By Laura Latzko, May 2018 Issue.
For Aaron T. Ghalichi, earning the title of Mr. Arizona EOY is an outlet to combine many of his passions. As a U.S. Navy veteran, he brings his passion for raising awareness around suicide prevention, and as a classically-trained jazz, tap, ballet and lyrical dancer, he brings all the moves.
While Ghalichi’s pageant experience only dates back about a year, he qualified for this state-level competition at the Phoenix prelim Jan. 7 and is headed to nationals.Read more about the 2018 Arizona Entertainer of the Year pageant here.
Echo caught up with Ghalinchi as he embarked on his reign as Mr. Arizona EOY 2018 and here’s what he had to say.
Echo: When and where did you start your journey as an entertainer?
Ghalichi: I began performing a year ago at Mr. Tucson EOY and Mr. Scottsdale EOY prelim pageants and competed in my first state pageant this year.
Echo: Which drag families are you a part of?
Ghalichi: [I am the] drag child of Aubrey Ghalichi.
Echo: Who are some of your mentors/influences?
Ghalichi: Karime Lizaldi.
Echo: What’s your favorite music to perform to?
Ghalichi: Broadway music and tunes with nostalgic ‘90s feel, such as Bruno Mars’ “Finesse.”
Echo: What are your favorite costume pieces?
Ghalichi: Corsets, thigh-high boots, anything sparkly.
Echo: In what ways has performing as a male entertainer been different than dancing?
Ghalichi: When you’re a dancer, you are relying on your troupe…When you are the only one on the stage as a solo act, it’s solely on you to keep everybody engaged and entertained … There’s more preparation that goes into the drag scene than there is being a dancer. There’s costumes. There’s rhinestones.
Echo: Are rhinestones new to you?
Ghalichi: For me, yes. I’ve had many late nights where I’ve helped people rhinestone costumes, but actually sitting there and doing it for myself is a different experience because I take more time and more attention to detail when it’s for me. Being sparkly is not such a bad thing. It comes along with the package, as a far as rhinestones and having makeup on. I am not really a makeup person, but I’ve had to put stage makeup on, darken my beard and my eyebrows.
Echo: What would you say to any male performers in the community who are interested in pageantry?
Ghalichi: My main focus would be for any performer who has just the inkling of wanting to do it to encourage them to do it … I was the same way. I was wishy-washy about it for a little bit. Finally, when I did it, I felt like, ‘Oh My God, this is an amazing adrenaline rush.’
Echo: For talent, you did dance number to “Singin’ in the Rain/Twerking in the Rain,” and for presentation, you performed traditional Aztec dance with live drummer – it seems like your music choice and dance background sets you apart as an entertainer.
Ghalichi: I’m a little bit thicker than most. They don’t expect the big boy to get out there and dance…When I get onstage … they’re like, ‘Oh, he’s probably just going to do a basic lip sync.’ I’m going to get out there and do as much as I can to entertain you.
Echo: What made you decide to get back under the stage lights?
Ghalichi: This is a coping mechanism for my PTSD. I’m a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. I found myself in a dark place, and just getting back into performing and getting back into being artistic has been an outlet for that, a very healing outlet.
Echo: What are your goals for your reign as Mr. Arizona EOY?
Ghalichi: … to continue the fundraising I’ve done for the community. It’s something that’s near and dear to my heart because I am a two-time survivor of suicide … Raising money for suicide awareness is always going to be my main goal in anything I do … I only have shared my experience in the last year because I did a lot of self-reflection and I was finally comfortable. It’s allowed me to share my story, give people a little piece of me. Hopefully, [anyone reading this] knows they can have someone to reach out to.