A Tad of Razzle Dazzle

By Mary Brewster

On Saturday, July 13th at the Black Hart of Saint Paul, Mary Brewster and SPARKLE Presents “Golden Gurls”; a celebration of entertainers over fifty.

July 3, 2024

The cast includes Eileen Dover, Kendra Blake, Nikki, Sofonda Peters, and Tonia Lee Richards. SPARKLE SCENE asks the preverbal question: is age just a number? Mary chats with Eileen, Kendra, and Sofonda to find out!

Hello gurls! Let’s get to it: the whats, wheres, and whens!?! What was the first number you performed, where were you, and what year was it? 

Mary: My first performance was “Turn the Beat Around” by Gloria Estefan; it was at a Triangle of Hope show at Over the Rainbow in January, 1996. I’d seen Nina DiAngelo performing it at the 90’s and I just HAD to “steal” it from her! *laughs*

Eileen: In the mid-90s, the Brass Rail had 2-for-1 nights on Thursdays and Sundays and so I worked as a cocktail waiter on those nights. The Sunday before Valentine’s 1995, I heard all staff who wasn’t working on Valentine’s (a Wednesday) was going to dress up and do a number during a special drag show named “Lover's Concerto.” Well, I wasn’t working, so why wasn’t I asked? Forest, the manager who was in charge of the show said to me, “Honey, we saw you on Halloween…but if you can make yourself look presentable, you can do a number.”  Within 20 minutes, I had hair, makeup and wardrobe all set for that night. On Valentine’s Day 1995, Eileen Dover made her stage debut at the Brass Rail in Minneapolis as she performed Roxette’s song “Fading Like a Flower.” Since that time, Eileen has had the opportunity to perform in 19 states, compete in 8 national pageants in 3 different systems and win 14 titles.

Kendra: My first time in drag was Halloween of 1991. I had been watching the shows at the Gay 90s for a while and really wanted to try it. Not sure what was so attractive about it, but I wanted to do it. I think my first number performed was …OMG I cannot remember. Something from the 1980s for sure.

Sofonda: In fall of 1985 Szach painted my face and the rest is history. *laughs* 1st performance was late 1985/1986 there was a horrible snow storm, finally after months of begging for a guest spot, I got one. I performed Soul Kiss by Olivia Newton John. I was hooked on drag from that moment on.

What does the term “drag” mean to you? 

Mary: For me, it’s an outlet for creativity. An opportunity to have experiences that I’d never have the chance to if I weren’t an entertainer. But most importantly, the platform to fundraise and hopefully leave a heelprint I can be proud of. I think I’m on my way!

Eileen: Drag is something we ALL do each and every day of our lives. The way we dress, any makeup that’s worn, and anything that projects the image we want to portray to the public, to me, is drag.

Kendra: My view on what drag means has evolved over the last 33 years. It really is my artistic (and slightly creative) way of expressing myself. By day I am a focused, reserved and introverted medical professional. Kendra gives me the occasional chance to look and act like someone else. It is a fun escape.

Sofonda: An advocate for the LGBTQA+ community.

How has “the scene” changed in the last twenty, thirty years? 

Mary: I guess I would have to say, back when I first started performing, there was a real sense of “sisterhood”: you all got ready together. Hung out after the show together. Worked on production numbers. Shared costumes. I can remember getting “dressed” just to go bar hopping, always with a CD in your clutch “just in case”. *laughs*

Eileen: Since Eileen took the stage 29 years ago, “the scene” is very different. Thanks to movies like ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ and ‘To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar’, as well as RuPaul’s ability to make musical hits and an Emmy Award-winning reality show, drag, aka “female impersonation,” has become much more mainstream. There are now drag brunches at various eating establishments, shows in nightclubs and theaters that never had hosted drag shows, and some libraries even host a drag queen story hour.

Kendra: We were literally hiding solely in gay bars back then. The “scene” was pretty limited with only a handful of local opportunities. Now, the “scene” has expanded into all types of places and venues with drag brunches being a popular find all over the country. The ‘scene” has few boundaries now, which is great. For too long, we lived within the confines of what society dictated. Drag and the “scene” are now so mainstream.

Sofonda: So many changes over the years, some good, some not so good…..and I leave it at that.

What do you think is the best (and worst) part of being a Golden Gurl? 

Mary: I think for me, the best part is that with age comes wisdom. I’ve become a good judge of character. I’ve also learned a very powerful word: “NO”. You don’t have to do every show; you’ve made a name for yourself, and you don’t have to “prove” yourself to anyone. The worst part? All of the cosmetics I use have been discontinued! Max Factor Pan Stick! *laughs* But seriously, that I don’t get booked; hardly, if ever. If it weren’t for SPARKLE, I’d probably be retired. The harsh reality is that some probably see me as a relic. A sparklelicious relic. *laughs* But I’m still here and not hanging my heels up just yet! The other thing, is thinking about how many “sisters” we’ve lost over the years. In group chat, we’ve listed dozens of girls that are no longer with us. Our “Golden Gurls” circle is getting smaller and smaller.

Eileen: So, the support has skyrocketed since 1995. The mainstream acceptance has also caused some sense of entitlement for many of the newer, younger performers. For those of us who had beginnings in the early and mid-90s, let alone those who stuffed stilettos long before us, usually started out doing a lot of unpaid, volunteer and fundraisings performances before receiving show pay or stipends for appearances. Plus, those of us who were put together as a cast in various shows would share tricks, advice and give out opportunities when we had a chance. We became more than cast members. We became friends. When you helped others improve, it helped with raising the bar for you, too.

Kendra: The best part is the friendships I’ve made over the last 33 years. I’ve met some amazing people. Many are no longer here, but many still are. When we work together after many years apart, its like no time has passed. We are still as crazy as ever. As a Golden Gurl, I don’t take any of this too seriously anymore. It is fun for me. I’m still waiting to find fame and fortune. LOL. Seriously, though---I have such great memories and stories to share from decades of doing this.

