Performing as his drag alter ego Chris Monroe, Leon Hargraves, has won so many titles and awards in the Drag Academy of Washington, he eventually removed the engraved plates to keep and gave the trophies themselves back to Academy head Mame Dennis to recycle.
Best Actress in 2002, Miss Gaye Universe in 1998 are just a couple that Hargraves has won as an Academy Member since 1978. Miss Gaye America is one of the few contests he hasn’t won. Coming as close as first runner up in six previous tries, Monroe will try again Saturday. The contest will be held at Town at 4 p.m. (doors open at 3). Admission for Academy members is $15; $20 for guests. Details at thewashingtonacademy.com.
Despite his willingness to recycle, Hargraves says the awards are still special.
“It’s wonderful because these titles aren’t just given out, you have to work and earn them,” he says. “You can’t just come into the Academy and sit there. There’s a job to do and you have to get in line.”
Hargraves started drag in 1970, like many, at Halloween.
“Before I knew it, I was hooked,” he says.
The Waycross, Ga., native came to Washington in 1977 after a 10-year Army career. He retired last year after 42 years working in the Department of Defense.
He now enjoys more free time and says it’s refreshing not to have to “watch the clock.” Hargraves also performs in Tula’s Drag Show at Black Fox Lounge every Sunday night.
Hargraves is single and lives in Alexandria. He enjoys running, working out, movies and — of course — drag in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
Since 1970 and the hardest person to tell was my sister since my parents were both deceased.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
That one is easy — my drag mother, Mame Dennis because she helped start the Academy almost 51 years ago.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Black Fox Lounge
Describe your dream wedding.
Place doesn’t really matter as long as my friends are there and there’s a groom.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Helping senior citizens get out of poverty and immigration laws.
What historical outcome would you change?
The Citizens United ruling.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Being able to do drag the way I want.
On what do you insist?
Treat old people with respect because we will all be there one day.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
Not on Facebook — too much drama.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“The Ups and Downs of Chris Monroe”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
That there is life after death.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Continue to stress the importance of safe-sex practice among young gays because they are our future.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My best friends as well as family.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
How people describe gays in general and that we’re supposedly trying to convert young people into the gay lifestyle.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Feeling guilty for not remembering dates in general and forgetting to send birthday cards.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I have so many but the one that stands out the most is my retirement certificate for years of hard work and dedication.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
To start saving more money toward retirement.
Why not? It’s a beautiful city with so much to do and see.