By Laura Latzko, January 2019 Issue.
After a hiatus, the Junior Phoenix Pride Pageant returned to Rainbows Festival this year. During the October pageant, Phoenix Pride crowned Lola Angelica Stratton as the newest Miss Junior Phoenix Pride and Jace Alexander Knight as the newest Mister Junior Phoenix Pride.
Meant for youth between the ages of 14 and 20, the pageant had talent, essay, “Valley of the Sun”-themed wear, and Q&A categories.
The two new titleholders became faces of Phoenix Pride, representing both the organization and the youth community.
During the pageant, Stratton performed a burlesque number to Annie Lennox’s “I Put A Spell On You” for talent, and Knight did a talent number to the Darren Criss version of “Fighter.”
Stratton started performing in April 2017 as part of the BS West Stars Choice competition, and Knight began in May 2018 as part of Stacy’s @ Melrose’s The New Kings on the Block.
Both grew up with supportive families. Knight was exposed to the arts through his mother, who did theater while he was growing up and who now holds the title of Miss Kobalt.
Stratton’s parents took her and her sister to the pride celebrations growing up in Washington D.C., and at a young age, she danced around the house in her mother’s and cousin’s heels.
The two titleholders talked about their journeys during recent interviews.
Lola Angelica Stratton
Age: 19 years old until February.
Drag Family Affiliations: Drag daughter of Eva Angelica Stratton, a former Miss Phoenix Pride.
Artistic Background: Was involved with Valley Youth Theatre growing up and also did theater in middle school, including the role of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.
Interesting Fact: Currently studying fashion merchandising and fashion design in college.
Advice to other performers starting out: Believe in your art and yourself.
Echo: When you started out at BS West, was everything new to you?
Stratton: Oh yeah. I think when you watch a show like [RuPaul’s] Drag Race or [The Boulet Brothers’] Dragula, you think, “That’s easy. I can do that.” But once you start learning about hair, makeup, costuming, it’s so much more elaborate than you think, and there’s so much that goes into it. You never stop learning, whether it’s learning a new way to do your eyeshadow, a new way to do your hair or a new way to dance. There’s always an opportunity for learning, and I think that’s what’s really cool about doing drag.
Echo: Are you starting to define what kind of drag performer you want to be?
Stratton: I love traditional drag meets new drag. What I mean by that is a lot of new trends like wearing latex, wearing these bright pink costumes or doing these fast, upbeat pop songs. I also really like wearing the big hair, beautiful gowns and the big jewelry. I think it’s really fun getting to wear so many things and getting to play with so many different looks and so many styles.
Echo: Tell me about what the title means to you.
Stratton: The biggest thing for me was I get to represent the queer youth of our city. I think it’s really important, especially now with what’s going on in the world of politics and what’s going on in our world that we as the LGBTQA community make our voices heard, especially the younger generation, because we are the future, and we are the ones to make the next impact.
Echo: Have you had a chance as Miss Junior Phoenix Pride to work with one n ten?
Stratton: Within the next month, I will be at the Parsons Center [for Health and Wellness] working with the kids. One thing I want to do for [Phoenix] Pride is have a show hour or a review show for performers who are under the age of 21. I think it’s important for kids who want to start getting into drag to have that chance now. The first thing I’m working on for the Phoenix Pride Festival is to get an hour or review show one of the days to showcase how creative and talented the youth of Phoenix are.
Echo: Did doing Stars Choice help to prepare you for pageantry?
Stratton: I think doing Stars Choice is the perfect platform for introducing new queens because of the challenges. It challenges you to be creative. One of my favorite challenges we ever did for Stars Choice was we had to do one of the seven deadly sins. The host wanted us to pick one that we would never in a million years identify with. They told me, “You’re doing lust.” I had so much fun coming up with ideas and my take on what that means.
Echo: Has it been a challenge to have the role of Miss Junior Phoenix Pride after being on hiatus for a few years?
Stratton: Now that it’s new, people are going to look at us as the new generation, as the starting faces. We are the ones that are going to build the bridge from here on out … I think people are not quite sure. I think that’s why it’s important that Jace and I show people who we are and what we stand for.
Jace Alexander Knight
Drag Family Affiliations: Drag son of Jay Alexander
Artistic Background: Plays the piano and guitar and draws in spare time.
Interesting Fact: His husband is an emerging performer in Tucson.
Advice to other performers starting out: No matter your age, gender or sexuality, you can be a performer, if this is your dream.
Echo: Did doing the New Kings on the Block show help you to get experience as a performer before doing the pageant?
Knight: It gave me a little bit of experience and showed that it wasn’t really hard. If you just practice and practice and practice, you can do it.
Echo: What did you need to work on the most when you first started?
Knight: With me with performing, it is manipulating the stage area. When I started, I stayed in a triangle. Then, I got better, and I started moving a lot more and started actually getting into the performances.
Echo: Is there any organization or cause that’s really close to your heart, that you hope to get more involved with?
Knight: Something that is close to me is the Broadway [Gatlyn] Spectrum Grant. [Eddie Broadway] is our first transgender emperor, and it is for one person who is transitioning, trying to get top surgery or bottom surgery. Me personally, that touches with me because of the fact that I am transgender. I’m female to male. It’s nice to see someone trying to help the transgender community.
Echo: Is that really important to you, to be visible as a member of the transgender community, with this title?
Knight: I want to be out there in the trans community and show that yeah, I’m trans, but I’m a king.
Echo: Do you hope to show youth that the drag community is a place for kings?
Knight: I feel like a lot of youth, they’re too afraid, and they’re too hidden because of their not being a lot of kings. Or they’re hidden because of the fact that they are trans, and they think they can’t do it, or people put them down in high school. I was bullied in high school because of the way I looked, because I dressed like a dude. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be here. I always knew I wasn’t a girl. I always thought I was a dude. My husband gave me my first binder. I looked in the mirror, and I was like, “This feels really good. I look like a dude, I look like how I’m supposed to look.” My husband supports me and everything I do with the community.
Echo: Have you decided what type of performer you want to be?
Knight: It’s in the works. Most of my performances are all over the place. I will do old school music, like Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, and then I’ll do Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” I’m still trying to learn who I am as a performer.
Echo: What did this title mean to you?
Knight: With my title, I want to show that no matter how old you are, no matter if you are male, female, transgender, if you want to do drag, if you want to do pageants and you put your heart out there, you can do it.