Category Archives: DANCE CHOREOGRAPHY

Why I Want To Become Mr. E.O.Y. 2014

Why I Want To Become Mr. E.O.Y. 2014 – An Open Letter

Steven MichaelI’ve decided to enter the National Mr. Entertainer of the Year 2014 contest because I believe it’s the best system overall for me as a professional performer to give who I truly am each and every time I step on the stage. I have big plans for my future as a representative of the E.O.Y. system because let’s face it, win lose draw, we involved are all representing Entertainer of the Year, crown or not. It’s where I belong. There are other choices but when given the logistics, politics and bigger picture, here is where I set my determined roots for the road ahead.

THE STORY CONTINUES HERE…

Laganja Estranja Interview: Drag Race Royalty

Laganja Estranja - RuPaul's Drag Race Season 6I wanted to call this “High Times of a Drag Superstar” but alas, I did not. Through social networking and creating trust among the queens, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing a great number of RuPaul’s Drag Race divas throughout the years. When the rumors began to swirl about the new cast for season 6 of RDR, I knew that regardless of who made the final cut I’d be speaking with attention-getting Laganja Estranja. Isn’t her name delicious?!

THE STORY CONTINUE HERE…

Britney Spears Rocks Planet Hollywood Las Vegas

Britney Spears StoreI was hoping to take a hot minute or two off from it all upon my return from our Sin City Christmas but since everyone has chimed in about Britney Spears’ opening night of her 100-show residency at Planet Hollywood, it’s my turn. Granted my seat wasn’t as close as say Miley Cyrus’ 50-yard-line worshiping center of Britney’s universe but I could see just fine. That’s considering I was on my feet 95% of the show. Sorry for the ones behind me watching me shake my ass, wave my fists and film a majority of the show who were not joining in. It’s a concert performance. GET UP!

THE STORY CONTINUES HERE…

Fabulous Palm Springs Follies Grand Finale

Fabulous Palm Springs FolliesI love a good show. Entertain me, please! For 23 years the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies have been thrilling audiences and saluting the troops of proud America while employing some of the longest and most mature performers at their theatre situated in downtown Palm Springs anyone has ever seen.  Due to a struggling economy the show will be bringing down its curtain one final time for their 23rd and final season. Here’s the story…

THE STORY CONTINUES HERE…

Britney Spears Appears at Planet Hollywood

Britney Spears ToxicUnless you live under a rock then you are keenly aware that our Pop Princess Britney Spears is about to set up shop and begin residency at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas beginning December 12 and continuing for two years with approximately 50+ shows of greatest hits and material from her upcoming album including #1 track Work Bitch and guess who has a ticket for opening night?! Me, that’s who!

THE STORY CONTINUES HERE…

Introducing Dancing Firecracker JoJo Siwa

JoJo Siwa

I’ve really found my forte has become celebrity interviews. They are something I really enjoy doing and just having the honor to conduct them is a special privilege I have. When I was in L.A. at the Glendale Studios seeing a live taping of Lifetime TV smash hit Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition this past spring, I took notice of a little blonde spitfire named JoJo, 10, who truly danced her dance. I was there interviewing Lady Gaga creative director Richy Jackson, one of the judges for AUDC, as JoJo really stood out to the choreographer in me. She will be hell in heels when she grows up.

Since the second season of AUDC hits Lifetime TV on 9/3 I reached out to JoJo and her wonderful mother Jessalynn about allowing me to introduce her talented wonderwall of extension and strut of sass to our big gay world. I was thrilled they replied so quickly.  So glad she supplied the amazing photos, as well. Sadly, few do. I sent the girls an email  saying, “Here’s a round of Q/A for you both. They are geared towards JoJo but I will note where Mamma can answer, too.” Here’s what they shared about dancing for Abby Lee Miller, fun out-of-studio time for JoJo and what it felt like shooting reality television. Just love what they both said…

jojo siwa_3

Steven Michael – JoJo, Did you ever get scared or intimidated by the lights or camera?

JoJo Siwa – “No, I loved them!”

I love them to. That will never change. How about Abby Lee Miller? Did you ever feel that she was ever too mean to you? She’s stern and strong with her ways.

“No, Abby was always good to me.”

Mamma, did you ever feel as if Abby was too hard or critical on JoJo?

Jessalynn Siwa - “No, I knew going into the show Abbys teaching techniques.”

Yes, I suppose you know what you’re getting into by working with Abby. Mamma, what attracted you to having JoJo on the show? Was there an audition to go through?

“JoJo dances all day long and watches Dance Moms over and over. I think it’s nearly every dancer’s dream to dance with or for Abby. Yes, there was an audition.”

JoJo Siwa

Growing up and dancing in my day, there were very few studios that train like her girls do on the show. They, of course, were the studios that everyone achieved to be like. It really is what you put into it. How was it working with the other competition moms? Any ones we should watch out for?

“Well, whenever you have dance you have dance moms. (smiling) Crazy moments and super fun moments. Yes! Watch for the ‘TRIANGLE.’”

jojo siwa_2

Oh, that sounds juicy. I can’t wait. JoJo, how much time do you spend dancing a week in class or otherwise? Is being a dancer what you want to so when you grow up?

“I dance around 20 hours a week. I would love to be FAMOUS!!!!”

Darling, you will be famous. Have fun with it and keep grounded. Stay close to Mamma and point those toes. JoJo, who are your idols in the dance world?

“Abby Lee, Rachelle Rak and Richy Jackson.”

Oh, I never would have guessed. (lauhging) Three great choices, nonetheless. Mamma, can you give me a brief bit about where JoJo is from and do you have dance background?

“JoJo and I are from Nebraska. I have been dancing my whole life. I have had a dance studio for 20 years.”

JoJo Siwa

Oh, wow! That’s fierce. I really miss being in a studio. JoJo, that scorpion extension is mind-blowing. When I saw you do it live during the taping I was blown away. How did you learn it and can you teach me?

(smiling) “I would love to teach you but you have to be flexible and have tons of control. That was one of those tricks my mom made me do over and over and now I can do it on a dime.”

Well, it’s phenomenal. What do you enjoy doing when you’re outside the studio? And do you have a lot of friends outside the dance world?

