Photos by Ryan Coit, soccer photo edit by MP Diaz
Hey girl! Congrats on winning the title; more importantly, congrats on your Twin Cities Gay Scene cover story! Before we get to the pageant, let’s backtrack a bit and start at the beginning: how long have you been performing? Where was your first show, and what was your first song? And, is there a story behind the name “LaLa Luzious”?
My first time performing was when I was 18 and did a show at my college. I think everyone who follows me knows this by now, especially my podcast listeners, so I won’t go into the whole story but actually was not excited to try drag the first time. Clearly a lot has changed since then and I have pretty much been performing ever since. However, not many know my first song! It was “Woman Like Me” by Beyonce from the Pink Panther soundtrack. The song is just so grand and regal, it really set the tone for the type of queen I wanted to be.
My drag name journey has been interesting. Before I was Lala I was performing as Hershee Cocoa. But then as a matured, I decided it was time for a different name. I named myself after Lala Anthony, who used to be a host of TRL on MTV. I just always thought she was so pretty!
And! You are the “Snack of the Twin Cities”! How did that honorific name come about?
It very much started as a joke, but now it has become the way I challenge what society finds beautiful and sexy. Snack is an internet slang term that conveys that a person is considered attractive or sexy. Most of the time, it is applied to people who look like they could use a snack! So when I started calling myself a snack, it was very much just to tell the world that everyone should be able to feel sexy, to feel beautiful, to feel attractive. Being a snack is not just a look, it is a mindset. It is walking into a room and knowing you own it. It is showing up as who you are and feeling fabulous about that. Everyone deserves to be a snack!
You are the 2023 Belle of the Black Hart! What did you apply from your prior performing experience to ultimately win this year’s title?
I “grew up” around old-school drag queens. I know there are often debates about old-school vs. new-school drag, and I deeply respect both, it is just that old-school is where I come from. I think this part of my upbringing has helped me when it comes to pageants. To win, you have to have your basics down solid. Let's face it, you are being judged all evening, from head to toe, so all the details matter so much more than a show. For example, a fabulous costume is great, but if it doesn’t fit…that is ultimately points deducted. I encourage any performer, whether it be a pageant, a contest, or any type of competitive arena…look yourself over. Does EVERYTHING look the way you want it to? Because if you see it, then the judges are going to as well. Make sure you are presenting what you want to present.
For those not familiar with the pageant itself, this year’s theme was “Dreams Do Come True”. During the Evening Gown portion of the pageant, you were asked: “What is one dream of yours that has already come true?” Care to share how you answered that?
Q&A is one of my favorite categories, and that was just a great question for the evening. I don’t remember exactly was a said (the evening went so fast) but basically, my answer surrounded my work as the show director of POWER Drag Revue. It is an absolute dream to give other entertainers opportunities I don’t see happening elsewhere. I feel that as Belle of the Black Hart I will be able to continue to do more of the same. And I am so excited about that!
So, I know it’s all so very new, but do you have any special plans for your reign?
We doing it big! I just announced a benefit I planned for the ACLU’s Drag Defense Fund. The fund will help fight the drag bills across the country, including the one we have currently advancing in Minnesota. I am so blessed to have so much support from the Black Hart community and beyond for this event.
In addition to this, I am in the early stages of planning a contest for masc-presenting entertainers. Belle has such a rich history at Black Hart and I want to see the same opportunity for other entertainers. I encourage anyone who thinks they may be interested to follow me and I will post information as it becomes solidified.
Lastly, I know something special I want to do for the next Belle of the Black Hart pageant, but I will save that for the end of my reign. Look forward to a special announcement though, especially if you plan on competing!
Your entertainment company, Luzious Entertainment, produces shows all across the Twin Cities including POWER at the Black Hart. Tell us about POWER, and what makes this show unique from any other show in the area?
