII, serving as count and countess. They went on to hold the complimentary titles of prince and princess and prince royale and princess royale. Knight has also served a baroness and McQueen as viscount.
Still, holding the titles of Emperor and Empress has a deeper meaning for both of them.
“To me, it hasn’t absorbed in all the way,” Knight said. “When I go out into a bar establishment, and we’ve got friends we’ve known for years coming up and bowing down to me, I’m like, ‘You don’t have to do that. I’m still Akasha.’ They really believe in us, that we’re going to make changes in the community. It’s a big pair of shoes to put on.”
Holding previous titles together not only helped to prepare them both for their duties as Monarchs, but has also made them stronger as a couple.
“Becoming emperor and empress, to me, has brought me and Dave closer together,” Knight said, adding that they have both continued to learn as they have moved up the ranks in the Arizona court. “We’ve worked very hard these past four years … to prove ourselves worthy to take on this challenge of being emperor and empress.”
An Inclusive Pair
The slogan Knight and McQueen decided on for Reign XII is “strength in unity,” and the theme for their reign is a “year to be G.R.E.A.T., a year of growth, rejuvenation, accountability and teamwork.”
During their reign, McQueen and Knight hope to bring more diversity to the court and bridge the gaps between different groups within the community – an effort they’ve already jumpstarted by bringing more diversity to their lines.
“We really want to be more inclusive and be more approachable,” Knight said, adding that court has been seen by some as an exclusive or cliquey organization in the past.
According to Knight said, the couple wants to show the community that the court is open to anyone. The Monarchs said they are especially interested in reaching out to younger community members to get them involved and interested in the court.
Additionally, the Monarchs hope to get different organizations and members of the community, including families, involved in the court by holding events outside of bars.
“There’s a lot of things we’re trying to do that’s maybe not what’s been done in the past but will hopefully increase our visibility in the community,” McQueen said.
For more information on the Imperial Sovereign Empire of Arizona, including opportunities to become involved, visit imperialcourtaz.org.
Former Monarchs of the Imperial Sovereign Empire of Arizona
Reign XI: Sophia Sinclair and SeaJay Moser
Reign X: Olivia Gardens and Steve Marino
Reign IX: Bill Mitchell and Miss DeMeanor
Reign VIII: Tom Bledsoe and Vanilla DeLishus
Reign VII: Kenneth Anthony and Paula Sha
Reign VI: Jerry Heitman and Lady Christian
Reign V: Zsa Zsa Dublois
Reign IV: Regine Rochelle
Reign III: Joseph Brumley and Justice Prevails
Reign II: Michael Gaffney and Julie Craig
Reign I: Steve LaFata