It’s raining (ON) men

For one Southern Decadence virgin — and thousands of other gay men descending on NOLA — Tropical Storm Lee couldn’t steal their thunder

GET WET | Despite occasional cloudbursts, the French Quarter remained a hot-bed of activity all throughout SoDec weekend. (Photo courtesy Rod Orta)

JEF TINGLEY | Contributing Writer
lifestyle@dallasvoice.com

Gay culture has a longstanding symbiotic relationship with low-pressure fronts. Chanteuses and drag queens alike sing about it in “Stormy Weather,” it’s H20 that ultimately does in the Wicked Witch of the West and the post-shower rainbow has become synonymous with LGBT Pride. It seems like we’ll find any angle to work the adage “Every dark cloud has a silver lining.”

So when it came time for my virgin voyage to New Orleans’ “Gay Mardi Gras” known as Southern Decadence, I wasn’t about to let a little rain (or even massive Tropical Storm Lee) steal my thunder — even if Lee’s thunder was more than impressive.
As it turned out, I wasn’t alone.

Clad in soggy leather, feathers and outfits slightly less revealing than a birthday suit, partygoers from across the nation braved the storm that flooded others parts of city to make sure that this 41st annual event lived up to its indulgent namesake. Organizers estimate Decadence brought about $125 million in economic impact to New Orleans and a crowd of nearly 80,000 people (down from an 110,000 in previous years).

But beyond the loyal fans, what made Decadence really shine was its all-inclusive embrace throughout the French Quarter. The sense of notorious southern hospitality was almost palpable.

The hub of the activities began near Bourbon and Saint Ann streets, home of NOLA’s largest resident gay bars — Oz and the Bourbon Pub/Parade — which were festooned in this year’s official colors of fuchsia pink, black and silver for the occasion. Their crowded balconies provided great people watching, but there was plenty to see on the street below, too — like Miss Ashley. This self-proclaimed “traffic trannie” works the intersection with her best “Stop In The Name Of Love” moves along with a whistle and a whip to keep partygoers safe from passing cars. (She even has a Traffic Trannie Facebook page.)

Strolling along Bourbon Street, you’ll note how clubs that usually cater to the heterosexual set during other times of the year ramp up their Kinsey Scale rating to 6.5 over Labor Day weekend, adding rainbow flags, hunky bartenders and drink specials to lure in the gays. It worked for our group, which made repeat appearances at a little-known bar called Bourbon Heat (711 Bourbon St.) that offered more breathing room, three-for-one drinks and front row seats to the action on the street.

GLAM IT UP | Attendees at the annual Labor Day bacchanal let all inhibitions loose. (Photo courtesy Rod Orta)

Decadence is the kind of party that goes from morning-to-night — or morning-to-morning if you choose (throughout the year, there is no “last call” in New Orleans — bars stay open 24/7). But there are less crazy options if you need respite from dancing in the rain (or searching for your pants).

Places like the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone (214 Royal St.) is one such example. The bar is decked out like an old-fashioned carousel and your bar stool literally goes round-and-round to give you an ever-changing vantage point. The setting was very relaxed with background music as eclectic as the crowd.

And while the temptation at Decadence can be to live on a “liquid diet” or simple street foods like pizza and Lucky Dogs, we opted for one night of elegance at the world famous Arnaud’s Restaurant (813 Rue Bienville). It’s the Big Easy equivalent of dinner and a show. Before your meal, tour the upstairs Mardis Gras Museum. Some of the elaborately beaded and feathered costumes on display date back to the 1940s, almost resembling cave drawings that Bob Mackie might later turn into a gown for Cher. The real star, however, is Arnaud’s extensive menu of Creole belly-rubbing goodness. And for true dramatic flair, make sure to order up the flamin’ Bananas Foster for dessert (its presentation will have everyone in the room looking your way).

I’m sure that any other year, Southern Decadence might have received a much different report of dignity exchanged for beads and moral codes left in the gutter, but in this case the rain seemed to bring just some good clean fun. And as the talented Katy Perry was once paraphrased as saying: “After you [drink a] Hurricane, comes a rainbow.”

Southern Decadence 2012, I’ll be back. So get those blue skies and shirtless boys ready.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

DSM announces 2012 season

The Dallas Summer Musicals have formally released their next season lineup, although several of the shows — Memphis and The Addams Family,  for instance — were already common knowledge. The full schedule is:

Bring It On! (Feb. 14–26), a new musical based on the film set in the world of competitive cheerleading.

