Capital Pride Concert
Sunday, June 10
Capitol Concert Stage
3rd and Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Asia O’Hara took home the titles for Miss Gay USofA in 2007, All American Goddess 2012 and Miss Gay America 2016 but still had to audition three times to compete for the crown on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Hailing from Dallas, the 35-year-old veteran drag queen has now fought her way to the final five on season 10 of the drag competition show and secured her spot as a headliner of the Capital Pride Concert.
O’Hara will perform at the Capital Pride Festival/concert at 7 p.m. on the CAPITOL Concert Stage (3rd & Pennsylvania) as part of the HOT 99.5 event. It’s free. Details here.
Speaking with the Washington Blade, O’Hara dished on who she thought went home too soon, the truth behind reality show editing and what it was like getting slapped by RuPaul.
WASHINGTON BLADE: In the beginning of the season you went out of your way to help the other queens during one of the challenges and didn’t leave time for yourself. Do you regret doing that now?
O’HARA: Not at all. My viewpoint in competition is a little different than others. I feel like as long as you make it to the next week, it’s a win. Although it was scary to be that close to the bottom, once I realized that I was not lip-syncing or possibly going home, then I was fine. It’s like an investment. Sometimes it’s risky and it’s scary at the moment but once you realize that you’re going to be fine and it paid off, then there’s no sense in regretting the risk that you took.
BLADE: Why do you think the judges didn’t connect with your Beyoncé impression in Snatch Game?
O’HARA: The entire goal of the Snatch Game is to make Ru and the judges laugh. Beyoncé is not somebody that is known for being comedic. On top of that, she no longer does interviews, so it’s hard for people to connect with her personality because people don’t really know her personally. I thought that since her personality is ambiguous it gave me a lot of room to play and do whatever I wanted. Some people that are celebrities just have infectious personalities and they’re successful primarily because people just love them and their personalities. She, unfortunately, is probably not one of them. She’s a celebrity because of her talent. I think that’s why the judges had trouble connecting with her.
BLADE: You were one of the only people that broke down the Vixen’s wall and said you understood where both she and the others were coming from. Did you feel like she heard you?
O’HARA: Absolutely. I know for a fact that she did. It’s one of those things where approach is everything. I know that she heard me and understood where I’m coming from. I think that I just acknowledged that I understood what she was saying and didn’t think she was just bat crazy is what gave her the ability to be openminded with what I was saying.
BLADE: What’s your relationship like with her now?
O’HARA: It’s great. We don’t talk all the time but we text back and forth about funny stuff and talk about our goals in the future. Every time we see one another we hang out. I was recently in Chicago, which is where she lives, and she came out to the show and we hung out in the dressing room. Honestly, it’s no different than how it always was. Other than that brief moment where she was obviously upset that I said her name for who I thought should go home. But we’ve always had a great relationship.
BLADE: Where do you get your life wisdom from?
O’HARA: I don’t think that I’m wise. I was older than everybody. I think that’s just how that works. Mayhem (Miller) and I were the two oldest contestants. “Drag Race” was a new avenue for me but I’ve done drag in multiple facets of the community. Pageants, being a showgirl, being a backup dancer, being a show director, doing charity drag and now a reality show. So I’ve seen drag from multiple points of view. I think it’s sometimes easier for me to understand and communicate in the world of drag because I don’t have just a one-sided perspective of what drag is or should or should not be.
BLADE: Another memorable moment in the season was when you got accidentally slapped by RuPaul. What was that like?
O’HARA: To be honest, it was quite fun because it was so great to see her so concerned. She legitimately for a split second was concerned that I was hurt. She didn’t know what direction that was about to go in. That to me was the funnest part just to see how nervous she was. She was like, “Oh my god is she about to act a fool? Are we going to have to go stop the cameras so she can see the medic?” That was the funnest part for me because she’s completely in control of every aspect of the competition. So to see her in that brief moment not know what was about to happen was quite refreshing.
BLADE: How do you feel about the way the show has been edited versus how it felt in the moment? Do you think you were fairly represented?
O’HARA: I think everybody is always fairly represented. People love to say that editing changes things. They basically take two or three days worth of filming and condense them into 78 minutes of footage. I feel like everything has been completely accurate for me and everyone. There were times I was terrible in the competition and it accurately showed that. There were times I was great in the competition and it was accurate as well. The editing has been exactly how I remember things happened.
BLADE: Was there anyone that you felt went home too early?
O’HARA: Absolutely. Now, when I say someone went home too early I’m saying they had more to offer the competition. I’m not saying I don’t feel like they deserved to go home based on what they presented that week. But two people I saw going further in the competition were Blair St. Clair and Monét X Change. Blair was one of the only people that on day one I thought to myself, “Clearly, she’s top four material.” I was really shocked when she went home close to halfway through. Monét X Change also had some great moments. I was surprised that she didn’t make it. Not initially, but as I got to know her and see her talent level, she was another person I could see making it to the end.
BLADE: Speaking of Blair St. Clair, how did you feel when she opened up about her sexual assault? Did it just come out of nowhere?
O’HARA: It didn’t come out of nowhere. The lead question that prompted that may have gotten missed I don’t recall how that happened in person. As we got to know Blair personally, we knew that there was something there. Unfortunately, what you don’t get to see on television, in any reality competition, is sometimes just being in the same room with someone and having a conversation with them you feel like you need to ask them, “Something else on your mind?”
BLADE: Aquaria is one of the younger queens. What was it like watching her approach the competition as a more seasoned queen?
O’HARA: It was great. The thing about Aquaria is that although she’s young, she’s more mature than most 21-year-olds and more mature than I was at that age. She’s very talented. It’s refreshing to see someone so young, so talented and so self-aware about their art. Of course when I found out how old she was I didn’t know what to expect. But as the competition progressed and I got to know her I was thrilled to know she was only 21.
BLADE: Was there any moment that didn’t make the cut featuring you that you wish viewers had seen?
O’HARA: Not really. There are more moments that I forgot happened that I was pleasantly surprised with. One logistic thing that probably just wouldn’t have made sense on television is that during the “Breastworld” challenge when I was playing the Para Salin character, the first half of that challenge they went through multiple times. I was sitting on the sidelines for probably 45 minutes before it got to my part because I was the last character to enter the scene. When I entered the scene the judges just erupted into laugher because I think they forgot I was even there because I was off to the side while they were working with the other girls. I thought that might make the cut but it probably was something production wise than it was an actual piece of the story. I think Michelle (Visage) even said “Oh my god, I completely forgot you were sitting over there.”
BLADE: What can people expect from your Capital Pride performance?
O’HARA: I call myself a chameleon queen. I don’t travel around the world presenting the same creative ideas that I presented in the competition because I feel like people like to be surprised and like something fresh and new. People can expect to be pleasantly surprised and see something that is authentically Asia but not something they’ve seen already on television.
Rodriquez scores historic win at otherwise irrelevant Golden Globes
Award represents a major milestone for trans visibility
HOLLYWOOD – Despite its continuing status as something of a pariah organization in Hollywood, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has managed to cling to relevance in the wake of last night’s behind-closed-doors presentation of its 79th Annual Golden Globe Awards by sole virtue of having bestowed the prize for “Best Leading Actress in a Television Series – Drama” on Michaela Jaé Rodriguez for her work in the final season of “Pose” – making her the first transgender performer to win a Golden Globe.
The ceremony took place as a private, no-press-or-audience event in which winners were revealed via a series of tweets from the Golden Globes Twitter account. No celebrities were present (not even the nominees or winners), although actress Jamie Lee Curtis participated by appearing in a video in which she pronounced her continuing loyalty to the HFPA – without mention of the longstanding issues around diversity and ethical practices, revealed early in 2021 by a bombshell Los Angeles Times report, that have led to an nearly industry-wide boycott of the organization and its awards as well as the cancellation of the annual Golden Globes broadcast by NBC for the foreseeable future.
While the Golden Globes may have lost their luster for the time being, the award for Rodriquez represents a major milestone for trans visibility and inclusion in the traditionally transphobic entertainment industry, and for her part, the actress responded to news of her win with characteristic grace and good will.
Posting on her Instagram account, the 31-year old actress said:
“OMG OMGGG!!!! @goldenglobes Wow! You talking about sickening birthday present! Thank you!
“This is the door that is going to Open the door for many more young talented individuals. They will see that it is more than possible. They will see that a young Black Latina girl from Newark New Jersey who had a dream, to change the minds others would WITH LOVE. LOVE WINS.
“To my young LGBTQAI babies WE ARE HERE the door is now open now reach the stars!!!!!”
As You Are Bar and the importance of queer gathering spaces
New bar/restaurant poised to open in 2022
More than just a watering hole: As You Are Bar is set to be the city’s newest queer gathering place where patrons can spill tea over late-morning cappuccinos as easily as they can over late-night vodka-sodas.
Co-owners and founders Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike built on their extensive experience in the hospitality industry – including stints at several gay bars – to sign a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row, replacing what was previously District Soul Food and Banana Café. In a prime corner spot, they are seeking to bring together the disparate colors of the LGBTQ rainbow – but first must navigate the approval process (more on that later).
The duo decided on this Southeast neighborhood locale to increase accessibility for “the marginalized parts of our community,” they say, “bringing out the intersectionality inherent in the queer space.”
Northwest D.C., they explain, not only already has many gay bar options, but is also more difficult to get to for those who don’t live within walking distance. The Barracks Row location is right by a Metro stop, “reducing pay walls.” Plus, there, “we are able to find a neighborhood to bring in a queer presence that doesn’t exist today.”
McDaniel points out that the area has a deep queer bar history. Western bar Remington’s was once located in the area, and it’s a mere block from the former Phase 1, the longest-running lesbian bar, which was open from 1971-2015.
McDaniel and Pike hope that As You Are Bar will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture. We want people of all ages, gender, sexual identity, as well as drinkers and non-drinkers, to have space.”
McDaniel (she/her) began her career at Apex in 2005 and was most recently the opening manager of ALOHO. Pike (she/they) was behind the bar and worked as security at ALOHO, where the two met.
Since leaving ALOHO earlier this year, they have pursued the As You Are Bar project, first by hosting virtual events during the pandemic, and now in this brick-and-mortar space. They expressed concern that receiving the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) liquor license approval and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, or ANC, approval will be a long and expensive process.
They have already received notice that some neighbors intend to protest As You Are Bar’s application for the “tavern” liquor license that ABRA grants to serve alcohol and allow for live entertainment (e.g. drag shows). They applied for the license on Nov. 12, and have no anticipated opening date, estimating at least six months. If ABRA and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board give final approval, the local ANC 6B and nearby residents can no longer protest the license until the license comes up for renewal.
Until approval is given, they continue physical buildout (including soundproofing) and planning their offerings. If the license is approved, ABRA and the ABC Board can take action against As You Are Bar, like any bar, at any time if they violate the terms of the license or create a neighborhood disturbance that violates city laws such as the local noise ordinance. In the kitchen, the duo snagged Chef Nina Love to develop the menu. Love will oversee café-style fare; look out for breakfast sandwiches making an appearance all the way until close. They will also have baked goods during the day.
McDaniel and Pike themselves will craft the bar menu. Importantly, they note, the coffee bar will also serve until close. There will be a full bar as well as a list of zero-proof cocktails. As with their sourcing, they hope to work with queer-, minority-, and women-owned businesses for everything not made in-house.
Flexible conceptually, they seek to grow with their customer base, allowing patrons to create the culture that they seek.
Their goal is to move the queer space away from a focus on alcohol consumption. From book clubs, to letter-writing, to shared workspaces, to dance parties, they seek an all-day, morning-to-night rhythm of youth, families, and adults to find a niche. “We want to shift the narrative of a furtive, secretive, dark gay space and hold it up to the light,” they say. “It’s a little like The Planet from the original L Word show,” they joke.
Pike notes that they plan on working closely with SMYAL, for example, to promote programming for youth. Weekend potential activities include lunch-and-learn sessions on Saturdays and festive Sunday brunches.
The café space, to be located on the first floor, will have coffeehouse-style sofas as well as workstations. A slim patio on 8th Street will hold about six tables.
Even as other queer bars have closed, they reinforce that the need is still present. “Yes, we can visit a café or bar, but we always need to have a place where we are 100 percent certain that we are safe, and that our security is paramount. Even as queer acceptance continues to grow, a dedicated queer space will always be necessary,” they say.
To get there, they continue to rally support of friends, neighbors, and leaders in ANC6B district; the ANC6B officials butted heads with District Soul Food, the previous restaurant in the space, over late-night noise and other complaints. McDaniel and Pike hope that once nearby residents and businesses understand the important contribution that As You Are Bar can make to the neighborhood, they will extend their support and allow the bar to open.
Need a list-minute gift idea?
Books, non-profit donations make thoughtful choices
You knew this was coming.
You knew that you were going to have to finish your holiday shopping soon but it snuck up on you, didn’t it? And even if you’re close to being done, there are always those three or five people who are impossible to buy for, right? Remember this, though: books are easy to wrap and easy to give, and they last a while, too. So why not head to the bookstore with your Christmas List and look for these gifts.
And if you still have people to shop for, why not make a donation to a local non-profit in their name? A list of D.C.-area suggestions follows.
If there’s about to be a new addition to your family, wrapping up “Queer Stepfamilies: The path to Social and Legal Recognition” by Katie L. Acosta would be a good thing. In this book, the author followed forty LGBTQ families to understand the joys, pitfalls, and legalities of forming a new union together. It can’t replace a lawyer, but it’s a good overview.
For the parent who wants to ensure that their child grows up with a lack of bias, “Raising LGBTQ Allies” by Chris Tompkins is a great book to give. It’s filled with methods to stop bullying in its tracks, to be proactive in having That Conversation, and how to be sure that the next generation you’re responsible for becomes responsible in turn. Wrap it up with “The Healing Otherness Handbook” by Stacee L. Reicherzer, Ph.D., a book that helps readers to deal with bullying by finding confidence and empowerment.
If there’s someone on your gift list who’s determined to get “fit” in the coming year, then give “The Secret to Superhuman Strength” by Alison Bechdel this holiday. Told in graphic-novel format (comics, basically), it’s the story of searching for self-improvement and finding it in a surprising place.
So why not give a little nostalgia this year by wrapping up “A Night at the Sweet Gum Head” by Martin Padgett? It’s the tale of disco, drag, and drugs in the 1970s (of course!) in Atlanta, with appearances by activists, politics, and people who were there at that fabulous time. Wrap it up with “After Francesco” by Brian Malloy, a novel set a little later – in the mid-1980s in New York City and Minneapolis at the beginning of the AIDS crisis.
The LGBTQ activist on your gift list will want to read “The Case for Gay Reparations” by Omar G. Encarnacion. It’s a book about acknowledgment, obligation on the part of cis citizens, and fixing the pain that homophobia and violence has caused. Wrap it up with “Trans Medicine: The Emergence and Practice of Treating Gender” by Stef M. Shuster, a look at trans history that may also make your giftee growl.
Young readers who have recently transitioned will enjoy reading “Both Sides Now” by Peyton Thomas. It’s a novel about a high school boy with gigantic dreams and the means to accomplish them all. Can he overcome the barriers that life gives him? It’s debatable… Pair it with “Can’t Take That Away” by Steven Salvatore, a book about two nonbinary students and the troubles they face as they fall in love.
The thriller fan on your list will be overjoyed to unwrap “Yes, Daddy” by Jonathan Parks-Ramage. It’s the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune, who schemes to meet an older, more accomplished man with the hopes of sparking his failing career. But the older man isn’t who the younger thinks he is, and that’s not good. Wrap it up with “Lies with Man” by Michael Nava, a book about a lawyer who agrees to be counsel for a group of activists. Good so far, right? Until one of them is accused of being involved in a deadly bombing.
For the fan of Southern fiction, you can’t go wrong when you wrap up “The Tender Grave” by Sheri Reynolds. It’s the tale of two sisters, one homophobic, the other lesbian, and how they learn to forgive and re-connect.
Like nonprofit organizations throughout the country, D.C.-area LGBTQ supportive nonprofit groups have told the Blade they continue to rebuild amid the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted their fundraising efforts while increasing expenses, at least in part by prompting more people to come to them for help.
This holiday season, if you’re looking for a thoughtful gift, consider making a donation to one of our local LGBTQ non-profit organizations in someone else’s name. This list is by no means exhaustive, but a good place to start your research.
Contributions to the LGBTQ supportive nonprofit organizations can be made via the websites of these local organizations:
• Blade Foundation, which funds local scholarships and fellowships for queer student journalists, bladefoundation.org
• DC Center, our local community center that operates a wide range of programming, thedccenter.org/donate
• Food & Friends, which delivers meals to homebound patients, foodandfriends.org
• HIPS, which advances the health rights and dignity of those impacted by sex work and drugs, hips.org
• SMYAL, which advocates for queer youth, smyal.org
• Wanda Alston Foundation, which offers shelter and support for LGBTQ youth, wandaalstonfoundation.org
• Whitman-Walker Health, the city’s longtime LGBTQ-inclusive health care provider, whitmanwalkerimpact.org
• Casa Ruby, which provides shelter and services to youth in need, casaruby.org
• Us Helping Us, which helps improve the health of communities of color and works to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Black community, ushelpingus.org/donate
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