And the 2014 Voice of Pride winner is …

Reynolds, Ramalho, Guzman

… Loni Reynolds!

Loni wowed the audience and the judges in her three appearances — two solos, finishing up with a powerful version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and in a duet with fellow finalist Lauren Shafer on Adele’s “Someone Like You” — to take the 11th annual title. In fact, Loni was so good, she and Lauren jointly won the “best duet” award, voted on by the audience, meaning she took home $3,850 — not bad for one evening’s work!

First runner up was Alvaro Ramalho, followed by Vanessa Guzman, Carlos Saenz and Steve Patterson. Congrats, Loni and all the contestants on a great show. And look for Loni, Alvaro and Vanessa in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and festival next month.

You can see a slide show of the event by clicking here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

6 ways to fabulize your week

divineWe’re all about diversity in the gay community, and here’s how we prove it.

Let’s say you have a hankering to spend some time in the dark with gay Latinos this week. We got some suggestions. One is by seeing the musical Kiss of the Spider Woman at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, a musical set in a South American prison. Another is checking out Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown at Teatro Dallas, which features nine comic monologues dealing with all aspects of the gay Latin experience in the U.S.

If you’re tastes fall more along the lines of WASPy gay humor, you can still try to scrounge up a seat to Kathy Griffin, who is performing tonight at the Verizon Theatre. She’ll certainly talk about Kardashians, Real Housewives and, of course, “her gays.”

If that’s not your style, perhaps a little drag is what you need. The Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff is screening a 35mm print of John Waters’ outrageous classic Polyester tonight at 9:30 p.m., followed by a John Waters-themed dance party at 11. Costumes are encouraged. (You know you wanna try out that Tracy Turnblad get-up you have!)

If you wanna up the fashion quotient, the DFashion Week runway show — an inaugural fundraiser benefiting AIDS Arms and LifeWalk — comes to the Rose Room on Saturday. You can get tickets here.

For those who prefer the whole smorgasbord of choices, and like to be entertained as well, Sunday night is the Voice of Pride finals at the Rose Room. Ten singers walk in, one walks out with the title, cash, plane tickets … and bragging rights.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Voice of Pride finalists selected

VOP13 - Finalist Group Photo

Last night at the Round-Up Saloon, the contestants who have been vying all summer to be crowned the 2013 Voice of Pride got whittled down to a final 10. These 10 will compete on Aug. 11 at the Rose Room in the final showdown of the year; the winner gets bragging rights and the chance to sing at the festival in Lee Park following the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, plus $3,500 in cash and two round-trip airline tickets and a hotel stay at a luxury Hilton.

Congratulations to all the finalists, listed here in alphabetical below:

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Angie Landers wins Voice of Pride

This year’s Voice of Pride wasn’t short on familiar faces from previous years. You can almost guarantee who you’ll see in the finals each time, but this time, veterans stepped up their games big time. Some found their voices while others polished off past performances to a shine. But the night belonged to victor Angie Landers.

After her first round song “Anyway” by Martina McBride, it could have been fair to say that Landers had it in the bag. The crowd was behind her after all her just-misses in the past. But no one held back from working to give performances of their lives. Vanessa Guzman added sparkle to her deliveries in both dresses and charisma. She crooned “At Last” with solid emotional conviction in Round 1 and continued to knock out the crowd with a killer rendition of “Rain on My Parade.” Showtunes never hurt in this competition, but she amplified it to bombastic.

I’ve seen Carlos Saenz perform several times, but there was always a little something missing. He would sometimes be a little stiff with the song, or a tune didn’t display his talents properly. He found whatever that was Sunday night. In dapper threads, Saenz channeled his sex appeal and “there-it-is” voice with soulful versions of “Unchained Melody” and the gospel tune “His Eyes on the Sparrow.” Stellar stuff that gave him a good shot.

Erik Way, another familiar name to the contest, brought it just as hard. As the second “You & I” of the night, he somehow trumped an already impressive version by Jennifer Arrambide. Along with Landers, these were the ones to keep an eye on, but Landers seemed to have learned from prior outings how to relax into her music and her first track, Martina McBride’s “Anyway,” showed she was there to win.

