by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
On September 25, the Asian Pacific Islander (A/PI) International Pageant returns to Seattle at Neighbours Nightclub for a night of glamour, entertainment, and pageantry that you won't soon forget.
'Once a year, we showcase the incredible beauty, talent, and diversity within the Queer Asian community on a grand stage,' David Luc Nguyen, who goes by the drag moniker Teriyaki Temple and is a co-founder of the A/PI event, told SGN. 'This is our opportunity to put a face on a segment of the population that is often overlooked and marginalized within the traditional Asian American community.'
According to Gaysha Starr, A/PI International chancellor, "The pageant will showcase the very best in Asian and Pacific Islander talent. Our contestants will compete in five categories, starting with national costume, swimsuit, talent, formal wear, and then the all-important Q&A for a $500 cash prize."
In addition to the pageant contestants, the A/PI International Board of Directors have approached and secured two national talents to perform: Massive Monkey, a local b-boy dance crew from Randy Jackson Presents America's Best Dance Crew on MTV, and Shanghai Pearl, Seattle's only Asian burlesque entertainer.
"We couldn't have a drag pageant without featuring two of Seattle's best drag entertainers, the live vocal styling of cabaret singer Arnaldo! Drag Chanteuse, and the legendary Smokee as Cher!" Gaysha Starr told SGN.
The pageant will be emceed by Teriyaki Temple, Shaka Kwan, and Gaysha Starr.
"Pageants like A/PI International are important as they provide an avenue to spotlight 'the best of the best' of the Asian Pacific Islander sector in the northwest LGBT community," said Gaysha Starr. "The work that goes on behind the scenes of producing pageants, as well as running in one, creates strong community as teams of people come together striving to meet one shared goal. It can take up to four or more people to get one contestant ready, from costuming and talent production to general preparation."
A/PI International dates back to 2001. Teriyaki Temple and Collin Kwan (known in drag as Shaka Kwan) decided to create the pageant to promote awareness and instill empowerment and pride in the Pacific Northwest's Gay Asian Pacific Islander community. "In 1998, Shaka Kwan and I moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington. We felt that Seattle's Gay Asian scene lacked a sense of unity and pride. There were very few Gay Asians in the scene, let alone doing community service," Teriyaki Temple told SGN. "Only a handful of Asians were doing the work that we as a community should have been doing. Smokee, Gaysha Starr, Lola Maharlika, and Asia were the only ones out there carrying the weight of our community for so long. We also saw that the Gay Latino Pageant was going strong and wondered why the Gay Asian Community didn't have one. So, we came up with the Mr. And Miss Gay A/PI Pageant."
"As co-producers, Teriyaki and I have spent a minimum of 25 hours a week since mid-July preparing timelines, networking, producing fundraisers to pay for the actual event, as well as organizing the actual A/PI council, securing sponsorship, and event planning," said Gaysha Starr. "I think it's important that our A/PI community have at least one big event to look forward to aside from Gay Pride where we can come together and be proud of who we are and what we stand for."
"It's funny, I only started doing drag because after my first stab at it, my friends told me not to quit my day job," said Shaka Kwan. "That only fueled my fire to prove them wrong, and the rest is history. Drag has opened so many doors for me. It inspired me to become a community activist, performer, host, and to pursue my own business in graphic design. Without any of my involvement in the communit,y I would not be a fraction of the person I am today. I feel like I am part of a greater cause and my life has been enriched in a way that I never could have imagined because I pursued my dreams. I am grateful and blessed to have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people and learned so many life lessons and skills. I encourage everyone to do the same."
"If drag hadn't given me the confidence to speak out I wouldn't have had many of the opportunities that I did," Teriyaki Temple told SGN. "After being elected Miss Gay Seattle, the SGN gave me an opportunity to start covering events for the paper, which then started a love affair with journalism. Drag gave me the opportunity to not only put together community events, but it gave me an opportunity to cover them and inform the public about what great work was being done in the community. After SGN, I went on to work for the national news magazine The Advocate as a contributor, and OutQ News on SIRIUS Satellite Radio as a correspondent. I recently left a job with the City of Seattle relating to Federal Compliance. I'm currently I'm a field producer for CBS News and have started the process in pursing my Juris Doctorate Law Degree."
Each year, A/PI International picks a beneficiary to give pageant proceeds to. This year's beneficiary is the Washington state Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN). "The work that GLSEN does for our youth is so important," said Gaysha Starr. "They provide the resources and support for LGBT students and the sensitivity training for educators that was lacking when I was in high school in the late '80s. I still remember what it was like to walk down the halls in high school, before being Gay was in the mainstream, and being harassed and picked on and not having people like GLSEN to talk to in order to feel safe and understood."
Since January of this year, "Gaysha Starr Presents," along with the Seattle Gay News and Neighbours Nightclub, have helped to raise over $5,000 for GLSEN Washington through drag shows and pageants. "I think that every little bit helps," Gaysha Starr continued, "We are increasing GLSEN's visibility and, partnered with the financial support, we are helping to keep them focused on their work, rather than worrying about their funding."
"We hope to provide an evening of pageantry and world-class entertainment while raising money for GLSEN and the A/PI Council," Gaysha Starr concluded. "We promise to showcase our A/PI community in the best way possible."
Presale tickets can be purchased from any A/PI council member (Gaysha Starr, Shaka Kwan, Regina King, Aleksa Manila, Antonio Perez and Jenuine Beatue) or Teriyaki Temple at TeriyakiTemple@aol.com and www.facebook.com/teriyakitemple. In addition, tickets can be purchased from BrownPaperTickets.com under Mr. and Miss Gay Asian/Pacific Islander Pageant. All presale tickets are $12. Tickets will be available at Neighbours Nightclub the night of the pageant for $15, but it is recommended you purchase a presale ticket as the event is usually sold out within 30 minutes.
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