Million Dollar Quarter (March 6–18), a jukebox musical set on the one day in 1956 when newcomers Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins all recorded in the same studio. Gay singer Levi Kriess won a Tony for his performance.

La Cage aux Folles (April 10–22). The recent Tony-winning revival of the musical about drag queens and alternative families.

Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles (April 24–29) returns.

Memphis (May 15–27), a fictionalized telling of the integration of the radio in 1950s South won multiple Tony Awards, including best score and musical.

Mamma Mia! (May 29–June 3), the uber-gay ABBA musical, returns yet again for a one-week run.

Peter Pan (July 10-22), the children’s classic with a campy sensibility, once again starring Cathy Rigby.

The Addams Family (Oct. 2–21), the current Broadway hit with gay cred, based on the cartoons and movie/TV franchise, will be the State Fair musical next fall. (This year’s State Fair musical, West Side Story, opens in a few weeks.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Son of a beach

A family vacation proves unexpectedly gay as Myrtle Beach, S.C., gets Pride

RAINBOW TOUR | Nearly 200 beachcombers — including the author (dark green, just right of center) — stepped away from the surf and gathered in a field to form a human rainbow flag.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

The trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., had more to do with a family reunion than finding a good destination for gay travelers. After all, Myrtle Beach is a pretty lazy, conservative town in the perennial Red State, one where teenaged spring breakers and families gather to enjoy the warm surf and the resort-town appeal of seafood and beachcombing and overpriced cocktails. Queer travelers can hit one of the three gay bars, all within blocks of each other — Club Traxx, Time Out! and the Rainbow House (a lesbian club).

But the weekend I arrived , just by coincidence, it turned out to be Gay Pride.

Keep in mind, the gay community in Myrtle Beach is small, so “Gay Days,” plural, felt more like Gay Day, singular: One major event and then life as usual in Coastal Carolina.

The major event, though, was an ambitious one: Gathering members of the LGBT community and their allies to form a “human rainbow flag:” People signed up to wear a pastel-colored T-shirt and arrange themselves in the traditional configuration. A few others wore black, forming the flagpole.

The entire event was threatened by showers late Friday and early Saturday, but despite a slightly muddy field, nearly 200 people turned out, huddled closely on a muggy afternoon, while a photographer flew above in a helicopter.

Numbers weren’t uniform; there were too many reds and too few purples; but the effect was one of a flag waving in the breeze.

In order to do the shoot, members faced each other before bending forward to allow the broad field of their shirts to form the colors. Directly across from me stood Elke Kennedy, a resident of Greenville in the Upstate. Elke and her husband established SeansLastWish.org, raising awareness of anti-gay violence, after their gay son was beaten to death and his killer spent less than a year in jail.

Elke spoke at a rally following the photoshoot, and dozens in attendance listened to her recount her  son’s harrowing attack and death before two drag queens performed and a DJ spun dance hits. People started to file out after a while, off to the beach, or the clubs, or even the boardwalk, where the Texas Star-like Skywheel gives great views of the beach … and sits next door to the campily named souvenir shop the Gay Dolphin.

The latter was always may favorite place when I was growing up; you’d think my parents would have caught on sooner.

Click here for additional photos.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Before her show at the Verizon Theater tonight, Stevie Nicks talks ‘Glee’ and gays

By Chris Azzopardi | Q Syndicate

Ten years have passed since Stevie Nicks released her last solo album, but she’s still the same gay-loved goddess of earthy rock she built her legend on. Her spring release, In Your Dreams, was exactly how the gypsy queen left us – with that uniform sense of mystical otherworldliness that’s made Nicks a go-her-own-way virtuoso since her days with Fleetwood Mac. White horses, vampire tales and ethereal love parables all seeped into Dreams, her first studio project after reuniting with Fleetwood Mac for 2003’s Say You Will. She’s now on the road for Dreams and her tour stops at Verizon Theater tonight.

Nicks speaks about taking a trip to “the magical world of fairies and angels,” the dress drag queens love, and how her own music motivated her to lose a dozen pounds.

Read the full interview below.