Sofonda: Still young enough to do it again without the drama! *laughs*

What one piece of advice to you have for performers today? 

Mary: I think this is a tough one. Can you give advice anymore? *laughs* I’d say: enjoy it while you can. Someday you’ll be the oldest member in the cast. But not this one, I’m FINALLY the youngest! *laughs* But truly: use your drag super powers for good. Find ways to donate your talent, time, and tips. Be a role model, because someone is always watching you, and hopefully, looking up to you. Continually aspire, and inspire. Wow, not as tough as I thought! *laughs*

Eileen: Now that Eileen Dover has grown and become a “seasoned” performer, I’m the first one to say about those who tend to cause drama or conflict in the dressing room. Drama is only meant to be put on a stage and that’s where it should remain. Usually those who create it off the stage are talented enough to put it on stage anyway!

If there would be one piece of advice that I think would benefit any performer, it is this: Whether it’s someone sitting in ‘sniffers row’ holding dollars in your direction, or the guys in the far back yelling like they’re at a monster truck pull, every person is a mentor. You can learn something from anyone that will help you as a performer.

Kendra: Be nice to others. Listen, watch, and learn from those around you. There can be a lesson learned from every interaction you have.

Sofonda: If you don’t feel the song you are preforming in your heart, don’t perform it.

And if you could be remembered in one word, what would you like it to be? 

Mary: Mine (of course!) would be SPARKLE! *laughs*

Eileen: If I could only use one word of how I would want Eileen Dover to be remembered, which is tough after nearly three decades, it would be MEMORABLE. I hope that I did something in my performance, my interactions, my appearance, or even my wardrobe that left a lasting impression for all who I’ve had the chance to perform…MEMORABLE.

Kendra: “She didn’t look as old as some of em”….oops that was more than one word. *laughs*

Sofonda: Authentic.

Mary Brewster Talks “Black Boy Joy” with Andre’ 1000!

June 19, 2024

André! Congratulations on Solo Producing your first show! How did the opportunity come about?

First, thank you for this opportunity to talk about my show! I was presented with the opportunity to produce my own show by Mickey (Events Coordinators at the Black Hart). She has been asking for a while now, and I finally just decided to try it! 

You’ve been on the scene for quite some time; how easy (or difficult) has it been transitioning from “entertainer” to “Show Director”?

You know, Mary, I’m not sure if I’ve made the “transition” yet.  I’ve been working as part of a Show Production team now for almost a year with the show Hot Pink at the Saloon Minneapolis. I’ve had a couple other show directing opportunities with some buddies, but nothing major.  I love entertaining, and being in front of crowd is where I will probably always prefer to be.  But now as an entertainer director, I get to hand pick who I want to share the dressing room with, which is always a whole vibe of its own. 

“Black Boy Joy” is a celebration of Blackness, Masculinity, and Queerness! You’ve checked off a lot of boxes and are filling a void that has been missing from our performance community! Tell us what you have planned for June 22nd!

Yes. You hit the nail right on the head. Our scene is very much missing the combination of Black, masculine presenting, queer artists.  I’ve been trying to fill in the spaces where I can, but I am only one person!  I hope that people come to this show and fall in love with these artists the way that you all fell in love with me. They are all very different artists, and I’m just excited for them to show you all what they can do.

You’ve got a fantastic lineup for your kickoff; Denzel Belin (host), James Brown, Jojo Ventus, Myster’eo, Prince Tez, and Tim is a Rocker. If you had to describe each cast member in one word, what would it be?

If I had to choose one word to describe us, it would go as follows: 
        Denzel - Hilarious 
        James - Electrifying 
        Jojo - Vogue
        Myster’Eo - Creative
        Prince Tez – Loverboy
        Tim- ROCKSTAR! (duhhhhh!)

And if they had to describe YOU in one word, what do you think that would be? 

Of course, the one word for me is DADDY!!!!

It’s no secret I have been a fan-girl of yours, going way back the 24K Kings; the smoothest group of guys I’ve EVER seen in the Twin Cities. You all were really something! Any chance you’ll bring 24K-style numbers to “Black Boy Joy”…..or any chance of a 24K Kings “reunion” in an upcoming show? 

Ah. 24 Karat Kings! If you know about 24 Karat, that means you have known me almost my entire adult life! We had some really great group numbers! I miss my brothers! Unfortunately, there won’t be a group number in the first show - all of us are terribly busy with Pride stuff. But hopefully down the line, we can get some group numbers going. I miss performing some of the great boy bands like New Edition, Dru Hill, and the Temptations. Oh, and as far as a 24 Karat reunion - if me and my brothers are ever all in the same place again, it would be fun to do a reunion show! I am still in touch with a lot of them, so it may not be as hard as you think! 

So the big question: what does “Black Boy Joy” mean to you?  

What does Black Boy Joy mean to me? Black Boy Joy means when I can show up as my authentic self. A feeling of absolute freedom to be who I am. A chance to wear what feels authentic to me. A chance to perform what feels good to me. A chance to share my experiences with others who look like me.

And last thing: tell us your socials! Where can you find you online? 
Socials!! You can find me on Facebook @Andre OneThousand and on Instagram @Andre OneThousand

Join Andre’ 1000 and guests on Saturday, June 22nd, 9:30pm at the Black Hart of Saint Paul for “Black Boy Joy”. 21+ event, $7.00 cover. 

“Raven’s Route to IML”; Mary Brewster chats with Michael Raven, Mr. Route 66 Leather 2023!

February 27, 2024

Hi Michael! Welcome to Twin Cities Gay Scene! Start off by telling us a little about yourself; where did you grow up, and how long have you been a part of the “scene”?

