Wig Aid Live, a benefit show on Saturday at 8 p.m. is being organized by Chris Dyer, former head of LGBT Affairs in previous Mayor Adrian Fenty’s office, to raise funds for the Wanda Alston House, a program run by Transgender Health Empowerment.
Named after the LGBT activist and mayoral appointee who was killed in her home in 2005, the Alston House works to offer pre-independent living services to homeless LGBT youth ages 16 to 24.
It provides things such as individual counseling, life skills workshops and job training, support groups and more. Each resident is assigned a life skills counselor and gets their own room in a house with an advocate with extensive experience with housing and LGBT youth issues.
Due to city budget cuts and a recent law which states council members can not get ear marks, the Alston House lost some of its funding.
Dyer is returning to the queen scene with his drag persona, Cookie Buffet, after making only a few appearances in the past four years while working for the mayor.
Joining Cookie at Town (2009 8th St., N.W.) will be Special Agent Galactica, Van Cartier Couture, reigning Miss Gay Baltimore, Heliconica Pink and Stevie Starfyre.
The show will be hosted and emceed by Miss Lena Lett.
Dyer, who is also the facilitator of the Alston House community advisory committee, said some other performers may be added, but nothing had been confirmed with them as of Monday afternoon.
There is a major difference between this show and most other drag shows. All the performers will be singing live.
“I’ve always wanted to do a drag show where all the queens sung live,” says Dyer, who self classifies his singing as a “talented amateur” and has previously sung live as part of his performances with the group, Crack. “There’s a certain fun in singing live.”
There are not too many drag queens who sing live as part of their regular performances, Dyer only able to come up with Ella Fitzgerald, who performs at Ziegfeld’s.
The songs performed will be eclectic for sure, ranging from the Violent Femmes to “Annie Get Your Gun.”
Jeffrey Johnson, who performs as the pink-haired Galactica, had recently begun singing live prior to this event, including his first live showing at this year’s Pride festival.
He says there are different demands to singing live than there are to lip syncing. When lip syncing, a performer has to match the energy and intensity of the pre-recorded song.
“When singing live … you’re actually using your own lungs and vocal power to be able to perform,” says Johnson. “If I woke up one day and I had a cold … sore throat …. that’ll affect your singing voice.”
Johnson recently performed at Black Fox Lounge and with the live singing, his musical director, known as Captain Satellite, and a band known as the Escape Pods, he’s able to give a little more of a back story to Galatica, comparing it to cabarets where the singer talks about themselves to transition from song to song.
Johnson, who used to run Ganymede, a gay and lesbian theater company, thinks it’s important to support many gay issues and if someone is going to be out there, it not be a selfish thing.
“It’s important to use your talent, use your time, use your energy, to support various causes,” says Johnson. “I’m pleased that they thought about me and asked me.”
After this benefit, Galatica can be seen on July 15 for a free show at ACKC Cocoa Bar.
Also performing will be singers from the Gay Men’s Chorus, but Dyer emphasizes that the Chorus is not performing, just individuals who happen to be members.
Tickets are $10 and all proceeds, including tips given to the performers, will go to the Alston House.
“It’s so important to raise money for the Wanda Alston House,” says Dyer, adding that while he always says he’d like to raise $2.3 million, realistically, the goal for the evening is anywhere between $5,000 to $15,000.
Dyers says that already at least 30 youth have stayed in the Alston House and gone on to getting jobs and their own housing and that the house has exceeded its expectations, thinking youth would need to stay there longer than many have.
According to a report released by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, entitled “LGBT youth: An epidemic of homelessness,” the US Department of Health and Human Services estimates the number of homeless and runaway youth to range from 575,000 to 1.6 million per year.
The Task Force estimates 20 to 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as LGBT.
In one study the Task Force looked at for their report, 26 percent of gay teens who came out to their parents or guardians were told they must leave home.
Homeless LGBT youth are more likely to use drugs, participate in sex work and attempt suicide. LGBT youth have also reported they are threatened, belittled and abused at shelters not catered to LGBT residents by the staff and other residents.
This is the fifth Wig Aid show Dyer has organized. The previous shows helped benefit SYMAL, Youth Pride and a crystal meth campaign. But they did not feature live singing.
For more information on the Wanda Alston House and Transgender Health Empowerment, visit their websites at wandaalstonhouse.org and theindc.org.
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