I tend to question obvious song choices (read: Celine, Whitney), so when her second round song “One Moment in Time” by Whitney Houston started, I cringed a bit. Landers didn’t try to be Houston, but instead, embraced the song into her own and in her final note, the buzz in the crowd was for sure in her favor.

As the winner was to be announced, emcee Edna Jean Robinson played coy before announcing her name, but once he had, the crowd erupted, as did Landers.

“I’m so proud of her,” Robert Olivas said. “She finally did it, and I knew it was her night.”

Olivas is the other half of Spare Parts, the singing duo with Landers who won last year’s competition for groups.

Newcomers Aaron Alarcorn and Jazsmyne Kelly made healthy impressions in their first finals with operatic work by the former and some sexy soul by Starks. If there could be a Balls Out award given, that should be handed to Steven Patterson for his second tune, Dead Or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round.” The clean cut guy with the sweet face was committed to the retro dance tune — never treating it tongue in cheek which kinda made it great.

The runners-up included Greg Castillo, fourth runner-up, Eric Way, third, Carlos Saenz, second and Vanessa Guzman as first runner-up. More photos after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Pink Noise: The Dallas Voice Radio Show

Our guests this week were Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans Dallas; and Dru Rivera, 2011 Voice of Pride winner. Tune in live next Friday from 4 to 5 p.m. at RationalBroadcasting.com. You can also subscribe to Pink Noise on iTunes, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. The video version of the show is below.

—  John Wright

Voice of Pride finals tonight

Sing for your life

Voice of Pride comes to a climax tonight as winners in both solo and group categories are selected. After all those preliminaries in various clubs, tonight’s the night this crop of singers will pull it all together and offer up as much awesomeness as they possibly can. Winners earn a cash prize and performances at Pride. So this is a big deal.

DEETS: Rose Room, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. 8 p.m. DallaTavernGuild.org.

—  Rich Lopez

10 singers, 3 groups make Voice of Pride finals

Yesternight at the Round-Up Saloon, 10 vocalists and three singing groups made it through to the Voice of Pride finals. Dallas Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman said this is probably the best crop of talent to come through VOP, and he was pretty much on target. As one of the judges, it was tough to whittle the list down to 10.

Five groups competed, but Steelos, AMPH (pronounced “amp”) and Spare Parts made the cut and will compete Aug. 14 in the finals at the Rose Room.

The 10 singers to move on were Dru Rivera, Angie Landers, Joel Canales, Vanessa Guzman, Juliana Jeffery, Blake Askew, Steven Patterson, Carlos Saenz, Christine Pradia, Kristen Philips. They ranged from classic rock to American standards and everything in between. Just like last year, the field is split evenly with five ladies and five gentlemen advancing.

Perhaps a surprise to some — and definitely to his fan club on hand (with T-shirts) — was the omission of Robert Olivas. Having been named a finalist the last two years, Olivas’ supporters were brought to tears by him not advancing. However, he does still get to compete with Angie Landers as Spare Parts in the group category, and with a solid performance last night, they could be the one to beat.

Now a note to the contestants: I get it – black is slimming and easy, but after the first, oh, like 10, it got really  tiresome. Color isn’t a bad thing. Don’t be afraid of it. Or bedazzle the heck out of those black shirts and pants.

There were some pretty great voices and personalities on stage last night, along with host Victoria Weston, pictured, but dare I say this couple stole the show during the tallying of scores? They pretty much got a 10 from everybody. When they guy pulled her hair (I KNOW!), and dropped her to the floor only to catch her it was better than anything on Dancing With the Stars. I’m hoping fellow judge Gary Floyd will share some of the video he caught of the two wowing us during Donna Summer’s “Last Dance.”

—  Rich Lopez

Voice of Pride elimination round at Barbara’s Pavilion tonight

Start the eliminations

Voice of Pride is is now in elimination mode across clubland. Tonight, singer hopefuls head to Oak Cliff to test their vocal mettle at Barbara’s Pavilion and move on to the final.  Good luck to the contestants.