Thank you for the opportunity to share a little more about myself! I grew up in Houston, TX and stayed around the area until about 1997 when I made the decision to transition. I have now lived in Minnesota for 21 years and consider it my forever home. I have been in the gay scene since 1989, when I was sneaking into drag bars because I was a solid two years from being legal.

When did you first become involved in the leather community? What about it was appealing to you?

I first dipped my toes in the water in 1999 and had a terrible experience that caused me to leave the community. I wouldn’t consider becoming involved again until about 2005, when Daddy Shay brought it up to me. We both realized that we were already doing D/S without calling it that. I naturally had a heart for service for Her and had been doing daily acts of service – so we made it official. It is appealing to me on many levels – it keeps me out of my own head, allows me to humble myself to someone I love and respect very much, and brings a lot of amazing people into our lives.

I have always equated “leather” to the Tom of Finland models, but it’s much, much more than that. What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions of the leather community?

Yeah, Leather is so much more than Tom of Finland. That imagery does speak to a lot of Leather folk, and has an important place in Leather history, but we are so much more than that one aspect. I think the biggest misconception by non-Leather people is that we are “sick” and perverted (not in the good way). We are often seen as “unsavory” people, when in fact, we are people who put a very high value on respect, integrity and loyalty.


You are Mr. Route 66 Leather 2023! Tell us about the competition and the title!

It was nothing short of incredible!! The competition itself was a lot of hard work, but so much fun. OKC Kink Weekend does a fantastic job of emphasizing education, which is why of all the potential titles, I chose Mr. Route 66. I love that they make education a foundation of the title, and I have enjoyed traveling around the country teaching. As for my competition weekend, I was absolutely terrified! I wanted it so badly, but it was a HUGE step outside my comfort zone. I am not a person who likes a spotlight shined on me, I am petrified of public speaking, but I have a strong Leather heart and wanted to do more and be more involved in my community – so here I am! I encourage anyone wanting to run for a national title to look at the Route 66 Leather title family. The support is wonderful, both from the Producers as well as the entire title lineage.

As Mr. Route 66 Leather 2023, you have travelled across the country representing your sash. Where cities have you visited, and where have you felt most welcome?

I have been all over so far and I’m not even done! In addition to local events such as Twin Cities Leather, I have been to Iowa, Oklahoma, Baltimore, Wisconsin, and Texas. I am headed back to Iowa this weekend, then to Texas in just a couple weeks later for South Plains Leatherfest. After that is my IML competition, then I am headed to Anchorage for a week for Northern Lights. My travel year concludes in July, when I return to Oklahoma City for my step aside and to get to enjoy the competition from the crowd and see who will get the sash! And honestly, I have felt welcomed and been treated so well at every event I’ve attended.

Normally I ask this question of “entertainers” (drag queens), but a stage is a stage! What has been one of your defining performing or representing moments?

Oh wow – well every single event I attend and get to put my regalia on, I feel is a defining moment for me. The inside of the sash has the title lineage on it, so I am always very aware that I am wearing a piece of Leather history and carrying the torch for my title family. I feel so much pride when I am wearing it, and nothing will ever top the pride I have for my Route 66 title.


Now let’s talk about International Mr. Leather! Can you give us a brief history of IML

International Mr. Leather (IML) is an international conference and contest of held annually in May since 1979 in Chicago. IML has certain criteria how contestants qualify: contestants are winners of a lower-level feeder competition of a bar, local or regional leather contest. The forerunner of IML as we know it was the 1970s “Mr. Gold Coast” bar contest held at Chicago’s Gold Coast leather bar, owned by Chuck Renslow and his then-partner, Dom Orejudos. The “Mr. Gold Coast” contest became one of the bar’s most popular promotions causing the need to locate the competition to a larger venue (starting in 1979), and title change to International Mr. Leather. The International Mr. Bootblack competition (IML BB) was added in 1993, and the first International Ms. Bootblack title was awarded in 1999. In 1999, Leather Archives & Museum has placed IML in a trust, with event profits to benefit the museum. The museum also holds the records of IML. In 2010 IML was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame. (Leatherpedia)

There will be many vying for the title; what will you bring that will make you stand out from the rest?

I am hoping that my sincerity and respect for Leather and the Leather community will shine through. I won’t be the hottest body there by societal standards, nor will I have the most accolades, but I have traveled a very long road to get to where I am in the Leather community and I hope the judges also see my perseverance and positive attitude.

Well I certainly wish you the best! Personality is EVERYTHING! Many don’t realize all that’s involved in competition; emotionally, physically, and financially. Do you have a strong support system? Give a shout out to the individuals and businesses that are uplifting you!

Yes, it definitely involves SO much more than just showing up to the competition! It’s a culmination of a lot of emotional work for sure, and I am so lucky to have the best Daddy a boy could hope for, who not only helps plan my travel and take care of the organizational side of things – this year would’ve been a hot mess without her organizational skills! She also gives me the most incredible support and advice. She’s had to forego events this year to make sure I am able to do everything on my list, as well as help when the travel fund ran out. She donated all of the proceeds of Her intoxicating essential oil cologne ‘Leather Smoking Jacket’ to my travel fund - so she has been very focused on me and it really took a lot of selflessness. I also have the love and support of our Leather family, House of Raven, shoutout to Sash Dad Sir Mark Athens, Mama Bear, Kim Sadique, and my brother Lucian Raven! I am so proud of the family we’re building! And a HUGE shoutout to my primary sponsor, Eagle Minneapolis! Dan Shamp has been so present and involved, and without the financial support of the Eagle, this year wouldn’t have been possible. I am also sponsored by Sir Rat Leather, Bondesque, Fetish Made, and GW Leathers. I am so grateful to all of my generous sponsors, please check them out and give them all some business! They all truly care about this community and about supporting our titleholders.

If we wanted to follow you on social media, where would we find you?

