Juliana Jeffrey finally becomes the Voice of Pride

For years, Juliana Jeffrey was a staple singer in the finals of the annual Voice of Pride competition — but always a bridesmaid, never a bride. When she became a mom a few years ago, she stepped back from singing publicly, but the itch remained. So she came back this year … and found herself, finally, in the top spot.

We spoke with Jeffrey about her triumphant return to the stage and what it means to her to be, finally, the Voice of Pride.    

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Voice: What songs did you perform at the finals?  Juliana Jeffrey: “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston and “Rise Up” by Andra Day.

You usually sing country music. Why the change?  I actually have [my friend Greg Castillo] to thank for that. I always do country. He said, “Sing Whitney — the gays love her!” I said,” That’s terrible!” He said, “Yeah, but it’s true.” I was struggling singing it in the shower and in front of the kids. Then one moment, I decided I would just go for it. I was in the shower and the kids were napping I thought, I’m just going to sing it. And I did — over and over until I got it.

Still, taking on Whitney is ballsy.  I didn’t want people to think I was trying to copy Whitney — I don’t sound like her. But people are really sensitive about Whitney. Even at semi-finals, I wasn’t uber-confident about singing it. But everybody said “You did such a good job.” So I got over myself and out of my head about it. I just tried to honor her and stay true to myself — I had to do me.

Where did you qualify for VOP? What did you sing then?  Marty’s. I sang country — Carrie Underwood. I started out where I was comfortable.

You won both the big prize and shared the duets prize with Michael Duane….   When they called [our named with the duet prize] I was like, “There’s no way! I’m not trippin’.” We sang “That’s What I Like” by Bruno Mars. Michael picked it. The audience chooses [the winner in the duet competition, not the judges] so we were like, “We can be as ratched as we wanna.”

How did you celebrate after the victory?  We went to the Round-Up afterwards for champagne. It was the perfect night.

What will you be doing at Pride?  [The festival] is on a Saturday and Sunday now. I only have to sing once, in the park on Saturday. Then Sunday I’ll just be riding in the parade. So I just get to have fun and celebrate with everybody. And I don’t have to worry about [not consuming alcohol on Sunday] to save myself for the concert! I told my mom, “I’ll be drunk all weekend, so if you can, just keep the kids!”

What advice would you give someone competing next year?  I know this sounds so After-School Special, but it’s also true: Take a chance but be true to yourself. Step outside the box. It helped with my confidence. I just always have played it safe every other year, but this year? Zero fucks given. Just sing like nobody’s watching.

What will you do with the prize money?  Pay off my last student loan. I already got rid of the credit card debt. I’ll be debt-free! How is that not a good thing?

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 15, 2017.