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Show time for Shi-Queeta

Local drag whirlwind celebrates one year of success at Howard



Shi-Queeta Lee, drag, drag queen, gay news, Washington Blade, Howard Theatre, Drag Salute to the Divas
Shi-Queeta-Lee, drag, Drag Salute to the Divas, Howard Theatre, gay news, Washington Blade

Cast members of the upcoming Howard Theatre show surround Shi-Queeta-Lee. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

‘Drag Salute to the Divas’
‘Waiting to Exhale/Steel Magnolias’ mash-up
Howard Theatre
620 T St., N.W.
8 p.m. (doors at 6)
$20 in advance; $25 at door

Washington is fortunate to have an outstanding drag scene with performers at several of the area’s gay clubs. The Howard Theatre’s “Drag Salute to the Divas” bolsters this performance art to the level of a full-scale stage production.

“I’m elevating the drag community here to take it to the next level at the Howard Theatre,” Shi-Queeta-Lee, local celebrity drag queen and director of “Salute,” says. “It’s a venue that gives much more space and opportunity to flaunt our talent — much more stage production, with background dancers. It gives us a chance to have props and dancers and make a bigger production.”

The Howard has hosted seven of the “Drag Salute to the Divas” shows, and they have all sold out. The upcoming performance on Monday night is the one-year anniversary show, and is a mash-up musical of “Steel Magnolias” and “Waiting to Exhale.”

Howard Theatre, gay news, Washington Blade

The Howard Theatre (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Prior to the 1968 riots in D.C., the Howard Theatre was a regal, prestigious institution for black performers, including many of the greats like Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. The Howard also hosted a number of drag performers, so “Drag Salute to the Divas” marks the return of this tradition to the newly renovated space.

“They had drag there during the 1950s. I’m the first drag queen to bring back drag to the Howard. Some older people have told me, ‘Oh I used to see drag there,’” Shi-Queeta says. “They mostly just remember that the queens were larger than life and would sing live. I’ve been researching people, trying to find pictures. I found one individual, who was a drag performer (named) ‘Running Water.’”

Shi-Queeta has had difficulty finding much concrete information on The Howard’s past drag performers, especially since Running Water’s death last year.

Shi-Queeta, aka Jerry VanHook, mainly uses her own income from doing drag to budget the show. She’s had an impressive career with frequent live performances at local clubs like Town and Nellie’s Sports Bar, as well as television appearances on “Ugly Betty,” “The Wire” and “America’s Got Talent.”

The production scale of “Salute” is affordable but professional, utilizing the Howard Theatre’s giant television screen to embellish the sets with visual art.

“She does a fabulous job of bringing in a very loyal following. Her productions are always elaborate,” Jennifer Vinson, director of marketing at The Howard, says. “For the last show, ‘The Wiz Twisted,’ she bought and installed a yellow brick road. Toto was hot pink and purple — it was just amazing.”

In addition to great sets, Shi-Queeta has celebrity performers to bring some extra star power to the show. She attributes many of her celebrity connections to her past television appearances and work as a coordinator for Miss America pageants in Maryland, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Broadway veteran Sheryl Lee Ralph was in “The Wiz Twisted” with her.

“I had such a wonderful time working with Shi-Queeta-Lee,” Ralph says. “The two of us Lees turned Oz and ‘The Wiz’ inside out. Can’t wait to do the next show.”

Shi-Queeta met Ralph after she was cast on the TV One show “R&B Divas.” Ralph, who starred on the show, has been active in HIV/AIDS outreach through the organization “Divas Simply Singing,” and was impressed by Shi-Queeta’s own HIV/AIDS activism.

“”Divas Simply Singing” has different celebrities come in and perform to raise money for HIV/AIDS. With me being HIV-positive, [Sheryl] said she would be part of ‘The Wiz’ with me at The Howard,” Shi-Queeta says. “I was involved with the ‘Makes Us Stronger’ organization for HIV/AIDS, so she liked what I was doing for the community.”

Shi-Queeta-Lee, drag, Drag Salute to the Divas, Howard Theatre, gay news, Washington Blade

Porcelin St. Clair (left) and Shi-Queeta-Lee (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Despite Shi-Queeta’s celebrity connections, she laments that she has never been a contestant on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” In fact, no D.C. drag queen has ever been on the show, no matter how flourishing the drag scene is here.

“There are so many talented individuals in D.C. I’ve tried out five times. I don’t understand what it is about our drag here that isn’t popular with them.” Shi-Queeta says. “With so many of the people being cast from L.A., I think they just don’t want to spend the money to send people over.”

Shi-Queeta says her productions are bridge builders between various drag factions here.

