Drag It Out EPIC at The Manor

The weekend was a rainy one, but when the clock struck nine o'clock on

Sunday night, the clouds disappeared for the glitzy rainbow exploding from inside the Manor.

For the last ten weeks over a dozen women and men have been

participating in a free gender impersonation workshop

given by local non-profit Drag

It Out. At the end each

"dragling" has evolved into their alter-ego, whom they will then emulate on stage at tonight's special draguation ceremony. This is the first time that the students -- now labeled as "draguates" -- will debut their performer personalities in front of friends, family, and community all in the name of


At the door a large burly security guard greets me while I feverishly hunt for my ID. The downside of being a woman who insists on carrying a stylish over-sized bag. Am I right? Standing beside me is a petite female with long brown dreads wearing a camel fedora and what looks like a three-piece suit. Her partner is dressed in similar attire, staying on trend with the gender bending theme for the evening. Still looking for my golden ticket, the pair flashes silvery bracelets and hop ahead of me. Finally, wallet found. Access granted.

Walking in, my brain immediately goes into sensory overload. DJ One Star pumps pop hits and 90's hip hop loudly through the speakers, pulsating every beat through my body. The crowd is a sea of dayglo wigs in every color imaginable with faces dipped in glitter and rhinestones, and not a dull ensemble in sight.Women are dressed as men, men are dressed as women, women are dressed as men dressing as women. Talk about a gender bending mind fuck, but an enjoyable one nonetheless. A couple stripped down to their skivvies with tape on their chests are grinding against one another on the stage. An amazonian goddess dressed to the nines -- who might as well have been a Grace Jones impersonator -- glides along the dance floor in sky high clear platforms. It's safe to say that tonight there is no shortage of creativity behind the doors at The Manor.

One of the hosts for the evening is the notorious queen Twat LaRouge, a personality I have grown to love after playing bingo with her at Lips. Though she rarely makes her to way to the stage, her booming voice fills the night with amusing antics and is often referred to as the "fairy dragmother". Not only is she MCing the event, but is also one of the workshop's volunteer teachers alongside fellow queen Chocolatta and kings Rico Suave and De*Von Scamp. And what an out of this world mentoring job this fabulous foursome has done.

One by one, the "draguates" take the stage as their alter egos, and aside from a few musical glitches, the performances are seamless. By the looks of the carefully applied makeup and flawless costuming, it was surprising to know that they were drag virgins. During each performance dollar bills fly at the stage like confetti and the crowd screams like their long lost teen heartthrob is on stage.

But the evening isn't just about drag queens and kings, it's a charity driven event in support of local organizations --  Safe Schools South Florida, Sunserve, and Animal Aid Inc. or as Drag it Out likes to say, "for the kids, queers, and animals!"

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Betsey Denberg