POWER focuses on uplifting BIPOC and Transgender entertainers, without being exclusive to all the talent we have here in the Twin Cities. I have been very blessed to have had a lot of success in the Twin Cities Drag scene, but to be honest, I got a little tired of being the only person of color in a line-up. I looked at all the talent we have, and I see so much diversity, but it simply was not being showcased the way I felt it should be. So I created a show that will do that. Since living here, there have been so many conversations about diversity and how to improve it here. Conversation is crucial to change, but at some point, things can’t just be talk. You have to walk the walk as well. So, for me POWER is not just a show, it is also the way I hold myself accountable for creating space for diversity here in the Twin Cities. With all the success I have had, I knew creating a space for others to find that same success was what I wanted to do.
What else does Luzious Entertainment produce; where else can we see you around town?
POWER Drag Brunch is every 4th Saturday at Arts & Rec in Uptown. We also have an arrangement with Can Can Wonderland to produce 4 all-ages shows a year. This show is particularly special because it will feature young entertainers who may not otherwise have a space to perform.
As you are becoming a “seasoned sister”; producing shows and twirling around the Twin Cities, what words of wisdom do you have for someone, perhaps in the beginning stages of performing, or maybe thinking about competing in pageants?
Present your best self, even when you think no one is watching. Even when I didn’t have the “good drag” I have now, I always put my best out at any given point in my career. A great example of this is in 2019 I got asked to do a house party in someone’s basement. Not the most glamorous gig but it paid and it was the host’s birthday so I knew it would be a good time. Myself and another entertainer were booked. I showed up early, ready to go, and brought my good mixes and nice costumes. The other entertainer was running 2 hours late, so the host asked me to perform my set alone to get the party started. I had a great time at the party and it just so happened that someone there had connections with a big insurance company. Because of how I presented myself that night, I now have coordinated the insurance company’s virtual pride bingo for 3 years now and for more money than I ever saw myself making as a queen. Which is really not so much about the money, just more that how much value someone saw in me. This is all to say, you never know who is looking at you, so always take each moment as a time to sparkle!
Years ago when I was interviewed for Twin Cities Gay Scene, was asked two great questions, which I answered with the benefit of being out in the Twin Cities for almost thirty years. I know you’re not originally from Minnesota, so I ask you as someone with a fresh set of eyes: what do you see working well in our own community?
I moved here because there is so much opportunity and support for drag artists here. You can’t go to every major city and see a show any night of the week, but you sure can in the Twin Cities! I think people don’t appreciate this fact as much as they should. I see people saying “oh this show doesn’t book me…” and I just think “who cares?” Go find a place that doesn’t have a show and create one! I have worked with so many venues and they are all more than happy to host a show. The opportunity is here, and it is available right now. Take advantage of it!
And, what are the barriers that prevent us from developing a stronger community?
Communication. People will talk, but listening is usually more powerful than being the one talking. I am going to hold myself accountable and say I used to be one of the people who had a lot to say but wasn’t always listening. It didn’t matter that my heart was in the right place, if I wasn’t understanding others, nothing could ever improve. So I committed to making that change within myself so that I could be a better leader in this community. I went to a Twin Cities Leather weekend a few years back, and one of the things I appreciated about that experience is that they had forums and panel discussions about issues in their community and how to fix them. I sincerely wish the drag community could get to a point where we could do the same in a safe, healthy, and positive way.
One other question I like to ask entertainers is the whole “dual identity” thing. How do you separate Kevin from Lala?
I don’t really. Kevin does drag as Lala, and that's who I am. People will notice I am the same person on and off stage, in and out of drag. I have a lot of co-workers at my day job come see me in shows, and I have even helped people in the drag community find work at companies I have worked at. All of it is my life and I don’t feel the need to separate the two worlds. Basically, I am just out here doing me! Take it or leave it
Let us in on a secret: tell us one thing we may not know about Kevin or Lala.