“We’re no different than other cities, we’re just more divided than other cities. We have the white drag shows, black drag shows, transsexual shows,” Shi-Queeta says. “What I’m doing with the shows at the Howard is reaching out to the different girls in the community, that’s my goal. I’m trying to build the bridge between the different drag communities here in D.C.”

During its first year, Shi-Queeta’s show has saluted a wide array of divas from many eras, encouraging involvement from all kinds of drag queens. The divas impersonated include Cher, Lauryn Hill, Patti LaBelle, Dolly Parton, Erykah Badu, Missy Elliot, Beyoncé, Toni Braxton and Diana Ross. Shi-Queeta herself specializes in impersonating Tina Turner, but also has fun doing Mary J. Blige, Rihanna and Whitney Houston.

Other local drag queens have applauded “Drag Salute to the Divas” and Shi-Queeta Lee’s work ethic, including Ba’Naka Deveraux, who regularly performs at Cobalt and Town. Ba’Naka, also known as Dustin Schaad, had to withdraw from performing as Adele in one of the past productions, but hopes to perform with Shi-Queeta at The Howard sometime in the future.

“Shi-Queeta puts her all into everything she does, to the point of exhaustion at times. I think her pure will and tenacity is what really drives the shows,” Ba’Naka says. “I give Shi-Queeta a lot of props for creating venues and places for drag queens to entertain; she opens up the door for other girls to work with her. I think it’s really awesome that she not only looks out for herself but also for her community. She’s always doing something charitable.”

Correction — An earlier version of this story should have said that Sheryl Lee Ralph will not be in the “Steel Magnolias”/”Waiting to Exhale” mash-up. The Blade regrets the error. 

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Real Estate

Is cash always king?

How to stay competitive in the face of all-cash offers



With more all-cash offers these days, there are still ways to stay competitive if you need a mortgage.

One of the frequently asked questions I get as a real estate agent serving the DC Metro area and Delaware beaches is: How can I be competitive in a market that is seeing an increase in all-cash offers? 

I get it, the real estate market is super competitive, but it’s not just because of the low inventory, it’s also because of the cash offers sellers are seeing.

Money is money right? Why would a seller be inclined to take a lower all-cash offer versus a higher offer with a mortgage. Let’s break it down a bit. 

An all-cash offer usually comes with very limited contingencies in addition to the more important piece, which is the timing. A cash sale can close in less than a week whereas a sale with a conventional mortgage can usually only be expedited to a 21-day close. Don’t lose hope! There are still a few ways you can have a competitive edge over cash offers with a few steps your agent can advise you through:

OFFER CASH – THEN ACQUIRE FINANCING: If the stars align and you are purchasing a home that the sellers currently reside in, you can expect that they will need some time to gather their items and move — they also have to gather their great great grandmother’s wedding dress and Uncle Fester’s golf clubs that they just HAVE to keep. This will allow you time to go the conventional mortgage route. Please note that this is a very detailed alteration and it is recommended fully that you speak with your real estate agent prior to doing this to ensure that you are fully educated with the pros and cons of this method and what is at risk. The biggest item to highlight is that a mortgage comes with the infamous appraisal. The appeal of an all-cash offer is that there is no appraisal. With a mortgage an appraisal is required. If the appraisal comes in low, you will need to be ready to come to the table with the difference in appraised value – in cash. For example: Appraised value is $100,000 and you are under contract for $200,000 – that is a delta of $100,000, which you will need to come up with in cash in order to continue with the transaction, separate from any other monies you have already placed down.

OFFER $$$ OVER LOW APPRAISAL: Following up on the appraisal aspect here – you can write a contract with financing in place from the onset and provide an addendum that you will pay the difference in low appraisal (referencing the example above) or you can offer an alternative that would be to pay up to XX over a low appraisal. In this example of paying a dollar amount over a low appraisal, you write into the contract that you are going to offer $50,000 over the appraisal if it is a low appraisal. So if the contract price is $150,000 and you offer to pay $25,000 over a low appraisal value and the property is valued with appraisal at $125k then you would have to pay a total of $150k for the home and that $25k difference would, again, need to be in cash. This allows a bit of leverage with lower cash amounts on hand – but again similar to the example of acquiring financing above, the sellers must allow for the timing of a mortgage application process to occur.

GIFTS FROM FAMILY: What is family for if it isn’t for providing you large sums of cash!? In all seriousness – this is a fully accepted method of cash funds. You will want to speak to a financial planner/tax individual to fully understand tax implications for both parties (giftor and giftee) to fully understand what this means, but there is always the ability to be gifted funds from parents, aunts, uncles etc., to ensure that you are liquid and can purchase the property of your dreams.

