By Staff, November 2017 Issue. Meet the rest of the Class of 2017 here.
What started off as a hobby (or so he thought) has evolved into a way of life for Edward Castro. The Tucson native first became acquainted with the world of pageantry in 2007 and, when reflecting on a decade dedicated to promoting a wide variety of contests and entertainers, Castro simply said, “I would have never imagined that it would lead me to where I am today.”
As the director of Solo Entertainment Productions, a promotional company that specializes in red carpet entertainment, and the founder of arizonadrag.com, a website dedicated to the art of drag, Castro finds pageantry as the perfect complement to both.
“Pageantry, to me, is my outlet to produce events, meet new people and network with people from all across the country,” he said. “Another part of pageantry, to me, is helping others achieve their dreams. There are [drag performers] in our community who … aspire to be national title holders, so they need promoters to promote pageants in order for them to do that.”
Throughout the years Castro has seen entertainers he considers friends achieve their dreams, improve in their craft and become better people overall. And that’s all the motivation Castro needs to continue doing what he does.
What you may not realize when you see him out and about, however, is that he’s constantly working and learning whatever it takes to make someone else better – from helping performers get started in pageantry to helping bring new systems to Arizona.
“I’ve been involved in a variety of different systems because I’m always looking on how to improve the drag community in Arizona and to keep traditions alive,” he said. “We have such a rich history of drag and pageantry here that [rest of] the country looks at Arizona as one of the top places to compete. We have some of the strongest competitors living right here in Arizona. I’ve been involved in pageantry, help bring new systems to Arizona and help others get their start in pageantry.”
Additionally, Castro maintains that drag is a critical part of the LGBTQ community that serves as an outlet for creative expression, an avenue for fundraising, an entertainment escape for the audience and so much more.
This, of course, led to another venture he thought was just a hobby: In 2009 he launched arizonadrag.com.
“Once I realized that drag in Arizona was very popular, and there wasn’t a place where people could go to find out information about drag, I launched the [arizonadrag.com] with only five pages – it now has 10 pages that features everything from local to national drag news and features,” he said. “I went into it blind, from creating the website to putting together the content. With the help of some popular queens, it became a hit with local queens and drag fans. I would have never imagined [that] today it would be nationally known with over 15,000 people liking it on social media and others using the webpage as there way to keep in touch with drag.”
Like any media outlet worth its salt, Castro realized arizonadrag.com needed a way to award annual recognition. Inspired by the Echo Magazine Readers’ Choice Awards and Barbra Seville’s Golden Wig Head Awards, Castro hosted the inaugural Diamond Crystal Awards 2010 with only 10 categories. Today, the wards have grown to 20 categories that involve all aspects of drag, including queens, kings, male performers, femme performers, fans and community members.
“The Diamond Crystal Awards are important because everybody likes to be recognized for their achievements … [and] we honor the entertainers’ achievements throughout the year,” Castro said. “It’s also a way to help promote the [arizonadrag.com] brand … and involve the community as each sponsor gets to present the award to the winners.”
Community, to Castro, means working together.
“I believe if we work together at one common goal everybody succeeds,” he said. “We are stronger together!”
This outlook is the reason you’ll find Castro involved with so many organizations and causes locally. Some of his most memorable work has been as a part of Phoenix Pride’s Entertainment Team.
“I love being a part of the Phoenix Pride organization … It’s my way of giving back to the community,” he said. “It’s a lot of work but I’m always up for the challenge and learn something new every year.”
It’s no surprise that someone who’s committed so much of his time to community would define also use community to define success.
“Success to me defined by the people you meet, the relationships you build, the accomplishments that you achieve that make a difference in the community,” he said. “[When you] dedicate your time … you will be more involved and feel more passionate about what you are doing and the cause that you are dedicating time to.”
Web-Exclusive Q&A with Edward Castro
Echo: You’re originally from Tucson. What can you tell us about your experiences growing up there?
Castro: My experience growing up in Tucson is one of a kind. Tucson is a unique city with a lot of history and culture, I spent 24 years of my life in Tucson. It was the place that I had my first job, my first love, went to my first gay club, met gay friends and was introduced to drag. At the age of 18 I came out as a gay man to my family – my mother first, then my siblings before the rest of the family just found out on their own. And 90 percent of my family is in Tucson, including my immediate family (his mother, Alice; father, Philip; sister, Marcella; brother, Philip Jr., and six nephews and one niece). Tucson will always be my home.
Echo: What brought you to Phoenix and what year was that?
Castro: In 2008 I was offered a job at Clear Channel Communication, a job that I could not refuse and a job that I’ve always wanted to have. My dream was to always be a radio personality and I had interned for several radio stations in the promotion department before being offered a job as promotional assistant. I had the pleasure of launching radio stations in Tucson, meeting and networking a lot of people before moving to Phoenix and working in their traffic department (traffic department meaning the people who put together the radio logs, commercials and tell the on air personalities when they can speak, it’s the line-up to the radio).