You can find me on Facebook at either my personal page under Michael Raven, or my title page, listed as Mr. Route 66 Leather 2023 – Michael Raven, and on Instagram under mr.route66.2023

Last one! How would you describe the leather community in one word?


Join Mary Brewster and special guests on Saturday, March 9th, 9:30pm at the Black Hart of Saint Paul for Sparkle Presents: "Raven's Route to IML!"

Michael Raven - Mr. Route 66 - 2023, is headed to Chicago to compete at International Mr. Leather! Let's send them with a little bit of SPARKLE! EVERY DOLLAR raised during the evening will support Michael on their Route to the title!

$7 cover, 21+

In addition to an array of silent auction items, we'll also have some of the best entertainers in the Twin Cities, ready to twirl and spread sparkle!


Mary Brewster chats with Andi Otto about Pride…. and Pride AMPLIFIED! 

January 31, 2024

Hi Andi; welcome to Twin Cities Gay Scene! Let’s start out with a little introduction; tell us a little bit about yourself! How long have you called the Twin Cities “home”?

I was born and raised here in Minnesota, and I’ve lived in a couple of other states for work but of course wound up back here.  I am a proud trans man who lives each day just like everyone else.  I have a spouse who I have been with for 15 years, and we are fortunate enough to have 2 children who are my world.

Your association with Twin Cities Pride goes back almost two decades; you’re certainly a man of many hats! From Board Member to Volunteer Manager to Parade Manger, to, in October 2022, Executive Director! What is it about the Twin Cities Pride organization that has kept you so deep rooted? 
Yeah, it has been a long time. I think it’s my passion for the community and the vision to make the world a better place for our youth. Being involved with Twin Cities Pride has given me the opportunity to meet some amazing humans along the way.

I have always been fascinated by the logistics of a parade the size of Twin Cities Pride. Clearly the planning is a lot of hard work, and a labor of love. What was the most fulfilling part of that position?

I can always put you to work if you would love to know the ins and outs of how it all comes together!  Volunteers are the backbone of everything we do.  Every Pride, I try and take a few minutes to sit on a bench and take it all in.  There is nothing more that fills your heart and soul than seeing all the smiling, happy faces of people getting to be their authentic selves and enjoying a (usually!) beautiful summer day.

When you assumed the role of Executive Director, what was the first task on your to-do list?

My highest priority was to brainstorm ways to expand TC Pride’s programming to creating activities and events for the LGBTQIA+ community all year long, expanding outside the month of June. That was top of the list, followed closely by getting our organization in to a new office space. An amazing space opened up right across the street from Loring Park and I knew I had to get us in there. And it worked out, because that is our new home.

There are many Prides throughout the globe; what makes Twin Cities Pride different from any other?

I think there two very important differences. First, our Pride festival is the largest FREE Pride festival in the country. Many other big cities charge admission to their festivals. The second difference I will note is the atmosphere at our Pride; everyone is happy to be there, and there is such a positive energy around the park.

And Twin Cities Pride is more than just a parade, and a festival in the park; what other events does Twin Cities Pride coordinate?

I am so happy to say we now offer year-round programming! We kicked off January with our Halfway to Pride reception event at Bauhaus Brew Labs on Jan. 28. Other plans we’ve made include a queer-centered book festival in February, a Grand Marshal announcement celebration in March, of course lots going on in June, we started a Fall Fest concert fundraiser last year, we held a trunk-or-treat event in Loring Park—the very best way to keep up with all we have going is to follow our social media channels and watch our website, We’ve also been utilizing our new office space and hosting career fairs, gayme nights, as well as housing our Rainbow Wardrobe free clothing closet—we’ve been busy!    

What challenges do you face as Executive Director; how do you keep things fresh?

The biggest challenge is wanting to do everything—keep creating spaces for queer community members and allies to gather, and be social, and make connections—but then I remember that we are a non-profit and need to watch our dollars carefully. I wish we raised enough from the festival to pay for all our year-round programming, but that isn’t the case, as the festival is very expensive to put on. And we want to keep the festival free. So searching out those grants, sponsors, and getting creating with fundraising efforts so we can keep providing these events and services.

Which leads me, nicely, to your new podcast “Twin Cities Pride Amplified” which debuts Saturday, January 6th. Tell us about the conception of the idea and tell us about the first show!

We had been considering the usefulness of a podcast for some time, and how wonderful it would be to help promote not just our events, but are a number of amazing non-profits providing much needed services here in the Twin Cities area, and we all need help getting the word out about what is all available to the queer community. But the logistics of a podcast—and we learned there are many—just seemed a bit out of reach. We only have a handful of staff members, and they’re all spread thin as it is. Then we got to talking to one of our sponsors, AM 950—The Progressive Voice of Minnesota.  I would stop by their station to record occasional spots about what’s coming up at the festival, and our relationship just kind of grew from there. We all recognized there was a need for an LGBTQIA+ centered program highlighting events and resources in the Minnesota, but how could we get it going? Well, the wonderful people over at AM 950 really got creative and came to us with a workable plan for a weekly, hour-long program. Fast-forward a few months, and now we’ve recording our first four episodes and we’re rolling full-steam ahead!

What topics do you plan on discussing? Certainly, there’s more to the Twin Cities LGBTQ+ community than “just Pride”.

Oh, there is so much more than just the festival. We talk about all the program we’re creating at Twin Cities Pride; from the Rainbow Wardrobe expanding to also carrying hygiene products, to our career fairs, to super fun, social events. We also have our friends from other Twin City organizations on as guests to talk about what they’re up to. We just had Kat Rohn, the executive director of Out Front MN as a guest to discuss the upcoming legislative session. In gearing up for Black History month, we just spoke with attorney/advocate/author Zaylore Stout. We really want to cover a variety of topics and get useful information out to the listeners, while trying to be a bit entertaining if we can.

