ATHENA DION: THE PEOPLE’S QUEEN
Q: What was the first drag show you saw? Tell us about the experience?
A: Well, there was a weekend when I was just barely 18 and my good girlfriend decided to take me to a few gay clubs since I had never been to one before. We hit up the Coliseum in Ft. Lauderdale on a Friday and then Azucar in Miami on a Saturday, and all I wanted to do was watch the shows. Shortly after that, I went to Discotekka and saw Vegas Dion perform and completely shut down the club! I think she did Show Me Love. When she finished, she proceeded to grab the microphone and demand the crowd applause louder, and did they ever! I was completely “shook” in my skinny jeans! She terrified me and aroused me all at the same time. I think that’s when the drag bug really sunk its teeth into me. Of course, that night I also saw TP Lords perform and Gina Diangelo, and I was sold! After that I became such a big drag fan and drag junkie, I needed a fix every weekend!
Q: When did you decide you wanted to do drag and when did you realize it would be a profession?
A: Drag was calling my name from birth. In my youth, probably like many other young gay boys, I remember playing dress up in my mom’s clothes, fascinated by her makeup, trying it on when no one was around, kissing the mirror with lipstick, etc. It wasn’t until after the brutality of puberty and the glorious post-coming out era that I realized I could actually play dress-up in real life, too. It was after ending a relationship with a very famous local drag queen that I started to dive into drag myself. Fresh out the gate I got booked at the hottest club in Ft. Lauderdale at the time, Living Room nightclub, as the door hostess. Working that door and interacting with the club-goers came like second nature to me. I loved the attention, I loved the interaction, I loved the persona and the people’s response! I resonated very well with the community and my popularity began to rise. One thing led to another and I was starting to get more work in drag and that’s when I realized I didn’t want to give this new-found hobby up anytime soon.
Q: Who is your drag mother and who is your favorite queen other than your drag mother — and why?
A: My drag parents and biggest mentors and idols are Vegas Dion and Erika Norell. Their creativity, originality, versatility and stage presence are like no other. They are the best in the biz in my eyes and I feel like I’m a good combo of the two of them. We share so much in common on stage and off stage and we really have an amazing family dynamic. I am very proud of them and all of their accomplishments and so thankful to have had their guidance throughout my life. But, my absolute favorite drag queen since my youth has been Adora. She is literally the only drag queen that has ever moved me to tears with a performance. Her aesthetic, her movement, her embodiment and portrayal of the characters she is imitating is always so spot on. She is a living, breathing work of timeless art and I feel she is truly the essence of Miami Beach drag culture. It’s been so surreal in the past few years to have worked with her so much, and we have actually become close friends. Yet, as close as we can be, I am still like a child in awe whenever I see her perform. She’s my fave! I adore Adora!
Q: What’s your favorite number to perform — and why?
A: I have a few faves. I love to perform anything by Pink, although Gloria Estefan has to be my favorite to perform, especially here in Miami. I started drag because of the South Beach drag scene and how fierce it was, so to perform a diva like Gloria on South Beach is like drag heaven for me. I have a great medley of all her songs that I do. I also love her newer stuff like Hotel Nacional and Wepa. Even though Cher is my favorite artist, I really don’t perform her much. My guilty drag pleasure is a good Cher impersonator!
Q: What’s the best thing that has happened to you in drag?
A: This is a tough question. Drag has taught me a lot about myself and what I value personally and in the people around me. I have met tons of celebs in the club scene, and I was even fortunate enough to have Leona Lewis sing happy birthday to me a few years ago. I also got a chance to meet and chat with Chaz Bono. Last year, some of my sisters and I ended up on national TV featured on America’s Got Talent with the opportunity to impersonate the Spice Girls. That was so cool. I mean, there are tons of memories that were awesome, but I feel like the best and most rewarding has been the power I have found though drag to change lives. Recently I worked with Jackson Memorial Hospital’s burn unit and had a “Glam Day” with some of their burn survivors. These girls had suffered from severe burn damage and the center invited me in to show some makeup tips and basically have a fun makeup day. Well, it turned into much more than that. It was an amazing experience that opened my eyes to the power I possess as a drag queen and as a person. It goes beyond the fame and the glamor when I realized I can actually make a real lasting difference in people’s lives with what I do! That realization, inspiration, and motivation has been the best thing to happen to me in drag, to date.
Q: What differentiates you from other Queens (Makes you Unique)?
A: I’m the people’s queen! The main thing that sets me apart is my personality and my love to be a hostess! I really get my thrills from being in a crowd of people, meeting everyone, talking, asking questions, taking shots together. I love to perform and be on stage but much more than that I’m a people’s queen. I love to be in the mix. It’s so bad that my close friends hate going out with me because I never stand in one place, I’m always bouncing around talking to everyone! But I think that makes for a good host, and a good party… to be social, make them feel welcome, and be the person that they want to come out and have a good time with! Thankfully it comes naturally to me.
Q: What does the future hold?
A: The future is so bright! I look back and see the footprints I have left in the sand, and I look forward and see a never-ending shore! I can honestly say I see a shift from my work from the nightlife world onto a more meaningful path. Working with the burn survivors really changed my focus, and I want to use everything I have learned and my platform to expand the visibility onto heavier issues. I feel we have so many talented people in our community and if we focus those talents in the right way, we can change the world together. There’s no better time to change the world than the present!