—  Rich Lopez

FILM REVIEW: ‘Devil’s Double’

Movies where actors play their own twin tend to be excruciating exercises in vanity, as the actor tries desperately set each character apart in subtle ways, but when it comes to Dominic Cooper as both Uday Hussein and his body double Latif Yahia in The Devil’s Double, subtlety isn’t called for: Balls-to-the-wall bravado is.

That’s because Uday, the son of Saddam, was a maniac who, according to one friend, “has always wanted to fuck himself.” So he hires an old school chum, Latif, to shadow him, including surgery to perfect his appearance, making Latif the target should any assassins choose to come after him. But there’s also a narcissistic personality at work; Uday seems obsessed with Latif as an object of admiration — a living self-portrait on which he can project his twisted, sociopathic tendencies.

The theme his hit home since Cooper is frequently naked throughout the film, providing a certain homoeroticism that the film gloriously feeds on. This is a wild retelling of the life of an historic-on-the-fringe figure, who runs around with drag queens and talks about Latif’s penis size and insists his guests (male and female) strip naked far more often than a straight guy should.

The style, a combination of Scarface, Blow, Casino and The Last King of Scotland, proves to be a showcase for the talents of Cooper, who appears destined for an Oscar nomination for his captivatingly complex and layered performance. It’s never difficult to tell when he’s Latif and when he’s Uday — and it’s not just the fake teeth. “One, he’s sober and two, he’s not foaming at the mouth,” Uday’s brother, Qusay, says in describing their differences. Cooper captures Uday’s mania in his eyes, his stance, his inherent instability, then reverses those qualities as Latif. It’s a star-making role in a brutal and deliciously overwrought story of madness and power — one of the best films of the summer.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Small-town gay life

GAY MICROCOSM | With fewer than 50,000 residents, San Luis de la Paz doesn’t even have a gay bar, but that hasn’t stopped queer Dallasites from calling it home. (Photos by Jesus Chairez)

JESUS CHAIREZ  | Special Contributor
chairezstudio@gmail.com

SAN LUIS DE LA PAZ, Guanajuato, México — No rainbow flags, no gay bars, no Pride parade, but for ex-Dallasites Ron Austin and Lamar Strickland, this small Mexican town has plenty of gay life in it.

Austin and Strickland sold most everything and packed up what they could, moving to San Luis de La Paz four years ago. Austin says that he first discovered San Luis years ago when accompanied his best friend Manolo Arrendondo, also from Dallas, back home to visit his family for Christmas one year. When Arrendondo moved back to México to care for his ailing mother, Austin and Strickland soon followed.

Austin used to work for AIDS Arms for many years before retiring from the Baylor Geriatric Center. Strickland still works but telecommutes to his job in the U.S.

Though most people think that it is not safe — and even dangerous — for LGBT people to vacation much less live in México, Austin says that he and his partner feel safe.

“In general I have not found much homophobia here and for most people it seems like a non-issue. But yes, there are homophobic people in San Luis and Mexico. We get called names now and then, but then we sometimes got called names in Dallas, too.”

RURAL DRAG | Clockwise from above: Karla aka Carlos and ‘La?Mosca’ aka Adry staged a successful drag pageant this month in the new hometown of Dallas transplants Lamar Strickland and Ron Austin.

Things have changed in San Luis, says the couple, who have spoken to their trans friends Carlos, now known as Karla and Adry Pardo Garcia, known by his nickname, la Mosca (“the Fly”) about the changes: Harassment is basically verbal today and not physical like in the past.

Though there are no gay bars in San Luis, a town of about 49,000, gay people do go out and dance. It is sort of a don’t ask, don’t tell situation where gays blend into the crowd; two men dancing together is something gay men just don’t do.

Though Austin and Strickland say they don’t feel much homophobia in San Luis, “Only the drag queens get by with gay behavior, like dancing together or displays of affection,” says Austin.

Though there are no official gay events in San Luis, five years ago Karla and Adry Pardo Garcia, leaders in the trans and drag queen community, and several of their friends got together to have a Ms. San Luis de la Paz annual pageant called Nuestra Belleza Gay (Our Gay Beauty). Carlos and Garcia say their pageant does give pride to San Luis’ growing LGBT community.

In the U.S., drag queens and transsexuals are often at the forefront of the LGBT movement; it is no different here in México, especially in San Luis. For example, earlier this month the girls got into a Blazer and put loud speakers on the roof of the automobile that blared out announcements for their Ms. San Luis Gay 2011 event held at Bar One, a club almost in the center of town.

