Coronation IV: Gala of the Americas
A Reel to Real Celebration
Saturday, Sept. 12
Marriott Metro Center
775 12th St., N.W.
The Imperial Court of Washington is gearing up for its biggest event of the year next weekend.
On Saturday, Sept. 12, the court, part of the International Imperial Court System that was founded in San Francisco in 1965 by the late Jose Sarria, will hold its Coronation IV: Gala of the Americas, which celebrates the current reign of the Emperor and Empress III, Manuel Diego Dennis Alicia and Natasha Jewel Dennis Carrington respectively, and crowns their successors — Emperor DP Diego-Dennis Carrington and Empress Muffy Jaymes Jewel Blake Stephyns. Nicole Murray Ramirez, Queen Mother I of the Americas, is the honored guest and will welcome Imperial Court members and supporters from all over the U.S., Canada and perhaps Mexico.
Several other events are planned while the dignitaries are in town. On Thursday, Sept. 10, an “In Town Show” will be held; on Friday, Sept. 11, the “Crowns on the Town” bar tour will occur; a victory brunch and show will be held on Sunday, Sept. 13. Full details at imperialcourtdc.org. Also on Sept. 11, members will hold a Pentagon memorial tribute from 6-8 p.m. in which flowers will be laid on memorials of those who died in the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The Court exists to raise funds for LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations, social service groups and youth enrichment programs. The Court provides a safe, social environment for people with the same interests. The D.C. chapter is one of 71 courts in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. About 250 attend the D.C. gala each year and it’s open to both court members and non-members. There are about 80 members in the D.C. court, which started in 2011. Members say more than half participate in court events in drag, but not all. Drag queens, drag kings, and non-drag men and women perform in various types of royal attire. The gala is a black-tie event.
The emperor and empress win by running elections. They were announced in late June. Stephyns, this year’s empress, has been involved with the court since 2012 and says it was a natural fit for her.
“I’ve always enjoyed working in the community and using drag as a way to give back, so for me it was a natural fit, Stephyns (aka Daniel Hays) says.
Destiny B. Childs (aka Ric Legg Benavides) was Empress II two years ago and says it’s a demanding job she took very seriously.
“It was humbling and scary and exciting all at the same time,” Childs says. “It’s not a glamorous title, it’s a working title. People hold you in very high esteem and you do nothing but work to raise money all year for your charity organization as you travel all over the country.”
Childs visited Canada, Texas, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Kentucky, New York and more during her reign. Only money raised during the Sunday victory show each year can be used — if the emperor or empress wish — toward travel expenses. Childs got $700 from that event the year she won and says that barely covered one excursion.
“Most of the time we just donate it back to the court,” she says. “I did it because I love and adore the D.C. metro area and I’ve been involved here for over 15 years now. People call me the yes queen because they know if they call and ask me to do something, I’ll say yes.”
This year’s beneficiaries are Rosmy, a Richmond, Va.,-based organization for LGBT youth; the Mautner Project, a lesbian health organization; and the Inova Juniper Program, an HIV/AIDS and primary care provider in Northern Virginia.
Stephyns has already traveled extensively through her work in the court and says she loves it.
“We all have the same central goal of giving back, but when you travel throughout the system, those friendships we make, these are people we never would have known otherwise who become lifelong friends,” she says. “It’s another way to build community.”