DEETS: Barbara’s Pavilion, 325 Centre St. 8 p.m. DallasTavernGuild.org/VoiceOfPride

—  Rich Lopez

Dallas’ vocal adrenaline

VOP runners-up raised the bar for everyone this year

Voice of Pride winner Mel Arizpe knew this was a great year to win the contest, with the new groups category and the trip to England, but she also knew it was the toughest yet. She and the other finalists all agree the competition was stronger than ever: Third through fifth place took home prize money, but also released a collective sigh just to make it on the proverbial podium this time around.

Runners-up Juliana Jeffrey, Angie Landers and Robert Olivas give some insight to their experience at this year’s competition and how firsts always seem to happen, no matter how long they’ve been competing.

— Rich Lopez

…………………………….

The Bridesmaid: Juliana Jeffrey, 2d  runner-up
Competition songs: “Here Comes Goodbye” by Rascal Flatts and “So Small” by Carrie Underwood.

Why these songs? I love the Underwood song, no question. I pick songs I really love or feel like I’m going through. I was just like Eek! But I don’t think my first song was a good choice.

What changed from last year? The talent was a lot better. Everybody was good and I think more people are finding out about it. It felt different this year — there wasn’t a lot of bonding like before. Every year I’ve made a friend. There was a lot more pressure.

TROIKA | Jeffrey, left, Landers, center, and Olivas gave the also-ran list star power. (Dallas Voice/ Arnold Wayne Jones)

Did the trip to England affect your performance? Who doesn’t wanna go to England? But personally, I try not to think about the prizes. It’s added stress. I like amazing singers and that makes me wanna be better.

You’re a VOP veteran. Would you rather win or keep placing and racking up change? Hey, all I can say is my rent is paid! The reason I do it every year is because I have so much fun with people I meet. We hang out.

Any immediate musical plans? I’m 29 but I don’t really have anything to show for my singing. So, I need to get more serious about that. But I gotta work these 40 hours a week. It’s tough, but I gotta make a demo.

Any thoughts on next year’s Voice of Pride? I know what to expect and I know what motions to go through so that’s relaxing. I think next year I will broaden my song choices. I just don’t wanna put myself in a box. I tell myself I’m gonna step out of this country box, but I never really know what judges are looking for. I just go with what feels good and pray for the best. I just try to do me.
The Breakthrough: Angie Landers, 3d runner-up
Competition songs: “I Drove All Night” and “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion.

Any second thoughts? No, though I tend to think that I should have shown my country side as well as my pop side. There’s always next year.

How was it when your name was called? Oh my gosh, it was such a surreal moment.

Do you pick songs you like or that will sound good? I only perform songs that touch me or I enjoy, but for competition I try to choose songs that show off who I am and what I can do.

How do you prepare? Practice — in my living room!


The Dude: Robert Olivas, 4th runner-up

Competition songs: “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train and “Remember When It Rained” by Josh Groban.

Why these two? I love those songs and I wanted to show my range. I’ve been paying attention to the judges’ comments and I wanted to win the crowd. But dang, the gays love their women singers.

Yeah, you were the highest placed male this year. The competition was gonna be so strong and it was all about the women this year.

How’d you strategize? I made it my business to go to the preliminaries and see the competition. I’ve grown to see what judges are looking for.

When did you start singing? I started singing about four but didn’t have training until my girlfriend at the time talked me into taking a vocal class at UTEP.

What did you learn about yourself this time? I’ve only made finals three times so I’m proving that I can be consistent.

……………………………..

It takes two

Mel Arizpe, far right, and Laura Carrizales had quite  summer. The real-life couple took the No. 1 and 2 spots in the solo competition at Voice of Pride and scored the inaugural group competition victory. As Mi Diva Loca, the duo won over the crowd with their second performance, a medley of pop hits which might have been risky. “Because it wasn’t a whole song, we wondered if the judges would see past that into our harmonies,” Carrizales says. “These were just songs we liked.” They also got to perform at Pride in Manchester, England.