Your co-host for TCPA is Rina Heisel. Tell us what makes her a great co-host?

As my assistant (“wrangler” as many people call her), Rina is as in-the-know about what is happening in my world and the organization as anyone could be. Plus, before coming to 
TC Pride she worked broadcasting for over ten years, so she was familiar with how to put a script together, what we needed for recording show promos, prepping our guests—little odds and ends that help make things run a little smoother. Having Rina on the show helps ensure we hit all the topics we wanted to cover and get the information out that we wanted to, because sometimes our conversations go can all over the place! And Rina is an ally, which is an audience I really want to engage with this program.

And how do you think Rina would answer that same question?

Ha! She would probably say she has experience keeping me on track and telling me where to be!

And of course, when (and where) and we catch “Twin Cities Amplified”?

Twin Cities Pride Amplified airs Saturdays at 3pm on AM950 Radio, and on Monday morning it hits all the streaming services where a person might find their favorite podcast.

Last thing: if you could sum up the Twin Cities LGBTQ+ community in one word, it would be…


Sparkle Scene with Anastasia C. Principle: All Things Imperial Court of Minnesota!

January 22, 2024

Hi Anastasia, welcome to Sparkle Scene! I am excited to hear about all things Imperial Court of Minnesota! First, let’s start with the basics: what is ICOM and when was it founded?

ICOM stands for the Imperial Court of MN and was founded in 1991 by Shannon Domonique, Thomas S. Hansen, Michael Spivak, and Craig &Nancy Maehling.


I know there are several Imperial Court Systems throughout the United States; how is Minnesota’s different from the others? And do you consider the other systems “competition”? 
Yes there are over 60+ chapters of the International Court System that serve communities across North America. Some cities, like San Francisco have two because of the high demand and interest in the organization. It certainly is no competition however as we all support one another and the overall mission and goal for each chapter is to meet the needs of their specific community. 

Here in MN we do that by working with our venues, like Saloon and Lush to host benefit drag shows to support many of our local LGBTQ+ non-profits like Clare Housing, Avenues for Youth, TCGMC, and many more! In 2023 we paid out over $20k to 18 different organizations.

Now tell us about Minnesota’s Imperial Court. How did you become involved, and what is your current role?

I got engaged through former Empresses Onya Deek and Tonia Collins. Both were dear friends of mine and became Empress’ together in 2019. I was their Princess Royale, which is like their right hand person during their year and got caught up in much of the court’s history. I was on the board through COVID and was tasked with keeping the lights on and during that time got to meet more and more people outside MN that were involved with the court system by doing virtual shows. I was Empress 30 having stepped down almost a year ago and am the current Events Coordinator for the board here in MN. I also have been selected by Nicole the Great who is the titular head of the International Court System to serve as a member of the International Court Council, which is like the board for the international organization.

What was it about ICOM that was so appealing to you?

As a entertainer, especially one who does pageants, I often look to my community for support to help send me to pageants or attend new and unique shows so it’s very important for me to give back to that same community. It’s one thing that I’ve always admired about you Mary, but I think what drew me to ICOM was that it’s part of a bigger picture and the organization has done things like put Harvey Milk on a stamp, gotten the Wall of Honor dedicated in the legendary Stonewall Inn and so much more! The ICS (International Court System) will be celebrating 60 years in 2025 and currently have two large stamp campaigns in the works, one for Bayard Rustin and another for Matthew Shepard. In addition, we support Casa De Luz which is a LGBTQ+ refugee center in Tijuana. So it’s much bigger then the crowns and gowns that people see from the outside looking in.

You, of course, are a former Empress; mention what year, and can you pick one moment that stands out from your reign?

I was our Empress 30 and was elected February of 2022 and reigned until February of 2023; I had the pleasure of reigning with my Emperor former Mr. TCL Russell Giggles Storm.

Oh gosh one moment… I think Pride in general. We had the Stonewall Stage performance in the Park where we had some of our line members (those chosen by the Emperor & Empress to help during their reign) and past members of the court there to perform. Just the mass audience and people from every walk of life there excited to see us perform. Then of course the parade, it was the first (and probably only) time I did the Parade in Drag and the energy from everyone watching was just so energizing. This community is truly amazing when we come together and I love that I got to represent that for a year.

The list of “former” Emperors and Empresses reads like a who’s who of entertainers and impersonation; who else might we know that’s held the title/s?

I think our most well-known Empress currently is Onya Deek. Our reigning monarchs who will be stepping down in a few weeks are Empress Leah Tyler and Emperor Bren Da’Rehab. Many people know and loved the late Helen Back who was a 3 time Empress. Julie Dafydd and Jeff Crump are the Queen Mother and King Father of MN. Local legend in his own right Shawn Creveling is a former Emperor… I could go on and on as we’re about to elect our 32nd pair of Monarchs in just a few weeks so it’s a long list….of which you can check out at!

Also, tell us who your current Board is.

We are currently at the healm of Ben Pollack’s direction as our board chair and assisting him is my emperor Giggles Storm as Vice Chair. We have well known comedian B. Louise as our treasurer, myself as your events chair, Nora H as our Secretary, our current monarchs serve on the board (Leah Tyler & Bren Da’Rehab) and their Prince & Princess Royale also serve who are Kim Boocha and Dwayne R. We’re rounded out by our Imperial Council Chair, who is in charge of all past monarchs, Darin Hatch.


As a member of ICOM, you’ve travelled across the US attending different coronations and events. Where have been your favorite cities/Courts?

That’s a tough one, over the past 3 years I’ve traveled to nearly 30 coronations across the country and gotten to visit so many cities I’ve never been to and never would have visited without the Court system.  Providence, Rhode Island is one that is dear to me due to the friends I’ve made there, we have our sibling courts that support one another immensely with Nebraska and Iowa. Some of my nearest friends are from CO Springs, Seattle, and San Francisco who I talk to almost daily. The one I remember least, which indicates a truly amazing time, was Austin Texas, beware the Beat Boxes they catch up to you LOL. Every coronation is like a family reunion though, so they are all fun and special to me.