As the Blazer drove down San Luis’ narrow streets, the girls — in full makeup and outfits — handed out flyers as they approached anyone on the street. Everyone seemed to be fine with all the glitter and glamour. The Nuestra Belleza Gay marketing worked; it was a sold-out crowd at Bar One. Austin was a judge for this year’s event, as he was last year.

Even before the pageant started there was enthusiasm: As the sun was setting all Nuestra Belleza Gay participants, along with their supporters, gathered at the main bus station where the contestants sat on the hood of a car and everyone caravanned through town with a police escort — basically a very small Pride parade. Small clusters of people did wait along the route that went through the center of town to wave and enjoy the beauty.

Though there may not be gay bars or a gayborhood to speak of, Austin and Strickland, along with their two dogs, Osa and Hoppy and a cat named Miche, are enjoying their new life in  México.

Jesús Chairez is an activist and freelance writer; former producer and host of U.S.’s first LGBT Latino show Sin Fronteras (Without Borders) on KNON 89.3 FM. He resides between Dallas and México City.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 29, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

COVER STORY: Brunch meets nightclub

MIMOSAS AND DRAG | In gay culture, brunch is a major social and culinary event, where fancy eggs benedict (like that at Dish, above left) and bottomless mimosas are standard issue. But they are becoming more fun, with drag queens part of the morning’s entertainment at Dish and Axiom Sushi Lounge in the ilume, and ZaZa’s Sunday School brunch (above right) serving up sparklers, DJs and girls dancing on tables. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE BRUNCH PHOTOS

Sunday brunch in Dallas’ LGBT community has evolved into much more than just a meal; it’s a way to keep the weekend party going

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  |  Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Mad Men portrays the 1960s white businessman’s three-martini lunch. The Golden Girls ate cheesecake late night around a kitchen table. Carrie always sipped cosmos with the girls during cocktail hour while gossiping at the local club.

But in gay culture, the ritual of a Sunday brunch has long served as a social nexus, a place where all the major deals are made — and the arbiters of local society convene to hold court in the sobering light of day.

Putting together the right crew is part of the finesse that comes with planning the ideal brunch experience. “Not all my friends get along so I have to juggle it,” says one brunch regular.

“I usually have a herd of about five [regular brunch buddies],” says Joshuah Welch, who manages the ilume property where two tenants — the restaurants Dish and Axiom Sushi Lounge — have recently initiated theme brunches. Today, though, it’s just Welch and one other friend: “I was in a coma until 15 minutes ago,” Welch said.

Nursing a hangover is definitely another purpose of the brunch trek: Where else can you have food and alcohol on a Sunday morning to satisfy the twin desires to ease your headache and fill your belly? But the hangover element can affect where you choose to meet your friends. A place with loud music isn’t necessarily all that welcome when you’re sound sensitive, one diner — wearing sunglasses inside — ruefully admits as the music strikes up.

And there’s definitely music, highlighting the latest local trend in brunching: Turning the traditionally staid eggs-benedict-and-mimosa chatfest into something more like a nightclub bathed in sunshine.

The glam world of the party brunch is upon us.

Gays, of course, have always made brunch more a social function than a dining one — at least in urban areas. (Out-of-towners visiting Dallas say the gay community in Northwest Arkansas does not gather routinely for brunch.)

While a hearty meal accompanied by some hair o’ the dog is a reason for brunch, it is by no means the only one. Sunday in the gay community can be akin to a war room strategy session.

“You meet to plan your week — decide what you’re going to do for Sunday Funday,” says regular bruncher Eli Duarte.

“Where else can you find our community gathered in the daylight?” asks Tim O’Connor, another diner, with a hint of sarcasm. “There are not a
lot of places to do that outside the Strip, though it can be a kind of continuation of the bar scene.”

That social aspect has caught on in the broader community, and has even been raised a notch of late in Dallas.

At Dish one recent Sunday, 200 to 250 diners are expected to enjoy the morning’s entertainment. It doesn’t come from a pianist playing songs from “Your Hit Parade,” but rather a dance-mix DJ spinning tunes louder than Grandma would probably enjoy. And that’s not the half of it: Midway through the day’s two brunch seatings (one at 11 a.m. another at 1 p.m.), Dallas drag divas Krystal Summers and Erica Andrews rend the control booth from the DJ to put on a full show for the Taste of Drag Brunch.