Echo: Was there a defining moment when you knew that Phoenix was YOUR home/community? And what was that like? Or is Tucson still really “home”? Explain.
Castro: There was a defining moment when I knew Phoenix was my home/community. I moved back to Tucson for a year throughout my nine years that I’ve been in Phoenix. After moving back to Tucson there was only one thing I could think about and that was, “What’s going on in Phoenix?” throughout that year I made several weekday and weekend trips to Phoenix just so that I could stay in the know of what’s going on. After living in a place for eight years you network, you build relationships and having to drop that and move back to a city you’ve been away from for eight years can be a little difficult. But I regrouped, I overcame my obstacles and moved back to Phoenix better than when I left. It was hard to do that, it was emotional, your leaving behind something that you built for eight years and having to stop that was difficult, but I considered it a learning experience.
Echo: You officially began your career in the drag/pageant promoter community in 2007, when you became a city preliminary promoter for the Miss Gay Arizona USofA system. At that time, what was going through your mind and did you have any idea it would lead you to where you are today?
Castro: In 2007, when I was introduced to pageants, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I was inexperienced, [but] I had some great help from great friends who had been in the business much longer then me … At that time of promoting my first pageant I would have never imagine that it would lead me to where I am today, I figured it would be a good hobby for a couple years and I would get over it. Now look at me.
Echo: In terms of growing, arizonadrag.com has officially has a pageant of it’s own now: The Mr and Miss Arizona Drag, an official preliminary to the Mister & Miss Phoenix Pride Pageant System. Why was creating this prelim important to you?
Castro: The first year for Mister & Miss ArizonaDrag.com Pride was in 2015 when we crowned Karime Lizaldi. It was important to become a part of Phoenix Pride because … the Phoenix Pride Pageants goes toward the Phoenix Pride Scholarship Foundation which helps community members further their education. It’s another way for us to help out the community while helping those who are interested in representing their community.
Echo: How long have you been DJing? And how did you get your start?
Castro: I’ve been a DJ for over 20 years. I started with a boombox in the backyard of my grandmothers house in Tucson, Ariz., at the age of 15. I started DJing family parties and now it has grown to special events, cooperate events, private parties and clubs. I’ve had the honor of DJing Dancing with the Bars, Splash Bash and Sexiest Bartender .
Echo: Why do you do what you do? And what is your favorite part of working with and promoting these entertainers?
Castro: I do what I do because I enjoy it, it’s a passion for me to promote others, create events and bring happiness to others. My favorite part of working and promoting entertainers are the stories that I hear and learning about each individual. I’ve learned that everybody has a story to tell, and it’s fun that I have a platform to be able to do it and share their stories.
Echo: Who are some of your role models/inspirations and why?
Castro: My biggest inspirations are my parents, they both have worked hard to make sure that I had and have a good life. They are consently working hard to make sure my life is the best that it can be. I work hard to make sure that I can give them the best life that they have and we are able to enjoy it together. In the drag community, Mike Fornelli and Daniel Eckstrom are some of my role models and inspirations. They have achieved so much and are respected so much that I hope I can earn that same amount of respect from others as they have for their accomplishments.
Echo: Favorite piece of advice you’ve ever received (or favorite quote)?
Castro: My favorite quote is, “If you can’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
Echo: What advice do you have for anyone looking to dedicate more time to a cause they feel passionately about?
Castro: My advice for anyone looking to dedicate more time to a cause is to learn about the cause before you do it, meet people of the organization, volunteer for the organization and, if you enjoy iy, then continue to dedicate your time because you will be more involved and feel more passionate about what you are doing and the cause that you are dedicating time too.
Echo: If you could summarize your efforts and experiences in 2017, what would you say?
Castro: If I could summarize my efforts in 2017 I would say “When do I have time to sleep?” being involved in a variety of organization takes up a lot of your time, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I enjoy keeping myself busy, it keeps me out of trouble. In the end, when it’s all said and done, I want people to remember me for the efforts and experiences that I had.
Echo: Where do you see yourself five years from now? Where to you see arizonadrag.com five years from now?
Castro: It’s hard to say where I see myself in five years, five years ago I never thought I be where I’m at today. In five years I see myself doing the same as I am now – just maybe on a bigger level. I hope to still be involved in the organizations that are close to my heart and be able to continue to volunteer my time to those who are in need. ArizonaDrag.com I see on a more national level, I have so many ideas for and see the potential that it has that I haven’t even touched on what the potential could be for the website.
Congratulations to the Class of 2017! Meet the rest of the inductees here.