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The skinny on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’

Mystique on being voted off Logo’s hit show and the need for ‘big girl’ role models

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Mystique Summers Madison from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” whose real name is Donté Sims, competed for top queen in season two of the Logo reality series but was eliminated in the third episode.

This self-proclaimed “pageant queen” from Bedford, Texas wants you to know that big girls can do everything skinny girls can and she recently made a stop in Washington, D.C. to prove it. A curvaceous beauty, Mystique Summers Madison brought her own brand of “charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent” and left an impression on many of the viewers that the most important part of being a performer is to stay true to one’s self. The Washington Blade talked to Mystique about RuPaul’s show, her competitors and how it feels to represent “big girls” everywhere.

Washington Blade: How did Donté Sims, aka Mystique Summers Madison, land a spot on “RuPaul’s Drag Race”?

Mystique: I had been doing drag for five years and there was a casting call in Dallas for the first season but I decided to wait and see what the show was all about. Then, when there was a casting call for the second season, I went for it and submitted my paperwork and video and they got back to me about two months later.

Blade: Two months is a long time to wait, what was the next step in the process?

Mystique: Well … all applicants need to have a psychological evaluation before they would cast you.

Blade: What exactly was involved with that? What did they ask you to get evaluated for?

Mystique: [Laughs] Well, I had to sit down with a psychologist and I guess I got the seal of approval. Although, [laughs] I still don’t understand how I managed to get it.

Blade: What was it like meeting the other contestants for the first time?

Mystique: I’m used to Texas pageant drag, which is more makeup and costumes. When I met the rest of the contestants it was more female realness.

Blade: You were eliminated in this season’s third episode, losing to Raven when you had to “Lip sync for your life” to “I Hear You Knockin'” by Wynonna Judd. How do you feel you handled the elimination?

Mystique: After the lip sync, RuPaul needed to think about the decision so she was gone for about 20 minutes and then came back and I was the one to go. Honestly, it was [like] a big sigh of relief because I was able to get back to real life and communicating with the real world.

Blade: Things got pretty heated with a few of the contestants prior to your elimination. At one point it looked like the wigs were going to come off and punches thrown. Let’s talk for a minute about your “I’m from Chicago!” interaction with fellow contestant Morgan McMichaels, as seen via “RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked.” Was it as confrontational as the cameras made it appear?

Mystique: It was actually worse than the viewers saw! The camera crews missed a lot of it when it was happening but at this point I don’t have any issues about it.

Blade: After your elimination, who were you pulling for to win?

Mystique: Well the person I wanted to win was already eliminated — Pandora Boxx. I really feel Pandora should have stayed but you never really know what the judges were looking for or wanted.

Blade: Casting calls have begun for the third season and it looks like several of D.C.’s drag performers are submitting tapes. What is your advice to applicants?

Mystique: The best advice I can give would be to stay true to yourself. Go on the show as “you” and leave the same way because you shouldn’t change who you are to try and win a competition.

Blade: The first season of “Drag Race” didn’t include the “Untucked,” behind-the-scenes show. Do you feel this was a good addition to your season?

Mystique: I think they came up with the idea of “Untucked” to show how catty things behind the scenes really were. I know it was brought on for my season but I don’t know if it will be brought on for the next one. They cast such strong personalities this season so they kind of knew there would be drama and wanted to catch it on film because they knew it would bring in the viewers.

Blade: There is going to be another spin off show called “RuPaul’s Drag U.” Will you be involved?

Mystique: No, the performers from my season on “Drag U” will be JuJu, Pandora, Raven and Morgan McMichaels.

Blade: Bebe Zahara Benet won the first season yet other performers such as Ongina and Shannel seemed to get more attention. Why do you feel that is?

Mystique: Well the winner really is under lock and key and has to do what the show says. It’s almost better not to win because then you can travel and get booked and just do your own thing.

Blade: How much of what the audience saw was spin created by the producers?

Mystique: There is a lot of editing of course. It’s sometimes two or three days of footage condensed down to one hour. So when it was edited, the storylines can be skewed to make the story smoother.