If you missed ’em before, though, you can catch them (plus third place Juliana Jeffrey) riding in the parade Sunday, followed by a performance at the festival in Lee Park afterward.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

VOP winners shine in Manchester

Arizpe, Carrizales wow crowd with performance on final day of 10-day Pride celebration in England

Ed Walsh  |  Special Contributor edwalsh94105@yahoo.com

Mel Arizpe and Laura Carrizales
TALENT ABROAD | Mel Arizpe, right, winner of the 2010 Voice of Pride competition, sings a duet with her partner — and VOP first runner-up — Laura Carrizales during their appearance at the Manchester Pride celebration on Monday, Aug. 30. (Photo courtesy MRNY.com)

MANCHESTER,  England — A couple from Dallas brought a bit of Texas to England this week and stole the show on the final day of Manchester Pride 2010, the city’s 10-day Pride celebration.
Mel Arizpe and Laura Carrizales were the winners of Dallas’s Voice of Pride, an annual contest sponsored by the Dallas Tavern Guild. Arizpe came in first place, winning a trip for two to Manchester and $3,000.

As luck would have it, Arizipe’s girlfriend, Laura Carrizales, won second place in the contest.

So naturally, Arizipe took Carrizales for the trip to the UK.

The couple, performing as “La Diva Loca,” also won the Voice of Pride’s duo category.

All those talents were put to good use at Manchester Pride 2010 on Monday, Aug. 30. The couple took to the stage at 2:40 p.m. and performed for a short 10 minutes — but they enthralled the crowd for each second.

Arizpe took to the stage first. “All the way from Dallas, we’ve come to sing to you all,” she told the British crowd in a Texas twang before launching into the  Whitney Houston hit “I’m Every Woman.”
The Brits roared their approval.

Carrizales joined Arizpe next on stage for their duet medley of four different songs: The Fugees “Ready or Not,” followed by En Vogue’s single “Never Gonna Get it,” and two different versions of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” — first the fast dance version, then the slower “Glee” version.

The Dallas couple made sure that their abbreviated version of “Poker Face” included the line, “I wanna hold ’em like they do in TEXAS please,” with a strong emphasis on “Texas.”

And the crowd was thrilled with the Gaga tribute, many dancing and singing along.

The medley, put together by their friend Danny Anchondo, was the same duet performance that helped them win the Voice of Pride group category.

Said Arizpe after the show, “I was happy they were responding. I think they really enjoyed the duet.”

Carrizales said they were concerned about the sound system, but in the end, she noted, it sounded great.

Mel Arizpe and Laura Carrizales
AFTERMATH | Laura Carrizales, left, and Mel Arizpe relax after performing onstage at Manchester Pride. (Ed Walsh/Special to Dallas Voice)

Arizpe and Carrizales appeared confident and relaxed on stage. They said that it helped that they were performing for strangers who they would never have to face again if they gave a bad performance. “It was a comfort that we didn’t know anybody,” said Carrizales.

The couple also said they were impressed by the scope of Manchester Pride: “It’s 10 times the size of Dallas,” said Carrizales. “They block off a whole section of the city [in Manchester].”

Added Arizpe, “We get a good turnout in Dallas but nothing like this.”

The idea to award Dallas’s Voice of Pride winner with a trip to Manchester was hatched by Andrew Stokes, who is both the chairman of Manchester Pride and the chief executive of the city’s official tourism office.

Stokes came up with the idea after visiting Dallas and visiting with his friend George Carrancho, who is part of American Airlines LGBT-dedicated “rainbow” sales team. Stokes watched part of the Voice of Pride competition while he was in town.

“I thought what a great thing it would be to bring the winner to Manchester,” Stokes said.

He worked out the trip with Carrancho and American Airlines, who helped sponsor the trip. Stokes and Carrancho introduced Arizpe and Carrizales before the couple’s performance.

So what’s it like for a couple of Texans in England?

Carrizales and Arizipe said they were welcomed warmly by the English and were given the VIP treatment during the four days they were in town. They were surprised that they were asked to march at the start of the parade, right behind the grand marshal, actor Sir Ian McKellan. That was an impressive honor considering that there were 101 contingents in the parade.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens