On Sunday night, the Rose Room hosted the 2001 Voice of Pride finals and, with some surprises. The competition started in early June and whittled down from hundreds of entrants to a strong handful of talent. With 10 solo finalists and three groups competing for top honors, the night belonged to both new and old faces.
The competition for group contestants grew exponentially. Steelos and AMP(H) rounded out the group finalists but by the end of it all, one group rose above the rest. Spare Parts set a high bar delivering oodles of chemistry and charm. As soloists, both are fine performers, but Robert Olivas and Angie Landers brought out something in each other that I hadn’t seen from either before. Landers was letting the audience have it as she poured her heart into Jason Aldean’s “Don’t You Wanna Stay.” Olivas let her shine but didn’t disappear by solidly holding up his end of the vocals and even performance. It really was a great moment as they finished to rousing applause, and this was only their first song. They followed up with the punchier “Stuck Like Glue” by Sugarland. With simple but effective choreography, they delighted with a strong showing and even the bauble at the end of the song added charm rather than detriment.
“After six years, it’s finally happened,” Olivas said while walking to the Round-Up Saloon for a post-victory celebration. Their excitement on stage after the announcement was a genuinely sweet moment.
In the individual competition, the decision had to have been a difficult one. Each of the 10 finalists delivered strongly and feasibly, any of them could have deservedly taken it home. But in the end, Dru Rivera crooned a beautiful “Cryin’” and rocked out with “Dream On,” and he ended up with the title of Voice of Pride. I figured he’d place high, but thought the winner might have been between Angie Landers and Kristen Philips. Landers was riding high from her strong performances with Olivas, and Philips killed everyone in the room with her rendition of “River Deep, Mountain High.” But Vanessa Guzman rallied with a strong second song — a fun and engaging “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” by Etta James. But it was Rivera’s connection to his inner rock god that I think pushed him to the top. He body-slammed the audience with his take on the signature Aerosmith tune and proved that even classic rock can win over a gay crowd. The other top finalists included 4th runner-up Joel Canales, 3rd runner-up Juliana Jeffrey, 2nd runner-up Kristen Philips and 1st runner-up Vanessa Guzman.
It was a riveting moment because I think Rivera’s victory came as a surprise to some being that there were more familiar faces in the running, but the audience still roared and applauded his win. Interestingly, it was his first time to participate in the event. As the winner, he won a $3,000 cash prize, a trip to Puerto Rico and a performance at Pride in September.