“I love to play the piano and play with my two dogs LuLu and CoCo. I am super social and have tons of friends. We like to swim, have slumber parties, go to the movies and just hang out!”

JoJo Siwa head shot

Sounds very fun! Mamma, how do you feel about Dance Moms and the outrageousness of it?

“Outrageous… nahhhh.” (smiling)

jojo siwa_1

JoJo, I was able to visit with judge Richy Jackson the day I saw the taping live. Did you appreciate what he told you during critiques?

“I absolutely love Richy and took everything he (and the other judges ) said seriously. I loved getting compliments from them!!!”

I was there the Gaga-inspired day and yes they did give you great critique. You’ll have so many people tell you so many different things. Even people will tell you what they think you want to hear. Keep an open mind but also realize it is all so subjective. Especially in performing while being judged. I wish you the best of luck with your career. Mamma, did you ever shy away from the cameras? What was that like being under the lens?

“No, I was never shy. You will see! (smiling) It was fun. An experience of a lifetime!”

jojo siwa

And finally, JoJo, can you tell me who wins the competition, please?! I have to know. (laughing)

“Nooooooooooooooo!!!! Ha Ha, I am laughing too!” (both laughing) “Thank you sooooooo much!” Jessalynn and JoJo.

And to my gays… WATCH OUT for this one. JOJO IS DYNAMITE! The new season of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition starts next week on Lifetime TV. Watch for me in episode 2 giving you on-camera audience realness for your nerves. X

Interviewing Richy Jackson – AUDIO

richard-jackson

I love having occasional access to the hottest movers and shakers in Hollywood today. I was able to sit backstage with Lady Gaga’s main man Richy Jackson as he was preparing for a taping of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition one day last spring. We kiki’d the ki, for realsies. I hit record and what was said became organic and real between us two. We had a lot in common and here’s what we discussed that crazy day inside Glendale Studios. Of my many celebrity interviews, speaking with Ricky Jackson one-on-one was a complete thrill! We bonded immediately.

Richy Jackson - Steven Michael - AUDC

Richy is good people. This I know is true! So talented but incredibly humble and real. Follow him on Twitter and catch his latest work. The new season of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition starts 09/03. Look for me on the second episode (I believe) which was the Lady Gaga-inspired installment showing out for the camera. They ask a lot of their audiences. And watch out for firecracker JoJo. ♥

LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW HERE

Experiencing Mr. E.O.Y. ’13 – Competing Nationally

Steven Michael

I’m just getting back to the grind of a casual life in Palm Springs, blogging again and wanting to share my amazing adventures of competing at the Entertainer of the Year pageant in Louisville last week. The road getting there to E.O.Y. was quite swift considering I was just competing in March nationally elsewhere after a huge hiatus from the competitive stage. However, the road to me becoming an entertainer started when I was seven-year-young and moved on down many roads from there. I’ve found the spotlight not only on the stages many would think immediately but I also consider my job and here with my blog the places I find myself entertaining these days.

Steven Michael

I miss the stage. No surprise. If you’re a performer then you know where I’m coming from. Am I too old? I hate that word. I can be older or oldest. Old dictates done. I guess some think I’m too old but not everyone, especially the ones who love and support me the most. Age will never stop me from doing something I feel  passionate about. And on the subject, you will never find out exactly who supports you and really cares either monetarily or just simply attention-wise until you run for something at this scale or possibly need their help. Trust that. No Tea… If someone you know is getting ready for something as important as, hmm, running a national pageant, body building contest, job promotion, whatever, just a simple message of support or text means almost as much as a few dollars do. Almost. We’re excited about what we’re doing. Ask us and we are usually too happy to share. Plus, it helps hearing it all said aloud.

Steven Michael

Sponsorship naturally is very important and without it I wouldn’t have been able to run. Many of us wouldn’t. I will not go broke doing these contests and encourage others to realize it is what it is, too. It doesn’t work out for everyone. The winning. I’ve lost more than I’ve won if you’re counting trophies. Have fun with what you do and enjoy the life moment. You take the risk and step on stage when many others wish they could or would. Among many faithful generous confidants, my dearest friend Dimitri James at SKINN has been such an amazing support system for #teamstevenmichael that he is the reason I am able to do what I do. If you’re a contestant who runs for a contest, thank your sponsors as much as you can. They make you.

Steven Michael

And phone calls are so rare these days that it’s the ones who make that effort to pick up the phone and verbally check-in who really make a caring impact. People get wrapped up in their own agenda and I get that. Those calls mean so much especially from people who know the real you and can be honest telling you like it is. We often have people around us who tell us what we want to hear, especially when you have power and pride of the pen like me. If you reached out to me during my run for E.O.Y. with support, I worship you and you know that. I will always listen to what you have to say. Know that, too.

Steven Michael

As soon as I made the decision to enter Mr. E.O.Y. I was off and running. I am very, very blessed that I was able to bring exactly what I wanted to the stage without compromising or cutting corners because of financial desperation. I was even in a position to sponsor my amazing dancers myself with the tips and donations by members of the gym I had collected from the breath of decision until departure. It worked out perfectly as did they, my dancers Madolyn, Kelley, Kelsey and Arielle. Thanks to YouTube (and lots of texting, trusting and Facebook messages) I was able to video choreography and they got together at Legacy Dance to space it and work it out. I knew that they would be everything. We all come from the same dance background and studio (just 20 years later) and their technique was on point.

Steven Michael

I flew into Nashville after a flight delay and upgrade to first class (Thanks, Delta Air!) and arrived late missing one night of rehearsals and time with mom who generously sponsored my travel. I ran around town after I checked-in to wind down, grabbed some food and then back to bed at my home away from home at Radisson Airport. Love that place, always! Fed Ex had delivered my packages there before I arrived so it was all safe and snug behind the front desk. I was set!

Trinity Taylor - Steven Michael

Wednesday I had a great breakfast in Nashville with mom and my best friend Kristin at Cracker Barrel before heading to Legacy Dance for rehearsal. I walked in and after a major Kiki session with my dancers we got started. They twirled and twerked for Daddy Bear, for reals. Even Thomas and Charles at Hedge on Perez Road donated to #teamstevenmichael by sending ahead 4 beautiful candles for my girls to enjoy as appreciation. It couldn’t have gone any better considering we had very little rehearsal together. Hire professionals and thank yourself later, I say. We blocked the performances and after a few solid run-throughs, I was on the road to Louisville. No rest for the wicked and weary competitor. Me.