ICOM’s “big weekend” starts Friday, February 2nd. Walk us through each day; what and where are the events?

We actually kick off on Thursday February 1st featuring our in-town entertainers starting at 6p at the Saloon. The following evening at 5p we feature all of our out-of-town guests, also at the Saloon. Saturday is the big event with Coronation XXXII occurring at the Royal Sonesta in Minneapolis where we celebrate reign XXXI and crown the next elected monarchs. Then on Sunday we return to the Saloon almost all day with our Victory Brunch at 12p and then Victory Show at 4p to help raise travel funds for the new reign. Before ALL of that however is Candidate Voting where our Candidate for Emperor De’Sheveled will be counting on all MN residents over the age of 18 to show up and vote at The Saloon from 12-4p on January 27th.

And if someone would like to attend the festivities, how would they go about getting tickets?

All tickets and information can be found at or we have Facebook Events for all the events you can find through our Facebook Page The only free events that weekend are on Thursday and Sunday afternoon.

More importantly, if someone wanted to become more involved the ICOM, how would they join?

Reach out to me, any of the board members I mentioned earlier or attend any of our events. Outside coronation weekend our events are free to attend and generally happen the second Saturday of each month at The Saloon from 4-8p. Our Facebook and Website stay up to date and both have ways of contacting us as well! We’re always looking for new members and new ideas on ways to support and raise money for our community.

Why is the Imperial Court System so important to the GLBTQ+ community?

While the system started because of the AIDS epidemic, the need for support has never ceased for our community. Whether it be AIDS, anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, transgender resources, there is always a part of our community that lacks the resources, tools, and most importantly funding and that’s why the ICS is still around today. Even our smallest donations make an impact that could be the difference between serving 5 people or 20, sheltering 1 person or 7. As long as there are performers willing to donate their time and talents the ICS will continue to serve its communities.

And what does the future hold for the Imperial Court System, specifically in Minnesota?

Well Mary I wish I had a crystal ball to look into the future and know because at times it feels very uncertain. I do know that drag is everywhere in the Twin Cities currently and the drive for performers to give up their time and talents are becoming few and far between so as an organization we’re trying to find new and creative ways to engage our community and continue to do the work we do. We’re excited to have been here for 30+ years and look forward to serving our community for as long as the community will have us.

Lastly, if you could sum up ICOM in one word, it would be…..


Last, LAST thing: what’s next for you?

Well Mary after 3 non-stop years with the court I think I’m going to enjoy taking this summer off from the stage. I also serve as the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus Production Manager and Minneapolis is hosting a large LGBTQ+ Choral festival in July which I’ll be helping to support so between that, serving on the board of directors for Quorum, my full time job, and events coordinator for ICOM I think I’ll keep my plate full and enjoy supporting some our performers from the audience for awhile. But I’ll still keep my closet stocked and ready to hit the stage as I’m sure by fall the drag bug will be nipping at my Capezio Heels again.

Triangle of Hope is “sun setting” with a finale show at the Black Hart of Saint Paul on Sunday, November 19th.

November 8, 2023

An all-volunteer organization founded in November of 1995, Triangle of Hope's main purpose is to raise money for individuals with HIV/AIDS, by acting as a liaison between "the community" and local HIV/AIDS organizations, namely Clare Housing. Our "ex-drag-a-ganzas", hosted by Mary Brewster, feature the BEST entertainers and volunteers in the Twin Cities, who donate their talent, time, and tips for the betterment of themselves, and most importantly, others. After twenty eight years, and paying forward hundreds of thousands of dollars, Triangle of Hope is “sun setting” with a finale show at the Black Hart of Saint Paul on Sunday, November 19th. 

Let’s take a look back at Triangle of Hope’s remarkable journey: TIMELINE OF HOPE.


Triangle of Hope is formed; Board members include: Art McGrane, Beth Christenson, Gary Hinze, Scott Ehlers, Stephen Dahl, and Thom Costa.

November 22, 1995

Triangle of Hope debuts at Over the Rainbow (249 W. 7th Street, Saint Paul); hosted by Dizzy Diva, $705.00 is raised for “Every Penny Counts”.

December, 1996

Triangle of Hope is featured in INSIDER Magazine. Board Member Stephen Dahl says, “We believe that if all of our community comes together, we can and will make a difference in the lives of people who are HIV-positive.”

January 14, 1996

Triangle of Hope Presents: “Baby, it’s Cold Outside”, a benefit show for Hope House. $651.00 is raised for Hope House. Mary Brewster is “born”; Triangle of Hope benefit is her first drag show.

February 10, 1996

Triangle of Hope hosts “Cherubs of Love”, a comedy relief benefit at Over the Rainbow to benefit the Day Health Center for People Living With AIDS in Minneapolis. $1383.00 is raised; two 20-inch color television sets and grocery gift certificates are purchased. 

March 16, 1996

Triangle of Hope hosts a “silly and entertaining” fundraiser at Checkers Nightclub in Saint Paul. Funds will be used to purchase a computer for the Adult Day Health Care Center. Performers include: Scooter, Mugs, DJ, Lady Katie, Dizzy Diva, Mary Brewster, Mys Tori, and Lady Victoria. 

May 26, 1996

Triangle of Hope Presents “Illusions in Gender” at the Main Club in Superior, WI to benefit the Duluth Community Health Center. 

June 8, 1996

Triangle of Hope Presents: “Blue Moonlight Special”; a benefit for Park House.

September, 1996

Triangle of Hope performs in Fargo, ND.