Blade: How much do the contestants actually interact with RuPaul?

Mystique: The amount of interaction the viewers see on TV is about how much we actually interacted with Ru.

Blade: You said on the show that you represented all the “big girls” out there. Do you feel there is a stigma attached to the full-figured drag performers?

Mystique: Well, I went on the show just as myself and I was classified as representing the “big girls” because I said it once and it just caught on. I received a lot of e-mails and Facebook messages from different people thanking me for showing that the big girls can be sexy and that it took a lot of courage to compete against the skinny girls. If I’m helping other people out there then I think that’s great.

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Real Estate

Helpful tips for homebuyers in seller’s market

2021 has been a great year for home sales

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COVID-19 housing market, gay news, Washington Blade

Without question, 2021 was a great year for home sales. Sellers across the country, in many cases, found themselves listing their homes and quickly having not just one, but multiple offers, many of which were at asking price or above. With limited inventory and high demand, it has been an ideal year to sell—and conversely, often a difficult year to buy. Buyers who are interested in a particular home, or even in a specific neighborhood, often find themselves facing stiff competition to have offers accepted. 

Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that many buyers haven’t had successful and rewarding home buying experiences—just that doing so often means making an extra effort and taking helpful steps to make an offer the most competitive that it can be. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few helpful tips for buyers in a seller’s market:

  • Plan ahead with mortgage pre-approval: While there are certainly a wide variety of strategies that real estate agents and financial advisors may recommend, and while those strategies might vary depending upon the buyer and the circumstances of a particular market, one thing almost all experts agree on is that obtaining a mortgage preapproval is a smart decision. A mortgage preapproval is an ideal way to reassure sellers that a reputable lender has verified your credit and approved your buying power up to a certain limit. If you’re caught in a bidding war with another potential buyer, having preapproval establishing that you are ready, willing, and able to buy just might give you the advantage you need in a competitive market.
  • Be willing to look under budget so you can bid higher: In this highly competitive market, many home buyers find themselves in a situation where they are in a bidding war with another—or even several other—buyers. In that situation, you may find yourself having to make an offer at, or even in many cases, above, the asking price. This means that you may want to adjust your budget—and bidding—accordingly. Choosing to make an offer on a home that has an asking price that is already at the top of your budget may mean that you simply don’t have much wiggle room when it comes to making an offer over that price. Choosing a home slightly under the top of your budget means you’ll have more flexibility to make a bid that is more competitive and likely to be accepted.
  • Consider offering non-price-oriented incentives: Without question, making a highly competitive offer is going to be the key to increasing your chances of having that offer accepted. It’s important to remember that there is more to an offer than just price, however. Buyers may want to consider increasing the appeal of an offer by supplementing it with other incentives beyond just the dollar amount itself. Examples of such incentives might include things like foregoing the seller-paid home warranty that is often offered as part of the process, offering a shorter closing period, not making the purchase contingent upon the sale of a currently-owned home, or other such incentives. Doing so may give you the edge you need to have your offer selected over other competitive bids.
  • Retain the right real estate agent: Often, for LGBTQ buyers, especially in a competitive market, this piece of the puzzle is particularly important. In many, although certainly not all, cases LGBTQ buyers are drawn to specific areas of a city or community where other LGBTQ individuals live. That means that in a market where inventory is already limited and going quickly, there can be even fewer homes available upon which to bid. When that is the case, you will need a real estate agent who knows the community that you’re interested in, and who can quickly help you identify and take action toward making offers on homes that fit your needs. Having the right agent can make all the difference between a smooth and successful home-buying experience, and a stressful one

Jeff Hammerberg (he/him/his) is the Founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at 303-378-5526, [email protected] or GayRealEstate.com

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Dining

Jane Jane brings throwback joy to busy 14th Street

Cocktail bar characterized by warm Southern hospitality

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(Photo courtesy of Deney Lam)

There is no standing at Jane Jane, the new classic cocktail bar in the heart of 14th Street. Its 850 square feet is for sitting and savoring, drinking in the relaxed retro vibe and the thoughtful craft cocktails. 

