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Drag star Vicki Voxx dies at 53

Vincent Hill worked as makeup artist for Arena Stage

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Vicki Voxx, gay news, Washington Blade
Vicki Voxx, gay news, Washington Blade

Vincent Hill, who performed under the stage name Vicki Voxx, died May 1 of cancer.

Vincent Hill, a highly regarded wig and makeup artist at D.C.’s Arena Stage Theater and a longtime local drag entertainer who used the stage name Vicki Voxx, died May 1 at George Washington University Hospital of complications associated with cancer. He was 53.

Friends and associates describe Hill as a loving and caring person who seamlessly carried out his dual role as a popular and sought after drag performer at D.C. gay bars since the 1980s and his work since 2010 in helping to enhance the appearance of cast members at Arena Stage.

“If you have seen almost any Arena Stage show in recent years, then you have seen his outstanding work as our Wig, Hair and Makeup Supervisor,” a statement posted on the Arena Stage website says.

“Everyone who knew him, had the privilege to work with him, or were blessed enough to call him a friend will miss him terribly,” the statement says. “Vincent was an important part of the Arena Stage family whose kindness, caring attention, and talent as an artist and performer were at the core of what makes Arena what it is.”

Jazz musician Aaron Myers, who met Hill about seven years ago shortly after moving to D.C., said Hill’s warm and friendly demeanor and sincere interest in those he knew made it easy for the two to become close friends.

Myers said Hill was born and raised in D.C. and attended the city’s H.D. Woodson High School.

He said he came to learn that Hill’s persona as Vicki Voxx had long ago become a legend in D.C.’s drag community. In addition to establishing close ties to fellow drag performers, including Ella Fitzgerald, Kristina Kelly, and the late Mame Dennis, Hill was among the drag performers who supported community causes.

“At the time of the ‘80s and early ‘90s it was the drag community that was helping to raise money for those who were dying of HIV/AIDS and who needed assistance,” Myers said. “And they would do these shows all over raising money for the cause when the federal government had not yet designed a system to offer assistance.”

Vicki Voxx played an important part in those fundraising efforts, Myers said.

Kelly said Hill became part of the D.C. area drag community more than 30 years ago.

“We became friends quite some time ago,” said Kelly. “You know, the drag family sometimes is the only family some people have. We latch onto each other because this world is sometimes very difficult,” she said.

“He was a very good person. He did hair and wigs for a lot of the people in our community,” Kelly said. “He helped everyone.”

Myers said he was moved by Hill’s positive attitude when he visited him in the hospital about a week before his passing.

“He was asking me how I was doing,” said Myers. “He told me that he was not afraid to die. He was fearless until the end.”

But Myers said Hill told him something a while ago while the two were watching a drag show that he’ll never forget. Myers noted Hill pointed out that the drag performers, who were considerably younger than him, were not moving within the spotlight that was directed onto the stage.

“He said they’re dancing but they’re not dancing in their light,” Myers recounted. “He said if you can follow where the light is you can really, really touch this entire room. He said they’re really all over the place but if they can get into that light they’ll be OK.”

Added Myers, “And I think that’s what he’s done now. He’s found a new light and he’s sticking with it. I’m seeing all of the outpouring of love on his Facebook page. I can only see how he’s affected and left a legacy of love that really spans the United States and the world.”

Friends said they expect information about a celebration of life or memorial service to be announced shortly.

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Delaware

Flight attendants union endorses Sarah McBride

Del. lawmaker would be first transgender member of Congress

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Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride speaks at the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in D.C. on April 10, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Delaware congressional candidate Sarah McBride has earned the support of the Association of Flight Attendants, the nation’s most prominent flight attendant union.

It’s the second big labor endorsement for McBride after the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27’s endorsement. The Association of Flight Attendants praised her for spearheading efforts to bring paid family and medical leave to Delaware, which will take effect in 2026. 

“Sarah’s record in the Delaware Senate shows that she understands how to work collaboratively, build power and make big things happen,” the union’s president, Sara Nelson, wrote in a press release shared exclusively with the Washington Blade. “That’s the kind of leader we need in Congress, and we’re proud to endorse her candidacy.”

McBride also announced her support for creating a list of abusive passengers and banning them from flying. Each airline has a list of passengers banned from flying, but airlines don’t share the lists with each other, though Delta Air Lines has asked them, because of “legal and operational challenges,” as a representative for the airline industry trade group Airlines of America told a House committee in September 2021.

“Right now, someone can be violent towards a flight attendant or another passenger and walk directly off of that flight and onto one with a different airline to endanger more people,” an Association of Flight Attendants spokesperson wrote in a statement. 

The Protection from Abusive Passengers Act would put the Transportation Security Administration in charge of building the database of passengers fined or convicted of abuse and has bipartisan support but has sat idly in committee since March. It failed to pass last year, and civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have charged that the list would disproportionately target people of color and strip and a better step to reducing hostility would be making flights more comfortable. Reports of defiant and unruly passengers have more than doubled between 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2022.

“I thank the Association of Flight Attendants for endorsing our campaign,” McBride wrote in the press release. “It’s important that we recognize and celebrate the symbiotic relationship between strong, unionized workforces and the continued growth of employers here in our state.”