Taste of Drag doesn’t take place every Sunday — on special occasions like Mother’s Day a more traditional service is offered — but owner Tim McEnery says they try to do it once or twice a month. And it’s not just for the gay community.

“It really is for everyone,” McEnery says.

CHAMPAGNE | ZaZa’s Sunday School brunch serves up camp with their frittatas. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Anecdotal evidence tends to bear that out. When I mention to a middle-aged straight woman that I am headed to a drag brunch, she excitedly asks where. “I need to know where I can see a good drag show,” she declares enthusiastically. At Dish, there certainly is a mix of gay and straight folks, though queerer heads prevail.

McEnery doesn’t claim to have invented the drag brunch, but he thinks it’s high time Dallas has one. It’s been a staple in cities like San Francisco and New York for years, but has only recently gained currency outside the coasts.

On this particular Sunday, the first seating already has a nine-top (including two women — one, a former New Yorker who notes that brunch has burgeoned as a social event since she moved to Dallas); across from it, five diners, including four well-appointed women in sundresses and espadrilles, their makeup and hair obviously fussed over, have taken a prime location to watch the shows.

A decent-sized crowd fills in the 11 a.m., which is generally less well attended than the later — not surprising in the gay community, several brunch regulars quickly note.

“Part of the point of brunch is to see and be seen,” acknowledges Welch, who is not at all surprised by the girls who turned up at 11 in full, flawless makeup. “People dress up to come here.”

Of course, gays and straights can mingle together or separately anywhere in town during brunch, though there is certainly a concerted effort at Dish — which is located along Cedar Springs — to make Sunday morning feel like an extension of Saturday night.

STEAK AND EGGS | Brunch is a social function, with friends attending in crews where they enjoy a little alcohol along with steak and eggs to keep the Saturday night party going like this group at Dish. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

“Who went to church today?” asks Andrews of the Dish crowd. “I did, but I still smell like last night at the Rose Room.”

Doing the Taste of Drag Brunch, she says, makes performing on the weekend almost run together.

“It’s a different group than I see at the Rose Room,” says Summers. “And we tend to do different music on Sundays — more classic drag. But it’s a perfect time to catch up with friends, to talk about how your week went.”

Over at the Hotel ZaZa ballroom, the third Sunday of every month morphs into Sunday School Brunch, where staff dress as nerdy bookworms and sexy Catholic school girls for a prix fixe menu that comes with a bottle of champagne per couple.

But it’s not just the costumes and food that attract the crowd; indeed, many attendees pay the $10 SRO cover just for the entertainment: Around 2 p.m., the lights dim, the curtain pulls back and the brunch room turns into a naughty discotheque, replete with sparklers, women dancing on the bar, mood lighting and a pounding dance beat.

Today’s a mixed crowd — “about 50-50 [gay-straight] observes one regular, “though it’s often ’mo central.”

The crowd is up and dancing before long, with muscular men in surplus among the attendees as the music gets louder and the lights dimmer. The sunglasses stay on. Gossip can wait; for now, there’s still some partying left to do.

—  John Wright

Class in session

Ru & crew, back for ‘Drag U,’ Season 2

RuPaulThere’s a difference between a TV show that is intentionally cheesy and one that induces cringes by mistake. Thankfully, RuPaul’s Drag U knows exactly what it’s doing, laying the puns on thicker than Jujubee’s makeup. They can still induce groans, but at least we’re all in on the joke.

After all, Drag U is all about the fun side of our favorite competitive drag queens. Leaving (most of) the drama over at the Drag Race, each week queen “professors” (including Season 1 winner Bebe Zahara Benet, pictured) are tasked with making over three ordinary women and unleashing their inner divas, complete with drag personas and styling. On the line are sorta-fabulous prizes like jewelry, a vacation and a cash prize of $3,166.17 (seriously).

But it’s what the women gain in self-esteem that’s the most valuable parting gift, and don’t think the producers don’t know it. In the first episode alone, one of the women is trying to overcome the pain of having her ex-husband end their marriage via email; she, of course, learns “to love herself again” with the inducement of wigs and outrageous makeup. That’s some powerful Oprah-level stuff, but Ru, “Dean of Drag” Lady Bunny, guest judges like Beverly Johnson and the rest of the girls give advice that’s equal parts sassy and sincere.