At the foot of the mixed-use Liz development where Whitman-Walker is the major tenant, Jane Jane’s creative use of a shoebox-sized space brings throwback joy to a busy thoroughfare. 

In the pre-COVID days of 2019, Whitman-Walker approached the Jane Jane owners, hospitality veterans Jean Paul (JP) Sabatier, Ralph Brabham and Drew Porterfield, all gay men, to make good use of the vacant parcel, and ensure it would be run by LGBTQ entrepreneurs. “It required some gymnastics because of the layout,” says Brabham, “but we came up with this cozy classic cocktail concept.” 

The hangout spot is an effort by the trio to “celebrate hospitality. We want everyone who walks into the space to feel like friends of ours we are having over for drinks or a bite. Its a cocktail party in our home,” he says. They felt connected to the idea of a tiny bar—a space where they would want to have a drink.

Named for Brabham’s mother, Jane Jane is as alluring and lively as it is intimate, each detail in the experience characterized by warm Southern hospitality—right from the bowl of spiced nuts that swiftly appear at each table at the beginning of service.

Sabatier, who has held stints at D.C. institutions like Rappahannock Oyster Bar, Maydan, and Compass Rose, oversees the bar and cocktail program, organized by spirit. (For their part, Brabham and Porterfield, romantic partners, also act as co-owners of Beau Thai and BKK Cookshop; Porterfield is also the current Curator and Director of Long View Gallery in Shaw.)

Sabatier has presented classic cocktails with a few noteworthy nods to current zeitgeist, as imagined by his lengthy experience behind the bar. The booklet-like menu includes a broad selection of familiar favorites like a Negroni, Manhattan, martini, but also features Sabatier’s handpicked favorite classics like the Boulevardier (a whiskey Negroni), Last Word (gin married to herbaceous green chartreuse) and Air Mail (rum, honey and cava). Drinks fall in the $13-$16 range; a “Golden Hour” runs daily until 7 p.m. featuring beer and wine specials and a punch of the day. 

Sabatier’s creative juices flow on the first page through cocktails like the vividly named Tears at an Orgy, with brandy, orange and maraschino, as well as the best-selling, highly Instagrammable Crop Top, a gin cocktail with a red-wine floater—and a name that matches the look of the bi-color drink. “It’s fun, delicious, and speaks to the space,” says Sabatier. He notes that their vodka of choice comes from Civic, a local, women- and LGBTQ-owned distillery.

Sabatier, a classically trained chef and Culinary Institute of America graduate, also oversees the small selection of bar bites (the space has no kitchen, part of the required “gymnastics” to make it functional.)

Beyond the complimentary vessel of rosemary-flecked mixed nuts, other bar snacks run from pickled vegetables to a Southern-style Pimento cheese dip and an onion dip creamy enough to make your grandmother blush. The “Jane’s Caviar” dish is a spread of trout roe and crème fraiche and comes with a towering mound of shatteringly crisp chips. A weekend brunch is in the works, which will serve goodies from local bakeries.

The retro-style interior recalls both California and the South, with only 32 seats inside and a 14-seat patio. Cozy booths done up in a hunter green as warm and inviting as a cool aunt are slung below walnut-wood walls and bar. Bright patterned tiles run the length of the floor; the back wall has playful cocktail wallpaper. A charming needlepoint by the restrooms kindly requests of guests, “please don’t do coke in the bathroom.”

The owners note that while Jane Jane is not explicitly a gay bar, its location in a traditionally gay-welcoming institution means that it has LGBTQ in its bones.

“Supporting LGBTQ people, businesses, and causes has been in Jane Jane’s ownership’s DNA at every establishment at which they have been involved,” they say, having supported local LGBTQ+ organizations like Casa Ruby, Victory Fund, SMYAL and the Human Rights Campaign, among others. 