Steven Michael

Traffic was ehhh leaving Nashville so it took me a hot minute to get past downtown but once I got into Louisville, I was there! I stayed with a former roommate Tyler who lived close to The Connection and it was great to reconnect with him. Exactly what I needed. It had been way too long. I had reserved hotel rooms at Candlewood Suites for the dancers to arrive the next day but staying at a close friend’s place was perfect for me. Plus, Tyler had agreed to be my drag slave for the contest. He was very in-tune with what I needed as a competitor. I had been down the same road with him years ago. Tyler rocked my stay and kept me grounded.

Angel T. Stratton - Steven Michael

Unfortunately, soon after I pulled into town a group of boys walking down the street decided to throw a handful of those orange crackers with the peanut butter inside through my open window and pelt my dashboard with them causing orange cracker to go everywhere. Whoosh! Amazing aim. Crackers for the crackers, I guess. It was shocking to say the least. Luckily it wasn’t a rock. Many reasons went through my head as to why but the bottom line is that we continued driving and got where we needed to go safely. It could have gone awry quickly if I had said and done what was on my mind. It made me wake-up, that’s for sure and see my surroundings. I get very comfortable in Palm Springs. And I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, Toto. That was the only heavy instance along these lines while I was there in Louisville, thankfully. The rest of the stay was everything!

Steven Michael

The next morning I arrived at registration early as instructed. Not everyone got there to The Connection when they were suppose to but I wasn’t keeping score. I was worried only about myself and getting my dancers safely to town. Xavier Cole, Mr. E.O.Y. 2012, spoke a few minutes while we picked contestant numbers, turned in music, entry fees, applications, et al. He reached out and checked in with me while I was getting ready here in California which meant a lot to me as a contestant. Once the girls arrived, I let them know I had picked #12 out of 13 so it would be a minute or two before we started. I was happy with that draw but I was even more happy I that everything I needed the girls for was the first night. I knew they’d have a complete blast and get job offers which they did on both accounts.

Steven Michael

Rehearsals went well considering we needed to quickly figure out spacing on that grand stage at The Connection. It gave us a chance to meet (and scope out) the competition and see what game everyone else was bringing. It was on! I could see it was going to be a great show. If I compete and win I want to compete and win against the best. If I’m to have my face cracked I also want it to be by the best. We got the girls checked-in and paid their monies so that was done. I promised that once they arrived I’d pay them in full and I did. Business first, Hunty. Treat people like professionals and they in turn return professionalism.

Tiffany McCray

After a great meal at Tyler’s, shower and packing, I got back to the club and the evening began. The Kings of E.O.Y. were competing along side of us and then the Miss contestants joined in the next evening and finished off Sunday night at the Horseshoe Casino. The energy backstage was fierce and exciting. CeZanne was emceeing the contests which I lived for. She ran that audience and show how things needed to be done. It was so good to see her and reconnect over the course of the next 3 nights. Terry Vanessa Coleman also ran backstage like military camp – a really fun rigid, do-it-like-this-and-don’t-pull-shade military camp. It worked very well. The gorgeous Vanessa DeMornay also emceed and she is one hell of a performer! I loved the feeling and space I was in.

Steven Michael

Presentation category was first. It went very well. I felt the stage, dug the balls of my feet into that floor and shwerqed it all over. I threw my D a bit and the girls did amazing  giving me exactly what I needed. Me dressed in a fierce yellow shirt with blinged-out cuffs and my ladies with snatched-back buns, white dress shirts and black heels serving Vegas Realness. I felt incredibly comfortable every time I was onstage. I was handed the microphone and spoke well saying everything I planned on mentioning all sponsors, city, contestant number and name. Short and sweet. The moment was incredibly real and really wonderful.

Steven Michael

Next, the contestants were split down the middle and rotated between Talent and Onstage Q/A. I was able to speak about my dear sister Ashley Kruiz during my Q/A and how writing about her passing was one of my all-time favorite blogs because it came from the heart. Plus she had made such an impact on that very stage it felt like the only thing I wanted to discuss. When I said the words Ashley Kruiz, the house went up. It was fabulous. I spoke well, took my settling breath and again said everything I wanted to. I love the microphone and have no problem speaking into something so big and black. Stop… You’re being silly.

Steven Michael

Talent time. Our production began and it was about 2 a.m. Whew. This race is not for the weak and weary. It’s abusive to your body but performance is often that way. Plan ahead getting food in your system and rehydrate constantly, I encourage. We nailed this dance production. There were a couple of heres and theres that could have used some polishing off but I’m very happy with the way we performed. I was on my words and we had a really fun time with it all. The crowd seemed to enjoy it, too. Delorian Chase turned my mix out and she too gave me exactly what I wanted for my crowd and judges. After a sleepy pass through White Castle on the way home I fell into bed around 3.

Steven Michael

The next day and actually most of my time I spent perched on Tyler’s back porch enjoying the unseasonably cooler weather. Friday evening I had Creative Evening Wear and a dear friend Jana who I danced with when we were 18 brought up her daughter Rue who escorted me for the category. I had a beautiful faux mink coat atop my bling encrusted tuxedo that needed tending to by a stunning size 0 bombshell. Check, please. It meant so much that Jana made the effort to come and support in such a way. Rue and I look so incredible. Flawless. I believe the mink was a risk but I stand by it. I knew I’d stand out.

Steven Michael

Saturday my dear Carmella Marcella Garcia (George T. to his friends) made the trip up to visit with old friends (Tyler and I) and enjoy a cookout including Laird from The Connection who took me down memory lane and beyond, Tyler’s fabulous daughter Salina with super boyfriend Jason and her son. It was a wonderful relaxing moment and I loved it. It was perfect. I enjoyed my pre-Swimwear category meal of a Tic-Tac and single ice cube. Nah… close. Ask anyone that knows me and they shall tell you that I eat no matter when.