The result? Incredible transformations at the end of an hour of deliciously fluffy television — and every one of these straight gals owes it to the gays. For anyone in withdrawals since Drag Race ended, or in love with makeovers, or just interested in learning more about one contestant’s husband’s “diesel mangina,” the second season of Drag U is more than deserving of a season pass on your DVR.

— Steven Lindsey

Premieres Monday at 8 p.m. on Logo

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Cuba marks IDAHO with drag pageant, parade

When I think of countries that are enlightened and progressive when it comes to LGBT rights, Cuba has never ranked very high on the list. But it looks like I need to rethink my attitudes.

Miss Trasvesti 2011 contestant

Today is International Day Against Homophobia, but Cuba got a jump on the celebration with the second annual Miss Trasvesti pageant, featuring a line-up of truly stunning drag queens, if the photos posted here on Huffington Post are any indication.

You can watch video from Cuba’s 2010 Miss Travesti pageant below.

The article also says that Cubanos celebrated IDAHO with “a colorful parade and other events throughout Havana,” and notes that Mariela Castro, niece of longtime president Fidel Castro (and daughter of current president Raul Castro), is head of Cuba’s National Sexual Education Center and a longtime advocate on LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS issues.

Although IDAHO has been around for seven years, this is the first time that Dallas will have an IDAHO event. Everyone is invited to gather at the JFK Memorial in downtown Dallas at 8 p.m. for a candlelight march followed by presentations by speakers.

—  admin

Femme X provides service to people learning to be women

Nikki Starr

Starr says her service benefits trans women who want to present a more feminine appearance

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Way back in 1996, Nikki Starr started Miss Victoria’s Feminine Illusions, a business dedicated to helping those — male or female — who wanted to be more feminine in appearance.

Starr suspended operations in 2001 because she traveled quite a bit with her job as an executive for a software company dealing with supply chain logistics.

But with the encouragement of a friend, Starr decided to try again, and Femme X Studios has been up and running since 2006.

Starr said she works with a variety of people: Some might have a fetish; others are transgender women who know they are women but never learned how women’s sizes work or how to put on makeup.

“They don’t know where to start,” Starr said.

While her target audience is varied, Starr said she rarely works with drag queens. She said she is not in business to help someone present an illusion or exaggeration of femininity.

“I provide a service as an image and style consultant,” she said.

Some of Starr’s clients are just coming out as transgender and learning to be more feminine. One client is a married cross-dresser whose wife does not know.

“She’s just trying to figure it out,” Starr said of her client.

Much of Starr’s business comes from people who are in the closet. Some are high-powered business executives who need a private, discreet place to explore.

Starr said she schedules three or four appointments a week and while an appointment may last up to eight hours, the basic appointment is usually three hours.

“Everything’s included,” Starr said. “They don’t have to bring anything — clothes, shoes, hair, lingerie. What do they want? Photography? Makeup?”

Starr has release forms for all pictures on her website. To assure discretion, she said she’ll use the client’s own camera and hand them the memory card. But, she noted, photography can be useful for the client to see and compare differences in makeup or hairstyles. And some do want a glamour shot session.

Starr said that some clients are very nervous on their first visit. They might spend the entire visit just drinking a glass of wine and talking. And Starr said she is careful to take that client through each step and talk about the experience as they go.

She also offers a very basic one-hour make-up class in which she discusses products, skincare and basic makeup application techniques.

Starr also helps her clients prepare for their own forays into the world of retail. Her advice for people shopping for the first time who have not developed a relationship with any salespeople is to call ahead.

“If you call ahead, they can prepare for you,” she said.

Starr used that same principle in planning an outing with a transgender group.

She made reservations for a group at the Uptown restaurant Sambuca and explained who they were. They told her, “as long as you’re dressed appropriately.” Starr said that when her group arrived, they were assigned a waiter who went out of his way to make the evening a lot of fun.

And while Starr specializes in image consulting, she refers her clients to a number of other people — including counselors, cosmetic surgeons and doctors to prescribe hormone therapy, as well as friendly gyms, retailers and restaurants.

Starr said that each of her customers is looking for something a little different and she said the key to success is spending time making sure she understands that client’s needs.

“We can customize an experience that’s right for you,” Starr said.

—  John Wright