Porterfield says that they were surprised that, given the locale, people assumed Jane Jane was a gay bar. “It’s not a gay or straight bar, just a fantastic cocktail bar that welcomes anyone to hang out with us,” he says. 

Nevertheless, the owners have taken into consideration the significance of being in the Liz development, as both gay men and as part of the hospitality industry. “It highlights the lack of representation as gay owners in this bar and restaurant world,” says Porterfield. They note the lack of women, LGBTQ and BIPOC representation. 

“It’s very special to us that we opened in this space,” says Porterfield, “so we want to show that we have opened a place that is all about inclusivity.”

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Autos

One lean, mean green machine

New Ford Mustang Mach-E is electrifying

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(Photo courtesy of Ford)

Here’s a shocker: Electric vehicles have been around for over 180 years. By the time of the first Hershey bar in 1900, EVs had hit their own sweet spot—surging to almost 30 percent of all vehicles sold in the U.S. But when Henry Ford began to produce cars on his moving assembly line in 1913, the popularity of the gas-powered Model T soon short-circuited EV sales. Cue to a century later, when the debut of the all-electric Nissan Leaf in 2010 sent a jolt through the auto industry. Yet it would take another decade to get drivers charged up about anything other than gas-powered rides. Today, it’s hard to keep track of all the EVs out there, along with other green machines like hybrids. While the current microchip shortage has slowed or stopped production on many cars for now, I was lucky enough to drive the all-new, all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E. The experience was, well, truly electrifying.

Ford Mustang Mach-E
$47,000
Range: up to 305 miles
0 to 60 mph: 4.2 seconds

When the Ford Mustang Mach-E was first announced, many auto aficionados were left scratching their heads. After all, a Mustang is one of the most iconic muscle cars ever created, and the Mach-E designation sounds suspiciously like the “Mach-1” branding used on flashy high-performance Stangs. Yet this new Mustang is a crossover SUV—and an electric one to boot. While the initial designs were captivating, plenty of skeptics remained. Luckily, they needn’t have worried. I was mesmerized the moment the Mach-E arrived, eager to run my hand along its sinewy side panels and strapping rear end. To keep the design as aerodynamic as possible, there are no traditional door handles. Instead, you use the key fob, your smartphone or a push button on the window frame to pop open the door. 

On the inside, there’s a small latch in the armrest versus the typical door handle. Such design elements are not only aesthetically pleasing, they also save space and reduce weight. Other novelties: This is the first Ford vehicle to use recycled animal-free fabrics, as well as a vegan steering wheel that’s as durable as leather. On the space-age dashboard, the premium Bang & Olufsen speakers are concealed beneath fabric covers that mimic the look of pricey home-theater speakers. And the unique design of the quiet cabin allows for a subwoofer that is 50 percent lighter than usual, yet still retains a deep rich clarity. As for the gigantic 15.5-inch vertical touchscreen in the center of the dash, it resembles a sort of funky oversized iPad from “The Orville.” Along with large climate controls for easier viewing, the touchscreen has interactive maps to locate the nearest charging stations. Those maps came in handy during two weekend trips, as did the heavily bolstered seats that helped prevent driver fatigue but also were easy on the tush. In total, there are five Mach-E trim levels, each with differing configurations for power and range (the distance you can travel on a full charge). 

While even the base-model Mach-E is fast and lively, it’s the high-test GT version that strikes like a thunder bolt. Rocketing from 0 to 60 seconds in just 3.8 seconds, the Mach-E GT is quicker than a Toyota Supra super coupe. And thanks to lower-than-expected ground clearance and a superb suspension, the Mach-E is just as agile. Those grippy regenerative brakes help, of course, allowing you to speed up or slow down using only the accelerator pedal. 

It’s worth noting there are other EVs in the Ford stable, including the electric F-150 Lightning full-size pickup, the E-Transit commercial van and various green machines on the way. By 2030, Ford is aiming for 40 percent of its global sales to be EVs. That’s a great goal for a company that once helped pull the plug on the “electric horseless carriage” but today is leading the charge with its own cutting-edge EVs.

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