Steven Michael

Being it was the final night of competition for me with only the Creative Swimwear category and crowning, I felt a sense of bittersweet come across me as I did when I was finishing up the preparation. I thoroughly enjoy the hard work, the prep, the decision making, blinking I find very therapeutic and of course the stage time and spotlight warmth I worship. I really don’t have any opportunity to perform these days to this scale so if I have to go and find it, so be it. If I’m able and have the desire to, I will. I made a great piece of jewelry to wear with the Aussiebum suit my love Jeremy Barnes donated to my cause. The goddess Trinity Taylor, who was dressing my sister Tiffany McCray competing for Miss, escorted me out and we served the children in our virgin white. She looked hot! I gave them some gratuitous cake shots and swaggered on off.

Steven Michael

I forgot to mention that for the opening number of this same night, we male contestants were given headless costumes to put on so we would all be standing there headless holding our own heads. Cute gimmick. Cheap costumes. David Freklz Hunter was helping me with mine just as it broke. I called out, “STUNTS!” and we laughed it off trying to piece it back together. Sure enough, we are all out there in our individual headless moments and and I start to scoot across the stage all eerie, my frame comes loose again and starts to fall off. I quickly dash behind stage right shuffling to get it back on somehow. Here I finally come back out holding it in place with my left hand and my head in my right. It was a mess. I committed to what I was doing and kept going.

Xavier Cole - Steven Michael

It was crowning time and I popped on my tuxedo from Creative Formal Wear changing the shirt and tie. When it was all said and done, and this is how I saw it, David Freklz Hunter brought his strongest game and swept 4 of 5 categories taking the title of Mr. E.O.Y. 2013. He was by far the winner, I admit that honestly. When it comes to me, I didn’t place but my scores were incredibly consistent and strong except for the judge who scored me half of what they did everyone else. If they had thrown out highs and lows it could have been different but when I saw that only one judge gave me such low scores across the board I actually just laughed. Maybe a Daddy Bear done him wrong once or maybe she does’t like California. Who knows?! I’ll never know because they also don’t give out comment sheets afterwards.

Steven Michael

It’s ALL so subjective you must enjoy the adventure or you’ll find yourself empty-handed too often. Next time, I’ll simply have to give them something they can’t refuse. And will there be a next time for me? I always say if that, meaning my last performance, was the last time I ever get on a stage and do what I love, I want it to be under my terms and completely my way. With every decision a consequence. We know that but it never rings more true during the height of competition. I would love to do it again but for now everything is packed away and closed up for the season. Although, I could use a hit of e6000 and glue a rhinestone on something. Stay tuned…

Richy Jackson Returns to Season 2 of AUDC

Richy Jackson - Steven Michael - AUDC

I spoke with Lady Gaga’s main man Richy Jackson during season one of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition and gained a very good report. When I got wind that there would be a second season of the show I knew I wanted to get the story from the main stage. After a few Tweets and emails with Richy’s fabulous publicist Kelly, it was scheduled and set! I was to drive into L.A. for the day and see the taping live while speaking with Richy beforehand in his dressing room.

The show hadn’t been announced just yet but was filming in Glendale so I gladly made the trip into town. I love a good drive into Hollywood. Give me a reason, I’m there. I pulled right up and parked before heading up the studios. I was quite early since I was meeting Kelly so she could take me upstairs to meet Mr. Jackson. After texting her that I was there, I saw her soon coming down to meet me and escort me up.

Backstage we passed by the craft services table which looked appetizing and casual crew members milling about. Upstairs I got into Richy’s dressing room and began to Kiki like we had known each other for years. I hit record on my iPhone and began to record our conversation which was simply priceless. It just flowed and became quite organic. Here’s what he shared about the new season of AUDC, his dance convention “Dance Down” and working with Mother Monster, our Lady Gaga.

Here’s what Richy had to say about the new studio…

“Last time it was theatre and we were far away. It was like “Where are we!? (laughs) There were seats and it was amazing. This time it’s a studio and it’s just different. So were very up close and personal with the dancers.”

When I asked him about male dancers this season since there was just one during the premiere season, he offered…

“There’s two boys. Twins.”

The conversation turned towards Lady Gaga and Richy’s amazing work relationship with her. Kelly was perched in the corner dragging up a pair of sunglasses for Jackson since the theme of this particular show was inspired by the individuality of Gaga.  His thoughts…

“I’m excited about today. It’s episode 2 of the season. I’m ecstatic about the new season. It’s a little scary ’cause you just don’t know what to expect, will Lifetime like us on camera, and the whole thing? I thought it was a great hybrid of Dance Moms and dance competition. Abby, Robin Antin and I (the judges of last season) were from such different backgrounds it was really fun when we were letting people go home because we saw things differently.”

Experienced Broadway Baby, Rochelle Rack, has joined the judge’s panel with Jackson and Miller replacing Antin. Richy’s feeling about the change…

“Rochelle is from Pittsburg but lives in NYC. I like her. She’s in Flashdance: The Musical. She’s reminds me of Robin, but the Broadway version of her. Bubbly, snatched, hair done, nails done, everything done. It’s taken some adjusting for her since Abby and I have already had one season together.”

I change gears and get Richy quickly together when I ask “What makes a well-rounded dancer?” After a brief pondering, he shares…

“I would just say that a well-rounded dancer is a “Jack of all Trades” not a “King or Queen.” Someone that still has to learn, not someone that’s not a master. I prefer “Jacks” because there’s a rawness and vulnerability. Most people are not dancers and they only go off what they feel and they see. There’s a different approach to the dance when they are trying to adapt to all different styles. I always tell Abby in her world everyone already knows a pirouette. The vulnerability of the dancers I work with connects with the camera and reads somehow, someway. Someone that can adapt to all styles is a well-rounded dancer in my opinion, applying themselves to each dance genre. You must be free of yourself! Confidence can sell anything.”

