WATCH: Drag queens and Speedos and sarongs, oh my!

IMG_2878Last weekend, over the course of a brief 24 hours, three different charities — AIDS Services of Dallas, Legacy Counseling Center and Founders Cottage and AIDS Arms — received an awful lot of love from the Dallas gay community … and did so with a lot of costume changes.

On Saturday, The Summer Party, a 12-year-old pool bash at a private home in East Dallas, raised money for ASD, and included a fashion show by Skivvies, as well as a sarong contest for the gathered guests. Later that evening, The Red Party, a fundraising group benefiting Legacy, staged a poolside fashion show of its own at the ilume, with vodka by Hudson Ferus, snacks and margaritas from Mi Cocina and swimwear by Aussie Bum, ES Collection, Marek+Richard and others. Then on Sunday evening, the Rose Room gave over to the Miss LifeWalk contest, a fundraiser for AIDS Arms. Thousands of dollars were raised … and a lot of eyes popped.

You can see slide shows of each of them with these links to the Summer Party, the Red Party and Miss LifeWalk.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

PHOTOS: Miss LifeWalk pageant 2014

 

Photos by Arnold Wayne Jones

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Miss LifeWalk 2014 is …

Miss LifeWalk contestants 2014

Heidi Liqueur, left, and Siena Silver, Brianna Michelle and Rosio Bencos.

… Heidi Liqueur!

Last night in the Rose Room, the LifeWalk Green Team contestant  faced off against three other awesome drag divas to take the crown at the 11th annual fundraiser preliminary for October’s walk, which benefits AIDS Arms. Heidi’s dazzling beaded gown, in the same red-and-white colors as her Chick-Fil-A dress (which she performed to the “Hold On” parody “Chow Down”) while serving chicken tenders to the audience, won over the judges (and I was one of them!) in a satisfying finale. But all four entrant were insanely talented and impressive, from Siena Silver’s rainbow-accented dress following a champagne accented evening-wear gown, to Rosio Bencos’ back-up dancers and elaborate costume, to Brianna Michelle’s pink-and-emerald palette.

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The winner being cheered

Heidi won individual awards for Spirit of Miss LifeWalk and for evening wear and talent in addition to the overall prize, while Siena took Miss Congeniality and Brianna won Miss Moneybags for raising the most for AIDS Arms — $7,400! In total, the event took in a staggering $21,628 — $4,000 more than last year.

The show was a hoot, with primary host Heather Thomas bullying the crowd into donating more and more money, and five former Miss LifeWalk winners performing, with all money going to the charity. Victoria Weston wowed the audience with two live performances. Outgoing Miss LifeWalk Vida Chardonnay did a tribute to Elaine Stritch that stunned everyone. View pictures in our full slideshow here.

LifeWalk takes place Oct. 5, and it’s never too late to volunteer or participate.

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Overcoming fear and finding passion

Landon Starnes had to step outside his comfort zone to compete as Lotta Pink in the Miss LifeWalk Pageant

lotta1
Landon Starnes as Lotta Pink

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Talk to Landon Starnes about his involvement with LifeWalk, the annual walkathon benefiting AIDS Arms and its partner agencies, and you’ll hear

Starnes repeat the words “passion” and “fear” a lot.

Starnes said he let fear rule him for too long. But in the end, there’s no doubt that “passion” wins out.

Starnes, who works as a hairdresser, said that he was diagnosed with HIV in October 1998. But he wasn’t prepared to deal with reality, and so for years, he said, “I ignored my diagnosis emotionally.”

But then some friends began to encourage him to confront his HIV status by getting involved in LifeWalk, specifically by joining the Guys and Dolls LifeWalk team.

Starnes said it took him awhile to get up to speed, and he was involved with LifeWalk just “off and on” for several years. But three years ago, he decided to really take the plunge and has been an active member of the Guys and Dolls team ever since.

This year, even that got ratcheted up a notch when Starnes finally gave in to his teammates’ cajoling and entered the Miss LifeWalk Pageant.