The union representing 50,000 flight attendants across 19 airlines is putting pressure on airlines to grant union demands in contract negotiations. At American Airlines, unionized flight attendants voted to authorize a strike — putting pressure on the airline to accede to its demands. Flight attendants at Alaska Airlines say they are ready to strike but have not voted to authorize one yet. United Airlines flight attendants picketed at 19 airports around the country in August, ratcheting up the pressure. 

The union’s endorsement adds to a growing list of McBride endorsements, including 21 Delaware legislators, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Human Rights Campaign, EMILY’s List, and Delaware Stonewall PAC. McBride, who would be the first openly transgender politician in Congress, has powerful connections in Washington — including with the White House — and is favored to win Delaware’s lone House seat. 

A poll commissioned by HRC shows her leading the pack of three candidates vying for the seat — 44 percent of “likely Democratic voters” told pollster company Change Research, which works with liberal organizations. The poll of 531 likely Delaware Democratic primary voters, though, was conducted only online — meaning those with less familiarity or access to the internet may not have been counted — and Change Research’s methodology for screening likely voters is unclear. The company also did not provide a breakdown of respondents by age, gender, and race, but says it uses an algorithm to make the results representative.  

Nelson said McBride’s time in Delaware’s state Senate shows her prowess in building power and working collaboratively.  

“That’s the kind of leader we need in Congress, and we’re proud to endorse her candidacy,” she wrote.

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Virginia

Lawsuit seeks to force Virginia Beach schools to implement state guidelines for trans, nonbinary students

Va. Department of Education released new regulations in July

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(Bigstock photo)

Two parents in Virginia Beach have filed a lawsuit that seeks to force the city’s school district to implement the state’s new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

NBC Washington on Friday reported Cooper and Kirk, a D.C.-based law firm, filed the lawsuit in Virginia Beach Circuit Court.

The Virginia Department of Education in July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement them. 

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Local

HME Consulting and Advocacy stands on frontline of LGBTQ policy

Heidi Ellis is a consultant who doesn’t take clients ‘not aligned with my mission’

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‘Even though I am a private consultant … my work is very much mission driven,’ says Heidi Ellis. (Photo courtesy of Ellis)

September is here, which means Congress and the D.C. Council return from their August recess and life for consultant Heidi Ellis quickly gets busy. 

Her days are filled with negotiating with Council members, phone calls with clients, and policy planning for advocacy groups. The organizations she represents are looking to her to help them push policy and she hopes to guide them to victory. 

Ellis’s company, HME Consulting and Advocacy, came after years of working in the public and private sectors as a consultant. In 2019, Ellis decided to shift her focus to work that stood at the center of the intersections in which she lives. She sought to figure out how she could better serve her community as a Black queer Latino woman. Ellis recognized that there was a niche for mission-driven consulting in the District. 

“I was sought out and recruited by a lot of organizations that wanted me and I took a beat, because I was like ‘Do I want to go back into a machine where even if I do effect change, I have to answer to someone?’”she said, in reference to consulting agencies that were in pursuit of her talent. Ultimately, she decided against continuing her work under another company. “By doing what I do, I have much more flexibility for one to say ‘Yes’ but also to say ‘No’.”

Although Ellis has considered going back to working in the corporate space, she still loves the flexibility of being able to be nimble as a private consultant. 

Although Ellis doesn’t work entirely in the advocacy space, her consulting clients still align with her personal values. She joked that she differs strongly from the stereotypical money-driven D.C. consultant who sports Brooks Brothers suits on K Street. 

“Even though I am a private consultant … my work is very much mission driven,” she said. “I don’t take any clients that are not aligned with my mission.”

Her mission is simple, Ellis is “committed to elevating issues that sit at the nexus of education, mental health, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people of color.”

“The more marginalized you are, the more you suffer from the failures of policy and the gaps of service,” she said. 

As a consultant in the advocacy space, Ellis does the behind-the-scenes work for organizations to help correct these policy failures and close the gaps. Whether she is facilitating training for companies to better understand how to serve their LGBTQ communities, or she is on the frontline of education policy changes –– Ellis aims to only do work that she is passionate about.

She said that the balance of her combined passion and level-headedness help her to build trusting relationships with her clients and in the end, “Get stuff  done.”

Since starting her organization, some of her proudest work has been done with the DC LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition. The coalition is made up of more than 30 organizations that aim to advocate for investments and policy changes that affect LGBTQ lives. As a leader of this coalition, her services include policy support, facilitation, training, initiative development and organizational redesign. Since she began leading the coalition, they have raised more than $5 million of investments in LGBTQ programs.

Later this fall, she will work with the DC LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition along with the ANC Rainbow Caucus to convene the first LGBTQ+ Housing Summit from Nov. 29-30.

“The one thing we all recognize is that housing is the common denominator of every other social affliction facing LGBTQ communities,” she said.  

At the summit they will focus on the barriers within the current housing system and explore revitalized approaches to dealing with the current housing market. To pre-register for the event, visit the LGBTQ+ Housing Summit website.

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