I asked Richy if he ever gets nervous when the camera pans to him and he needs to respond immediately. This is what he allowed…

“I don’t get nervous. I try to listen to what Abby said so I’m not touching on the same point. I try and give the dancers ideas and angles that haven’t been discussed. I always try to be inspirational to the dancers and audience. I’m not scared, I’m like ‘Let’s get it!’ I love competition day! Absolutely love it!” (both laugh)

As far as the new cast of kiddies goes, I inquired if he had gotten to know any of them and how that works. Jackson says…

“This is still fresh for me. Abby gets to see them during the week more than we do. I came in last week for a special challenge day so I got to see them outside regular competition day because I was working with the kids. I got to see them outside my regular judging day. Then you get to know the mothers as well as their kids and there’s 11 of them. Thank God they give us sheets with their names and information on it! I love this part because you see the fight as the season goes on and people go home.”

Does Richy have any free time outside the studio or tour? And what’s going on with Lady Gaga? The inside skinny…

“The Born This Way Ball tour was cancelled abruptly in Chicago due to Lady Gaga being injured. We were devastated. From that moment on I started doing my dance workshop called ‘Dance Down’ and went on a 6-city tour where I basically go and work with dancers who are both fans of dance and/or Lady Gaga. I never realized how much thought goes into becoming a professional dancer or choreographer, it’s not just the steps. I’m seeing the youngest kids doing it all. What are they on?! It’s bananas! At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to work with kids and I saw them really dancing and really performing, really technical, I thought this was going to be a great job.”

Richy discusses his newest endeavor discussing working with Bollywood’s highest-paid and most-popular actresses Priyanka Chopra who is now breaking into music…

“She is the Angelina Jolie of India, been in many Bollywood films and very popular. A former Miss World. We were just in Miami shooting the video with Pitbull with 8 dancers which was amazing. Zumba had played a big part of producing it since they put a Zumba breakdown and beats in the rhythm of the music and will make an instructional video to go with the Priyanka Chopra production.”

And where is home for Richy Jackson? Where does he prefer to rest his weary head and dancer feet? Jackson says…

“Home is North Hollywood, full-time. I like to travel but I love to stay home. I’ve been so many places because of Gaga but I haven’t really been able to enjoy those places because it’s venue, rehearsal, stage, travel. But when I’m home it’s the best! I’m grateful!”

One more thing about Mother Monster… What about the tour? New Music? Here’s the Tea…

“The tour has been postponed indefinitely. She has a new album coming out soon called Artpop and she’s working on it. It’s been a year since Born This Way. The first show was last year April 27, with rehearsals starting February 4. She and I started conceptualizing the show the prior December… it takes so much time! The show changes constantly. So many details change when songs come and interchange out with others. She gets bored quickly. Changes with her… I’ve been dealing with it for years. The dancers called it the “Gaga Challenge” by the end of it all.”

After the interview we took a couple of pictures and I headed back down to the street to wait my turn before filing inside after thanking Richy Jackson greatly upstairs. The line started forming and I ran my iPhone to the car since you normally can’t take them inside studios. By the time I got back I got in line and waited, and waited some more. Then they filed us in to do some “on camera audience” b-roll with excitement and awe for the show while the camera panned down the line of the anxious audience. Finally after the tenth take I  gave them a Limp Biscuit “YEAHHH!” dead in the camera and that was that. Once inside there was more waiting and audience pans and reactions. I should be all over this episode of AUDC.

When the filming finallystarted it was quite an extensive day. The dancers were amazing especially a blonde firecracker named Jojo who gives you sass, extension and layouts for your nerves. Each routine was done twice for the camera and then the judges’ approval or not. I sadly had to scoot out early since I was driving back to Palm Springs that evening but had a great time meeting Richy and being backstage with him. Ah, Hollywood… The magic. I love being a part of it.

EXPOSED! INSIDE MALE PAGEANTRY

Steven Michael - Angel T. Stratton

I just put away the very last piece of pageantry and figured it was time to sit down and write my story. This time last week I was asking, “Why?!” But today I’m just wanting to tell my tale and move on to my next move. It’s taken me a good week to be able to tell about my experience to you readers and to anyone else who is interested in knowing what it’s like to compete for a national level competition after not competing for over a decade. The journey was incredible, humbling and wonderfully long. I wouldn’t change that for the world and really wouldn’t have changed much that I did. The outcome was so many things it’s hard to compile into just a few words. Here’s my story from my own eyes and inner thoughts as I became a contestant for All American Gent 2013 and the road that led me to the stage in Dayton in March ’13.

I’ll be telling the details that most everyone in my position wants to tell and would tell you if they had the guts to. Many would never be as honest because they may still be trying to prove something with fear someone reading it or hearing it may judge them one day. Like I mentioned during my Onstage Q/A about us all being vulnerable. As contestants we are much more than the regular Joe so I have to share my true story for others to learn and know if it’s right for them or not. I have nothing to lose at this point as many already know the outcome of it all.

Steven Michael

I wanted to be able to write this blog post without sounding bitchy or bitter because I most definitely am not. I have judged dozens of pageants and contests on local, regional and national levels, and international for that matter. I realize that adjudicating it is completely subjective especially when ranking people within a group. One likes this and the other likes that. I’ve had to do it and it’s not an easy job unless you already have in mind what you like or want from a contestant and representative and someone is able to give you that. It’s always exciting when someone comes through and stirs the pot mixing things up. The range of characters and contestants for Gent were unique and varied which made it anyone’s game. The battleground was quite level with competitors offering strengths across the board. For the first year, the group was very well rounded for Gent.

Watching it all unfold was very entertaining to me who hadn’t been in the arena for a few years. Most of my fellow contestants were seasoned pros with huge followings and other national titles under their rhinestoned belts. The odds were most definitely not in my favor so I started very early. I had to, and in hindsight am so glad I did. I needed every minute I could use between working full time at World Gym, having a sane home life with husband and dogs, delightful trips in to Hollywood and of course the rigorous preparation for the pageant. I was very ready by the time I arrived in Dayton with every t crossed and i dotted.

Steven Michael

However the story starts on July 5, 2012 when the first advert for AAGent went online on Facebook. I was having my latte by the pool and scrolling through my phone when I saw it. It was like someone slapped me across the face and I knew immediately I was doing it. Being a national title holder wasn’t anywhere on my radar but it had always been a fire inside that smoldered inside me for years. It took me about two weeks before I mentioned it to anyone because I wanted to make sure this was something I was serious about and it wasn’t a fleeting moment. I knew I wouldn’t be wasting anyone’s time because if I were to do it I would be as serious as ever so I kept quiet only asking a few individuals what they thought. All encouragement.