OFFER “RENT BACK” TO SELLERS: Following the guise that the sellers must find a property to purchase or perhaps they are moving across the country and need a month or two in order to get their affairs in order. This allows you to provide a “rent back” to the sellers and basically become their landlord. In this scenario you would typically charge them rent, which would be equal to your carrying costs for your home expenses. For the purposes of being competitive in this market, you can offer a “rent FREE rent back” where you afford them the ability to sell the home to you and they still reside in the home for an established time post closing at no cost to them. This sounds silly — why would you let someone stay in your new home rent free for two months when that means that you are paying for your mortgage and other expenses in addition to rent for an apartment or maybe shacking up with mom and dad again? 

It’s important to remember that in order to get a property in this market there is the need to think creatively if you don’t have all the cash in the world — you can still be VERY competitive.

Justin Noble is a Realtor with Sotheby’s international Realty licensed in D.C., Maryland, and Delaware for your DMV and Delaware Beach needs. Specializing in first-time homebuyers, development and new construction as well as estate sales, Justin is a well-versed agent, highly regarded, and provides white glove service at every price point. Reach him at 202-503-4243, [email protected] or

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Real Estate

Leather and lace in your home decor

From couches to countertops, add some flair



Leather isn’t just for couches anymore; you can find it in countertops and a wide range of décor.

When I was very young, I would visit my maternal grandmother and marvel at the hand-tatted and crocheted doilies that adorned the arms and backs of her sofa and chairs. They were also found on her dressers and side tables, and on the dining table as coasters and placemats, to prevent scratches on the furniture. Like snowflakes, the designs of the doilies were both intricate and individual.

I’m convinced that people had better posture in the early 20th century, because I never saw the remnants of men’s hair tonic, Macassar oil, or pomade on Nana’s doilies, even though they were there to keep the furniture from absorbing those hair products. Certainly, people weren’t the couch potatoes lounging on sofas then that we are today. Being able to Netflix and chill was a long way off.

I was impressed with the amount of work that had gone into such a little piece of fabric, so I later tried to learn to crochet. Sadly, all I was able to accomplish was string after string, never having been taught how to join those strings together to resemble a doily. At least with knitting, I was able to form squares large enough to be blankets for my Barbie.

In my mid-century childhood, doilies were put away and saved for grandchildren who, years later, would neither want them nor appreciate their historical value. The ‘50s saw polyvinyl chloride (PVC) go from a commercial substance used frequently in post-WWII construction to a residential fabric that we now refer to fondly as “pleather.” I can still remember the sound of my thighs peeling off the vinyl banquette at the diner when I would get up to leave a booth.

To be without a leather couch in the ‘60s was déclassé and, although styles have changed, such a couch remains a timeless piece. These days, if you are looking for a little more leather in your life and in your home, you can look beyond that couch and chair, where options range from the subdued to the highly decorative.

While vinyl is still the least expensive leather-look fabric, we now have “bonded” leather, made with scraps that are bonded together using polyurethane or latex. As you can tell from the prices of such furniture, the actual leather used in the process can vary from 10-90 percent.

Of course, top grain leather is the most expensive, and we have suede, die cut, embossed, patent, and a variety of other techniques used to change the look of a hide. In addition, there is now vegan leather.

For something unique for your kitchen or bar, check out the tooled leather countertop from Kosel Saddlery ( in Montana. They also make saddles and chaps.

Instead of the shiny granite counters that we all know, MSI Surfaces ( makes honed and leathered granite finishes for a more subtle appearance and has dealers throughout the DMV. 

For a do-it-yourself application, Amazon sells the Aspect brand eight-pack of leather glass, peel and stick subway tiles for backsplashes in five neutral colors for less than $20 each.

EcoDomo ( in Gaithersburg offers a variety of custom leather treatments, including countertops, door and cabinet panels, floor planks and tiles, and wall systems. Your color choices aren’t limited to black or brown either. They can manufacture pieces in blue, red, green, and even in custom colors to match other items in your décor.

Many online stores such as Wayfair and Overstock carry real and faux leather headboards, footstools, poufs and benches at affordable prices. 

There’s always something in leather at Pottery Barn, even for the conservative budget: pieced leather pillows, tufted stools, basket collections, and even a leather-bound coffee table book for cigar aficionados. 

If you’re looking for small accent pieces, try a leather coaster, placemat, napkin ring, or my personal favorite, a cutlery pouch for your tableware collection from Lucrin Geneva ( They also offer office accessories such as crocodile desk sets, wastebaskets and storage boxes.