October 12, 1996

Triangle of Hope benefit at Over the Rainbow, in conjunction with Over the Rainbows 1st anniversary.

November 16, 1996

Triangle of Hope celebrates 1st anniversary with show at Over the Rainbow.

December 21, 1996

Triangle of Hope Presents: “Holiday Beach Party”; a “wacky” drag show fundraiser for Hope House. 

November 15, 1997

Triangle of Hope celebrates its 2nd anniversary show at Over the Rainbow. As a highlight, cast members Mary Brewster, Lady Katie, K Sara Sara, Ti-Nea’ and Dizzy Diva perform a Grease medley.


Ed Willman, aka Lady Chanel, passes away. 

In addition to several shows this year, Triangle of Hope would also host a “casino night” as well as over-night “casino runs” to Jackpot Junction, in Morton, MN. These “casino runs” would continue for several years, coordinated by Gary Hinze, Mary Brewster, Folke Baxter, Richard Flink, and our “Official Cruise Director”, Mark Nelson (aka Miss Julie). 


Dizzy Diva passes the microphone; Mary Brewster named as new Show Director.

May 9, 1998

Mary Brewster’s birthday show; entertainers include: Rachel Hunter, Jacinda Rhodes, Joslyn Waters, Kenzel Marie, Lady Velvet, Tori Lynn, and Ti-Nea’. 

March 20, 1999

Triangle of Hope Presents: “Everything’s Coming Up Rainbows”. 

July 22, 2000

Triangle of Hope celebrates “Christmas in July” at Over the Rainbow.


Triangle of Hope celebrates 5th anniversary; Over the Rainbow closes; Triangle of Hope moves to Over the Rainbow Jr. (719 Dale Street N., Saint Paul). 


Ronnie Morgan, aka Rachel Hunter, passes away.

Triangle of Hope moves to the Town House Bar (1415 University Avenue W., Saint Paul). In the first several years of existence, Triangle of Hope hosted many events throughout the year. After moving to the Town House Bar, a decision was made by the Board of Directors to concentrate on only two events per year; one in May, celebrating Lady Victoria and Mary Brewster’s birthday, and one in the fall (usually October or November), celebrating its anniversary.

May 12, 2001

Triangle of Hope Presents: Mary Brewster and Lady Victoria’s 80th Birthday Show: a benefit for Agape Homes.

May 11, 2002

Triangle of Hope Presents: Victoria and Mary Brewster’s 125th Birthday Show, a benefit for Camp Heartland.

May 10, 2003

Triangle of Hope Presents: Lady Victoria and Mary Brewster’s Birthday Show: a benefit for Agape Home. 

November 15, 2003

Triangle of Hope’s 8th anniversary show.

May 8, 2004

Triangle of Hope Presents: “Beauty and the Beast”; Lady Victoria and Mary Brewster’s birthday extravaganza. 


Triangle of Hope celebrates 10th anniversary at the Town House Bar; performers include: Anastasia, Barbara Gordon, Dizzy Diva, Dramatica, Lady Katie, Lady Victoria, Ro, Ti-Nea’, and Mary Brewster. 

June 18, 2005

Triangle of Hope Presents: Mary Brewster and Lady Victoria’s birthday show; benefit for Agape Home. 


Triangle of Hope celebrates 11th anniversary. Performers include: Felicity St. James, Esme’ Rodriguez, Glori Halleluiah, Lady Katie, Lady Victoria, Lily White, Mary Brewster, Ti-Nea’, BeBe Benet, Silk, Barbara Gordon, and Brie Jordan. 

October 10, 2007

Original Board Member Beth Christensen passes away.

May 25, 2008

Triangle of Hope travels to Superior, WI to perform at the Main Club.

April 15, 2009

Original Board Member Gary Hinze passes away.

September 19, 2009

Triangle of Hope travels to Superior, WI for a “Memorable Weekend” at the Main Club.

August 30, 2009

Triangle of Hope presents “A Tribute to Gary."

October 25, 2009

Triangle of Hope’s 14th Anniversary Ex-drag—a-ganza at the Town House Bar. The Clare Housing Players debut with “Singin’ in the Rain."

December 20, 2009

Triangle of Hope Presents “Holly’s and Barry’s. 

May 9, 2010

Triangle of Hope benefit; $1150.00 raised for Clare Housing. This was the last joint birthday celebration for Lady Victoria and Mary Brewster, as Lady Victoria retires from Triangle of Hope. 

May 30, 2010

Triangle of Hope celebrates Memorial Day Weekend at the Main Club in Superior, WI. Cast includes Mary Brewster, Nikki Vixxen, Dramatica, and DJ Tony. A tradition for almost two decades, this annual event eventually ceases due to the retirement of Board member, Gary Hinze. 

November 7, 2010

Triangle of Hope celebrates 15th anniversary at the Town House Bar; $2000.00 raised for Clare Housing.

November 6, 2011

Triangle of Hope Presents: “Sweet 16”; performers include: Anastasia, Barbara Gordon, Brie Jordon, Eileen Dover, Esme’ Rodriguez, Kenya, Lady Katie, Mercedes, Nikki, Ravonna Belladonna, Ti-Nea’, and Mary Brewster.

October 28, 2012

Triangle of Hope’s 17th Anniversary; performers include: Barbara Gordon, Dramatica, Eileen Dover, Esme’ Rodriguez, Gucci Velour, Kenya, Lady Katie, Ti-Nea’, and Mary Brewster. $1700.00 raised for Clare Housing.

January 15, 2013

Triangle of Hope is on Facebook!


September 13, 2013

Original Board member, Stephen Dahl, passes away.


Triangle of Hope’s 18th anniversary; performers include: Barbara Gordon, Burberry Vuitton, Dramatica, Gucci Velour, Lady Katie, Mia Dorr, Tiffany T. Hunter, Tonia Lee Collins, and the Clare House Players. $1250.00 is raised for Clare Housing, which they use to upgrade the exercise equipment at Clare Apartments. 