So the journey began. I’ve coached queens to titles, choreographed them in productions and as mentioned judged my good sisters behind comfortable pen and paper. But it had been a hot minute or two since I got myself ready to compete for a national title. My competitive background in a nutshell scrolls through competitive dance company at 18, competitive drag at 22 at Miss Gay USA, preliminaries for Mr. Gay USA at 26, leather titles sash circuit at 28 and beyond. I love competition and other than the Hollywood Rat Race of L.A. at 32, I haven’t competed for much in years. I was ready to get started.

Steven Michael

I decided to create a separate blog at theroadtoaag.blogspot.com where I could post about my journey and maybe even pass it down to someone else when I was finished with it. I built the pages from scratch and every month noted something that was happening on my run or a quick thought. I figured it couldn’t hurt and hopefully will inspire someone else to use the tools that are around them to become a stronger brand and image. And, if it’s free, why not?! Tune in everyone… The Internet isn’t going anywhere so use it and build your brand solid and strong.

Once I started mentioning to certain individuals that I was interested in competing for the contest most of them came forward immediately in support by monetary means which was quite humbling. I know many entertainers have worshipers that see them night after night in clubs who will often sponsor or generously provide money their way for a pageant. It was overwhelming and I felt as if I was really doing something great. Something people believed in. My run for AAGent took on a life of its own and I really enjoyed the ride because I knew that once it arrived it could soon be over. Thanks to my many incredible sponsors including corporate sponsors: SKINN by Dimitri James, Ted Guice Fitness and Joe Blasco’s Makeup School Hollywood including my makeup artist and prosthetics creator Veronica Munoz. And one last time, if it hadn’t been for them I wouldn’t have ran for All American Gent 2013. They are the reason I was able to live this dream.

Whitney Paige - Steven Michael

In between shopping online for contest drag (and when I say “drag” I mean costumery – had to continually remind people I was not doing drag – not sure what about Mr. says drag) and often buying Asian sizes that were way too small for me, I worked with a group of amazing DJs who created the exact soundtrack for my performances. I can be quite particular about what I want especially when it comes to individually me. They all were very patient and I thank them greatly! Luc Benech, Mac Valentine and Eric Ornelas, I worship!

My husband Jacques became my very own Tim Gunn as he allowed our dining room to become something out of Project Runway. Thankfully he could stitch and sew a few things for me as I perched next to him blinging hot pants for Talent discovering e6000 glue worms for weeks to come and stranded rhinestones shining bright like diamonds under chairs on floors. The process was so fun and I found that gluing stones on fabric can be quite therapeutic. Grab a pair of tweezers and play some music while blinging a Sunday afternoon away! Jacques actually helped create much of what I did and I love him for allowing me to be me. I couldn’t have done it without him!

Veronica Munoz - Steven Michael

Then there’s the trips to Los Angeles! WOW! The thoughts makes me quite misty. Quite the highlight. Perusing the Fabric District with Jacques Downtown L.A. Window shopping the Garment District and discussing Formal Wear. And then of course there’s the sessions at Joe Blasco’s school with Veronica working on my Creative Costume prosthetics. I so wanted to show people what was happening but had to keep it on the DL as much as I could. What started as a hope for some makeup from Joe Blasco turned into humbling generosity and support from his great team. Walking into his school and being able to say he was on #TeamStevenMichael was beyond my wildest dreams. I felt very special. And being able to bond with Veronica the entire time was a relationship I never saw coming and am so thankful we now have. I couldn’t have been in Dayton without her.

After choreographing my Talents I knew that I would have to shake off the dust and get back into the studio. I worked here by the pool in front of the windows but naturally doing them full-out is another story. I’m not 21 anymore but in hindsight feel great about what I did. Not bad for an old man. I can still move more than many and I tend to be my toughest critic. I even thought about doing a water-downed prelim Talent since it was looking like there would be right under ten male contestants total. If so, we would all make it into final night. But I loved the mix so much that I decided to give it my all. If these were the only times I’d be performing after this was all said and done then I was going to make them fierce! I’m so glad I did and don’t regret one step.

Monte St. James - Steven Michael

Then the final days leading up to departure came. Costumes were placed in jumbo Ziplock bags and piled into a cardboard box with tuxedo jackets, et al. to ensure delivery to hotel in Dayton. I never imagined the airlines could lose my luggage. Just in case we shipped ahead. Note to fellow pageant peeps: Fed Ex will ship your bags ground without need for boxing it up. Be smart. On Friday before we left, I even got a fabulous card in the mail from one of my sponsors with a bit extra for the road and a note saying, “Things always cost more than we plan…” He couldn’t have been more right or perfect with his timing. Everything was in place!

I excitedly arrived in Dayton to snow flurries. After grabbing my jacket out of my carry-on I quickly scooted off to baggage claim and then to Thrifty for my rental car that had icicles on the frame. For some reason I was going to Instagram a picture but figured people have seen an icicle before. As soon as I pulled onto the interstate the “low tire pressure” light came on. Since I was heading back to pick up Veronica flying in from LAX later in the evening I decided to switch it out then. It worked out where I got a nicer car. No Tea.

Steven Michael

Once I arrived, the very first person I saw was promoter Scott Gonyaw in the lobby which is always great. We caught up for a hot minute before I got checked into my rooms at the Dayton Grand, one for Veronica and one for me and Jacques who was arriving on Friday. I noticed my Fed Ex box behind the counter had arrived soundly so I grabbed a cart and wheeled it up to the room before unloading it and everything I had brought. I was able to quickly see what had been destroyed by the wrinkle monster and what was OK. Things were in good shape so I set up shop in the room with makeshift hanging areas for ties and my warrior kilt while spreading everything else out for examination.

The phone rang and the sweet girl at the front desk said I had a delivery. I quickly punched it downstairs to see that my incredible dancing dears back in Nashville had sent me three dozen roses in this amazing glass vase. It was sickening! Seeing that sitting in my room every moment I was there really made me feel the love and support of true family. It was overwhelming. I gave my sweetheart maid a few roses every day since I had so many to share.