People comment on my confidence a lot and in so many ways I am confident. But also, I am an overthinker and I kind of talk myself out of things because I feel not ready. Honestly, that almost happened with Belle of the Black Hart, and I want to thank Betty Bang and Zon Legacy Phoenix for not letting that happen! I know confidence and self-love is a part of my brand, but people should know it is a choice I make every day. Sometimes that choice is easy, sometimes it's really hard, and sometimes it feels impossible, but you know what…every day I make the choice to love myself first. And I credit a lot of where I am today to doing that.
Before we go, what’s next for you, either personally or professionally?
I always got things in the pipeline. This year my biggest goals are to take Snack Size Podcast into some type of talk show format, and also I am looking into starting a makeup line. I hope to have at least one cosmetic product available to buy this summer!
In addition to these, Kevin has gotten into acting and commercials. I got the chance to do a web series that was released last year, and I want to put it out into the universe that I land a lead role in a feature film! 2023 is for all the dreams baby!
Welcome to Sparkle Scene! So WONDERful that I can chat with you two! So first, tell us a little bit about yourselves!
Julio Soriano: Thank you for taking the time to come speak with us! Michael and I have been married since December 2021.
Michael Soriano: We have been foster parents to several children. Julio is originally from Guatemala, and I am originally from Iowa.
Back in June, you became owners of Wonders Ice Cream. Congrats! Had you been looking at different business ventures? What made Wonders so appealing?
JS: Thank you! We had started looking at different businesses and trying to find something that could be ours that we loved to do! What made Wonders so amazing was how diverse it is; not only with the rich Thai culture, but the fact when we toured, the staff all introduced themselves and had a sense of pride and ownership and inclusiveness.
MS: When we introduced ourselves, the employees embraced us right away and were so excited to have us. When we walked in the first store (our headquarters), we fell in love.
For those not familiar with Wonders, it’s not your typical ice cream shop; your ice cream is “rolled”! Tell us what the process is, and why rolled ice cream is better than scooped!
MS: We make all of our flavors in house from scratch. You won’t find our flavors anywhere else. It starts as a liquid base, then we add it to our freeze tables which are set at -20 degrees. Here we get to smash in some treats and mix the base and chop it until it turns to ice cream. We then spread it out evenly and use our tools to roll it up!
JS: It’s not just delicious, it’s an amazing show to watch!
What are some of your most popular flavors?
MS: Our most popular items would have to be our Vietnamese Coffee or our Oreo Oreo.
Wonders Ice Cream also isn’t just ice cream, what else is on the menu?
JS: We also have a line of iced coffees, teas, and boba drinks!
In addition to your location at 298 University Avenue West (Saint Paul), you also have a food truck! You’re building quite the empire! Do you have plans to further expand? And what events can we see you at in 2023?
JS: Yes! We actually own the headquarters, two physical locations, and two mobile units already! Our other physical location is inside the Maplewood Mall; we just acquired this location from the franchisee. Our other locations are Appleton, Wisconsin, Burleson Texas, and Fresno California! In 2023, we will start planning for expansion!
MS: In the spirit of inclusion, we are in talks with making a kosher version of Wonders in Saint Louis Park to serve the Orthodox Jewish Community. Next year, you will be able to find us at various county fairs, pride festivals, the Minnesothai Festival, and several other miscellaneous events through the state!
JS: Also a fun fact! As of right now, we have the capability of taking your orders in four languages; English, Spanish, Hmong, and ASL!
Being new business owners, this must be a learning process? What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned in the last six months?
JS: The biggest thing for us was to learn the financial acumen of the ice cream industry!
And now the most obvious question; your life partners AND business partners: what’s it like working with each other!?!
MS: Ha! We quickly learned we don’t necessarily always agree on business decisions; I am the spontaneous one that says let’s go! go! go!
JS: I have to reign his creative mind…..the most important thing for us is to remember what happens at work stays at work; business is business, but our love is our love, and that we have to be strong together.
Last thing! Where can we find you on social media?
MS: You can find us on Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram @wondersicecream
Wonders is hosting its first annual “Toy Drive” to support children in need. Donations can be dropped off at their University Avenue location through the month of December.