And for the connoisseur of leather, vinyl, rubber, or even neoprene items of a more personal nature, head to the Capitol Hill Hyatt Regency this Friday through Sunday for Mid-Atlantic Leather weekend. With plenty of specialty items, high-impact fashion, toys and games for all ages and yes, even custom-made furniture among the vendor exhibitions, you’re sure to find something that will tickle your fancy.

Just remember that you (and your puppy) must both be vaccinated and masked to attend. We take COVID (and rabies) very seriously here in D.C.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate.  Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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Winter Restaurant Week a welcome escape from the cold

Enjoy D.C.’s diverse culinary scene at great prices



KNEAD Hospitality + Design’s Gatsby is among the hotspots participating in this year’s RAMW Winter Restaurant Week. (Photo courtesy of KNEAD Hospitality + Design)

Saving Washington, D.C. diners from winter doldrums, RAMW Winter Restaurant Week is back in action. It returns Jan. 17-23 with the motto of “Dine Out. Take Out. Eat Up.”

The city’s signature winter dining event is back as a one-week promotion focused on dining out and tasting the city’s diverse culinary scene. Yet it also is providing diners with newer programs that they have grown to love over the past few cycles. These include the popular “RW-To-Go” takeout dinner meals, outdoor dining spaces, as well as cocktail pairings, allowing diners to take advantage of a range of indoor/outdoor comfort levels and dining opportunities.

Participating restaurants are set to offer multi-course brunch and lunch menus for $25 per person, and multi-course dinner menus for $40 or $55 per person for on-premises dining. Most are offering the traditional three-course meals, while others may include extras.

Many restaurants will also offer the RW-To-Go dinner meals, a program introduced in 2019, available at two price points: $70 or $100 for two people and $140 or $200 for four people.

More than 200 restaurants across the area are participating. 

“Our restaurants have shown resilience, creativity, and perseverance over the past two years, and they continue to count on the amazing support of loyal diners and newcomers through promotions like Restaurant Week,” said RAMW President & CEO Kathy Hollinger. “Designed to get diners out to experience all our great food scene has to offer, we have evolved this turnkey promotion to help meet diners where they are in terms of comfort. With offerings to include RW-To-Go, curbside pickup and delivery, heated patios, cozy igloos and indoor dining, there is truly something for anyone looking to support their favorite spot or try something new.”

New restaurants participating in Winter Restaurant Week include Ala, Bar Chinois, Bistro Du Jour, The Mayflower Club, Officina Cafe, Penny Royal Station, and Urban Roast in the District; Diabolo’s Cantina at MGM and Rosa Mexicano at National Harbor; North Italia Tysons; and the newest The Capital Grille location in Fairfax.

2021 RAMMYS Winners and finalists participating include Convivial, Cranes (also Michelin-starred), Espita, Estadio, iRicchi, and Sababa. 

In the 14th Street and Dupont Circle areas, popular participating restaurants include Agora, Cork, Duke’s, Floriana, and Sushi Taro, among others. 

Winter Restaurant Week also extends beyond core neighborhoods, stretching far past the city’s borders. Areas like Takoma Park and Bethesda in Maryland, and Alexandria and National Landing in Virginia, are also hosting participating restaurants. 

Some spots are offering additional deals, extended timelines, and other options. “I’m excited about the creativity of our local restaurants,” says Hollinger, “with their offers and spaces that give diners great experiences during the promotion, and the flexibility to dine in the way that works for them whether indoor, in heated outdoor dining spaces or at home with our Restaurant Week To-Go program.”

For example, Ambar (both the D.C. and Clarendon locales) will have a $70 seven-course to-go menu for two people. The deal includes a bottle of wine in addition to the food. 

Schlow Restaurant Group has a $40 gift card for more than three meals at any of its restaurants, including NAMA Sushi Bar and TICO in D.C. and Alta Strada Italian Restaurants in D.C. and Fairfax. 

James Beard Award-winning Chef Michael Schlow says, “This is a great way for Restaurant Week diners to experience more of our menu offerings, and perhaps explore some of our restaurants they haven’t tried yet. Plus, with [our] Restaurant Week extended an additional week through Jan. 30, there’s ample time to dine.”

Gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design group is involving all its restaurants in the promotion. The group’s restaurants include Gatsby, Mi Vida, The Grill, and more. Owner Jason Berry notes that he is “excited to participate in this year’s winter restaurant week. Each year Restaurant Week brings new diners to our doors to experience the creativity and talent our staff continues to showcase at our restaurants.”

Recall that the city has reinstated mask mandates for indoor spaces. In addition, On Jan. 15, 2022, per Mayor’s Order 2021-148, the District of Columbia adopts a citywide vaccination entry requirement that requires COVID-19 vaccination to enter indoor facilities within the city. This includes restaurants and bars.

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