Braxton - Steven Michael

I soon got a text from Jade T. Stratton telling me their room number and to come on down. We were on the same floor and come from the same drag family, The Taylor’s. Her son, my nephew, Angel T. Stratton was competing for Gent while Jade was competing for All American Goddess at Large along side our competition. It was a double crowning which made the entire event more exciting. We KiKi’d a bit before Jade punched it with Dena Cass to a dress fitting while Angel and I headed to grab dinner and get to know each other. Angel is a super sweet kid who has an awesome career ahead of him. Very, very talented and smart. Meeting him was a true highlight of my time.

Later that evening I picked up Veronica at DAY and got her safely into her room before we discussed a few last minute details of what we were doing together. On Thursday morning I grabbed a latte at Boston Stoker around from the hotel and then some quick breakfast with Whitney Paige downstairs before getting ready for registration. Once at registration I believe I was the last one to arrive. I said some quick Hello’s before commencing to filling out paperwork. I perched next to Cielo Whitney who I had shared a wonderful phone conversation with a month prior and skimmed my eyes around the room noticing there were eight of us who had shown up for competition. According to our secret Facebook page for contestants that seemed about right.

Steven Michael

After going through the handbook, rules and winner’s contract, we drew numbers and finished the final bit of business. I was the last one to pick a number and grabbed #7 which was fine with me. It meant of the two groups, I’d have Interview and Talent on Thursday and Creative Costume and Formal Wear Friday. I was excited because Jacques could see the costume on Friday when arrived. I introduced myself to the other guys and everyone soon retreated to their rooms to prepare for Interview.

Interview went incredibly well for me. I know how to talk to people and I’m not afraid of expressing myself. I got out everything I wanted to say so I was happy with that. I don’t believe it could have really gone any better and I wasn’t nervous all weekend. Truly. I soon scooted over to the venue to hear my music over the speakers and feel the stage with the shoes I was wearing. Afterwards I went back to the room and got ready for the night ahead by napping and doing a double-check on those categories. We grabbed some food and groceries for the room since the town basically closes down at six o’clock. I learned from the previous March when I judged Scott’s AAG at Large to plan ahead or go hungry.

Angel T. Stratton - Steven Michael

We arrived to the venue Masque Nightclub and luckily had four dollars in quarters because that was the only way to get the gate working that early on a weeknight. Plan for everything unpredictable! I set up shop downstairs next to Monte St. James and spent most of the evening cuddled up in my chair waiting to go on. We were so cold hanging out backstage I didn’t get dressed until I absolutely had to. We didn’t have the incredible body heat our Goddesses provided the next few nights but the laughter was prevalent and brotherhood growing strong. In actuality, the camaraderie and natural friendships that formed between us all was almost a deterrence from the very thought of competition. It was quite organic and welcoming. That was brilliant. That feeling of reading one another while sending kudos to another and hanging onto some else. It was all wonderful.

I roamed the venue until it was time to get ready for Talent which was the last category of the evening. I stretched out and warmed up a much as possible and went upstairs basically walking straight onstage. I remember vividly standing there behind the curtain and having an unexpected feeling of aloneness rush over me. Monte had eight backup dancers behind him and had just came off the stage. Plus, we did a bit of the same music which caused me to wonder, “Huh?!” I lifted my head and gave a thumbs up to the sweet DJ as emcee Asia T. O’Hara announced my name. The curtains opened allowing the spotlight to find my skin and I began to lip-sync for my life.

Nicolette Ashton - Steven Michael

My music was a timeline mix through the decades of my life including “Born to Be Wild,” “Disco Inferno,” “The Party Has Just Begun,” “Use it Up, Wear it Out,” and “Let’s Go!” with year and name stamps throughout. The mix was fierce! I offered thug punk realness as a costume with few removals. Being onstage after being off for so many years made me second guess myself a few times even though watching my performance on a iPhone I admit that it wasn’t bad at all. Again, I’m a tough sell because perfectionism is only a perception. I must remember this. I kept my head up, cheesed when I could and did what I needed to do. As one of the judge’s commented it’s hard to compete as a soloist against a huge production. I know. No Tea.

Formal Wear went wonderfully. I love the jacket I wore which nailed me above the knee. It was completely different than the others and I knew it would be. It was risky but I had to find out. Plus, I love modeling so that was incredible. I ate it up. That’s why I was there. To feel that moment in the glow of the spotlight. One judge commented it could have used a splash of color since I chose to wear all black. I still stand by what I wore. Again, it’s all subjective. We all looked really good!

Steven Michael

I did discover an insider secret though. And I’m surprised I never even thought about this being possible. The real girls allegedly have Vaseline for their shiny smiling teeth and spray adhesive for swimwear placement. But now guys have duck-taping cuffs to bare arms under tuxedo jackets for the perfect length with a sleeveless shirt. It makes sense. In photo shoots they snatch clothes back for the perfect fit. Wouldn’t it be a mess if they were asked to take off their jackets. Ooh, stunts.

After we finished and changed, Veronica and myself headed to Denny’s to grab some food before arriving back at the hotel around 2 a.m. where we ran into my dear sister Nicolette Taylor Ashton who was convinced that Veronica (a real girl) was competing in the pageant. When she found out that her worries were without merit we all squealed, her in relief. It made my night and Veronica took it all in stride. She had a blast the entire time meeting the folks. Everyone was in a great mood which speaks a lot about how Scott runs his pageants and the level of comfort and family people feel there.

Alana Steele - Steven Michael

The next morning we grabbed espresso again at Boston Stoker and went over some final prep for Creative Costume. The Goddesses at Large were arriving and registering so our evening got pushed back which gave me chance to pick up Jacques at DAY. I now really know my way to and from the airport in Dayton. Once I got Jacques back to the hotel we headed over to the club to start getting ready. The process of getting in the prosthetics was everything and it turned out exactly how I saw it happening. I believe it took many by surprise and they didn’t know really how to respond. Veronica Munoz turned it out for me. All the guys were looking great. It was a very tough contest. And the blood red contacts I ordered to wear were PERFECT even though it took a hot minute finding prescription ones online.