“My team had been asking me for two years to enter the pageant, but I declined every time. I was just scared to death to do drag,” Starnes explained. “But this year, I decided to accept the challenge, even though it scared me.”

The first challenge was to come up with a character, so “I started brainstorming about a character, about who I would be,” Starnes said. “I started thinking about things I, as a person, am passionate about. And I am passionate about the singer Pink.

“Her music gets to me in a way that no one else’s does,” Starned continued. “Her lyrics inspire me. I think, if I had to pick just one, my favorite Pink song is ‘Glitter in the Air.’ It says, ‘Have you ever wished for an endless night?’ ‘Have you ever thrown a fistful of glitter in the air?’ It made me look into myself, literally. Last summer, while we were on a road trip, my friends and I stopped and actually threw a fistful of glitter in the air. It was silly and fun, and now it is a memory that will last forever.”

But there is one line in the song, Starnes said, that really touched him, one lyric that made him think and gave him the determination to set aside the fear that had held him back: “Have you ever looked fear in the face, and said, I just don’t care?”

It was, Starnes said, a spark that made his passion for LifeWalk and for doing something to help others blaze even brighter.

“I knew I wasn’t going to try to be Pink, but I love what she does. So I decided I would kind of pay tribute to her with my character,” Starnes said.

And so, Lotta Pink was born.

And lo and behold, Lotta Pink won the Miss LifeWalk title on her first try, helping Starnes bring in about $7,000 for LifeWalk this year, bringing his total over all his Guys and Dolls years to about $11,000.

Starnes said he and Lotta Pink obviously have a lot in common. “We share our passion for the cause, first of all, and second, we both want to step outside the box,” Starnes said. “I was afraid of doing drag. But my favorite quote is ‘Do it scared,’ so that’s what I did. I stepped outside the box and challenged myself, and in doing that, I learned that fears are just fears, nothing else.”

Starnes said that while his fears still remain to some degree, Lotta Pink “has no fear,” and she is helping him overcome his own.

“It’s easier when you can put on a wig and some makeup and kind of step outside yourself,” Starnes said. “Now, learning to step out without that disguise is what comes next!”

Knowing that what he does is all to help AIDS Arms and the clients the agency serves makes it even easier to put the fear aside, Starnes said.

“The Guys and Dolls team works all year, not just on the day of LifeWalk. And the people at AIDS Arms work all year trying to help other people. I love AIDS Arms, and I love what it stands for,” Starnes said. “The walk itself is symbolic, to me. It’s a short walk, yes, but just going through the movement of walking allows you to release your passion.

“Everybody who participates is there for their own reasons, but whatever the reason, they are passionate about it,” he continued. “That alone speaks volumes. The biggest thing that came out of all this for me was seeing how good people really are.”

Again, it all comes down to overcoming fear and fully realizing the passion.

“It’s so important for everyone to find their passion, whether it’s LifeWalk or something else,” Starnes said. “Finding my passion has lifted me to a whole new level of awareness, understanding and joy. It’s just such a positive energy when you are around all these people at LifeWalk who work so hard to make a difference in other people’s lives. It’s helped me find a happiness I have never known before.”

AIDS Arms LifeWalk will be held Sunday, Oct. 2, at Lee Park. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m., and the walk begins at 1 p.m. For more information, go online to LifeWalk.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Miss LifeWalk pageant nets $18K

Buoyed by the phenomenal fundraising of Miss LifeWalk 2011 winner Lotta Pink — who came in to the pageant with sponsors and $7,000 already raised — the final tally for the event was $18,000. Lotta took not only the top title, but also Miss Money Bags for her pre-show fundraising.

LifeWalk, which raises money for AIDS Arms, Inc.,is a 3.2 miles fun walk through the Turtle Creek area. It takes place this year on Oct. 2.

Check out our coverage of the pageant here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Miss LIfeWalk 2011 at the Round-Up on 07.17.11

Photos by Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice

 

—  John Wright