November 16, 2014

Triangle of Hope celebrates 19th anniversary at the Town House Bar; $2387.00 is raised for Clare Housing.

December 11, 2014

The “Queen Beans” at Rainbow Brew create a special “Sparkle Blend” coffee. Portions of the sales benefit Triangle of Hope, which in turn, benefits Clare Housing. 

May, 2015

Long time Triangle of Hope volunteer, Mark Nelson (aka Miss Julie: our “Official Cruise Director”), passes away.

October 25, 2015

Triangle of Hope turns 20! With money raised, television sets are purchased for Clare Terrace. 

November 6, 2016

Triangle of Hope turns 21! Performers include: Mary Brewster, Dramatica, Esme’ Rodriguez, Jamie Monroe, Anastasia C. Principle, Nikki Vixxen, and Barbara Gordon; all Toasts of the Town House. 

October 22, 2017

Triangle of Hope celebrates its “golden” Anniversary: 22 years on the 22nd! 

September, 2018

The Town House Bar, Triangle of Hope’s “home” for the last 17 years, is sold by long time owner Holly Monnett, and is renamed Black Hart of Saint Paul.

November 4, 2018

Triangle of Hope celebrates its 23rd anniversary; performers include Anastasia C. Principle, Bad Karma, Barbara Gordon, Betty Bang, Dotti West, Ginger Snap, Jamie Monroe, Lady Katie, Mia Dorr, Nikki, and Tonia Lee Richards.


Mary Brewster, on behalf of Triangle of Hope, is named “Business Leader of the Year” by Twin Cities Quorum; award is presented by Chris Briggs of Clare Housing.

May 10, 2019

Ken Philpot, aka “Bubbles”, passes away. 

November 17, 2019

Triangle of Hope celebrates its 24th anniversary; $2000.00 is raised for Clare Housing. Plans begin immediately to celebrate its 25th milestone anniversary in 2020.

June 21, 2020

Rachel Livingston, long-time supporter of Triangle of Hope, and Mary Brewster’s “drag mother”, passes away. 

September 30, 2020

Mary Brewster emcees Clare Housing’s “A Place to Call Home” fundraiser. This socially distanced program, at the Minnesota State Fair, takes the place of their annual signature luncheon. While this technically isn’t a Triangle of Hope fundraiser, long-time Triangle of Hope performers Anastasia C. Principle, Dramatica, and Mia Dorr with DJ DiDi join Mary onstage for special performances.

2020, 2021, and 2022

With lingering uncertainty of Covid, Triangle of Hope anniversary shows are not celebrated.  In 2022, Mary Brewster releases the following statement: “When I envisioned our milestone and subsequent anniversaries, it didn't include masks, vaccination cards, and Covid tests. In fact, had I known three years ago at our 24th anniversary that it would be the last time we were together before the big break, I would have made a much more to-do about the evening. I would have thanked you all a bit more, hugged you all just a little tighter, and taken an extra kiss for good measure. The world has changed a lot in last several years, but one thing hasn't: hope.”

November 19th, 2023
“Finale: Triangle of Hope's 25th; a Benefit for Clare Housing” is planned at Black Hart of Saint Paul. While Triangle of Hope is technically celebrating its 28th anniversary, they’re taking a step back to acknowledge and celebrate their milestone 25th anniversary as originally planned for 2020. This is also Triangle of Hope’s finale. Mary Brewster releases the following statement: 

“When Triangle of Hope started fundraising in 1995, we were supporting individuals DYING of HIV/AIDS. Your support over the years has changed the lives of so many; we're now raising funds for individuals THRIVING with HIV/AIDS. As Stephen Dahl hoped almost three decades ago, Triangle of Hope HAS made a difference in the lives of people who are HIV-positive; I am so proud of that. When I started with Triangle of Hope in January of 1996, I was 22 years old. This year, I turned 50. I thought this was the perfect time to reevaluate a few things in my life, Triangle of Hope being one of them. The majority of the original board and performers have passed. The remainder have retired, so all that’s left is “me”. Not that I have EVER thought Triangle of Hope as mine; on the contrary, Triangle of Hope is all of ours: the hundreds of entertainers that I’ve shared the stage and spotlight with, the bar owners who have given Triangle of Hope a platform and space to call “home”, the volunteers that make sure things run smoothly behind the scenes, and most importantly, the supporters that have shown us thoughtfulness and generosity year after year, decade after decade. More than anything, I wanted one more opportunity to celebrate Triangle of Hopes legacy, and put a period (or exclamation point!) at the end of that sentence while I still could. Not that I plan on going anywhere any time soon, but how fantastic to do it on my terms, surrounded by so many loved ones; friends that truly have become family. I will continue to fundraise, especially for Clare Housing, just in a different capacity. Triangle of Hope has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. This is not an easy decision to make, but it is the right decision to make. Our finale is a celebration; we have served our purpose, with a lot of laughs and tears (and dollars) along the way. As I’ve said; your support over the years has changed the lives of so many…..especially mine. It seems inadequate, but truly, thank you.”

The “Snack of the Twin Cities” is now the 2023 Belle of the Black Hart; Mary Brewster chats with LaLa Luzious!

March 29, 2023

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! 

And one last thing (I promise!): this is your platform to tell us anything else I might have missed; how we can find you on social media; what are your final thoughts?!? Instagram seems to be my most popular platform (@lalaluzious) but I am on Facebook and Tik-Tok. I would love to see more support for POWER: Drag Revue on social media, follow us on Facebook and IG (@powerdragmn). 

My final thoughts are simple. It is never a bad time to be who you are! 

Mary Brewster chats with Michael and Julio Soriano, owners of Wonders Ice Cream! 

December 07, 2022

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. 

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