I laugh thinking back on what I put Veronica through backstage. I had a snatchaway ivory cloak turned around backwards over my shoulders with a high collar to hide my actual face since I had a prosthetic mask on the back of my head for the first reveal. It was a homage to Janos, the God of Beginnings, famously known for having two faces able to look into the past as well as the future. We should have put the cloak on behind the wall on the stage level but did it down below the stairs and I kept calling out, “Where am I? Where am I?” Hot mess. I got set up just fine but it was a WTF moment for a hot second. The music played. A mix of dialogue from Gladiator and Enigma’s “Rivers of Belief.” It was too fierce and the reveals were perfectly timed. The prosthetic now sits as a conversation piece in our home.

Steven Michael

We searched high and low in the drizzling rain to find late-night food and finally did so at the BBQ joint on the corner of 5th. We devoured the grub and immediately found our way back to the hotel for sleep. The next day I had a rehearsal for the final night where we contestants acted a fool with one another and enjoyed the last moments together. Jacques and I headed to Numero Uno for some type of decent meal and then back to gather things for the evening ahead.

Back at the venue, all of the Gents were in their pageant modes and quietly in their elements. My sister Delores T. Van Cartier was painting the Boots off sister Kamden T. Cass while energy flowed throughout the room. Jasmine Skies was laughing with Jacques about ex-lovers across from where I was painting. She asked him, “Why are you looking at me?” and he charmingly replied, “Because you are beautiful.” She didn’t ask again. On a side bar, Jasmine placed third-runner up but unfortunately had to go into the hospital after the contest for serious health issues. Get well soon, Gal!

Steven Michael

The Gents found their way to the stage dressed in Presentation white where we drew new numbers and competed for final night in the categories of Talent, After 6 Formal Wear and Onstage Q/A. The Goddesses continued their prelim categories while we were in the final stages. I picked #5 on final night and was in the middle of it all! The place was packed and my Talent went very well. I had a fierce Matrix coat that velcro’d up with rhinestone bars and red mirrored and stoned hot pants underneath. The great thing about getting ready for a pageant is the fierceness you have to wear afterwards!

I danced to a mega-mix of Prince music that included beats and sounds I really feel within like the honest brilliant ballad “Gold,” “319″ from Showgirls, the must have “Baby, I’m a Star,” dramatic raw monologue from “The Beautiful Ones” and the end-on-an-up-note “Let’s Go Crazy.” The ending pose was a grandiose fan kick with my right leg that grazes my nose and slides behind me into a half forward split. It gives the illusion of a forward “Death Drop.” I end up face down draped over my bent left leg. Trying to grab an extra point or two I really give that last moment hell and am now still feeling the aftershocks of it. Again, for those keeping score, I’m not 21 anymore. Just saying…

Steven Michael

Formal Wear went fabulously and I loved what I wore. A white dinner jacket, black pants and vest with a bright red tie. I brought out a red rose and gave to Alana Steele which was borderline cheesy but figured what could I lose at this point. Again, no regrets. I’m a gentleman and knew I’d be meeting a lady along the way. I modeled the house down and felt that as long as time allowed. She asked me to draw an envelope and read the question quietly to myself then she would read it aloud. Blessedly she demanded silence from the crowd which I know we all appreciated.

I picked the first one I saw which was #2. I opened it and read the question to myself. As soon as I saw the word “advice” on the paper a relief came through me as my poker face stayed strong. I read the entire question which in summation asked the best advice I ever received and how I could share that with newer entertainers. I had this answer. I took a deep breath and looked into the spotlight because I knew this was it, the last moment I had to change any judge’s mind. And I spoke.

Dayton, Ohio

I told of when Tina Devore looked over at me backstage at Backstreet through the mirror’s reflection telling me to be the queen and entertainer who just did something without the useless words before. She said, “Don’t be the queen that says ‘I’m doing this, I’m doing that’.” Just do it! Not to run my empty mouth about what I’m going to do. Brag about it after you do it because as we know the emptiest barrels make the most noise. And I did just that when I decided to do this pageant. I shared that I would tell new entertainers to do their homework, not to go broke competing, enjoy the moment while you can and come as the winner not only as a contender, and understand the subjectiveness of it all. I thanked them for sharing the experience with me and wished them good night. I nailed Onstage Q/A.

I slid into an American flag vest that I had planned on wearing for Crowning and a different jacket. I felt really good about my showing but knew I wasn’t going to win the title. I was correct and Monte St. James was soon crowned All American Gent 2013 with Cielo Whitney as his first alternate. It was difficult for me competing against contestants that had entourages pounding the stage for them while they were onstage and fan clubs shouting their names. I’m honest in saying that. That sways the judges. No Tea, No Shade. I saw the way things were going by what my fellow Gents were doing all weekend. I got lost in the mix. Plus it was my first time back in a very long time. But I had no idea that I would stand there and receive nothing. It wasn’t the loss that cut so deep but the nothing. I figured I’d at least place as a runner-up but in fact did not. I wasn’t ready for that. It all happened so fast I just went through the motions. The road was so long and glorious getting there for the result to be so brutal and immediate. It has now happened to the best of us! I can now move on and know I hopefully influenced someone to live one of their dreams no matter what their age, image or lifestyle. No one will do it for you except you. Is it that important to you? Well, is it?! It was for me.

Roses

After the pageant I made it back to the hotel and packed a few bags for Jacques to take back home with him since I was about to run him to the airport to grab his early flight. I was numb most of the time while he buzzed around me getting ready. I got him to DAY safely and then I drove through Steak and Shake for some food before getting a generous late checkout back at the hotel. I made it back to the airport myself only to wait for a few extra hours for delayed flights. I sat quietly staring out onto the tarmac wondering what just happened in between texts and phone calls from concerned loved ones.

I finally got on my planes and back into my sanctuary at home safely in Palm Springs. I wouldn’t change one step of my journey. It was completely magical. I really wouldn’t have changed much of what I presented. It was true to who I am. Next time, I’ll live the advice of the late and great Amber Richards who told me after her Miss Continental win, “Give them what they want. Win, taking what they have to offer and then do what you want with it.” Onward and upwards… Until the next amazing journey!