A Royal Return
By Laura Latzko, November 2017 Issue.
Experience as both a performer and a titleholder can be useful when competing for any crown. And, heading into the 2017 Miss and Mr. Tucson Pride pageant, both Diva and Kriis Dikay had a great deal of experience as both.
With nearly a decade of drag experience and more than a few titles to her name, the most recent of which being Miss Gay Arizona USofA At Large 2016 (read more at phoenix.outvoices.us/viva-la-diva), Diva (aka Tatiana Blanco) took the stage with three other contestants.
Similarly, DiKay (aka Kriis Quiroga) just stepped down following his reign as Mr. Arizona EOY 2016 (read more at phoenix.outvoices.us/kriis-dikay) in March. And, while DiKay entered Tucson’s male entertainer scene less than four years ago, he has a World of Dance Competition championship to his name.
Both entertainers entered the 2017 Tucson Pride Pageant eager to be a part of Southern Arizona’s returning tradition. The event, which took place Sept. 24 at The Maverick, celebrated the previous reigns of Demi LaRaye and Romeo White.
As part of the competition, contestants competed in creative evening wear, onstage question and talent categories. And after the panel of judges calculated the scores, Diva and DiKay were crowned as the 2017 titleholders and formally kicked off their reign at Tucson’s Pride on Parade (Sept. 29) and Pride in the Park (Sept. 30).
As soon and Diva and Dikay settled into their new roles, Echo caught up with them to find out more about what these titles mean to them and their goals for the year ahead.
Diva can be found at IBT's hosting Viva La Diva on Wednesdays and as a cast member in Flawless Fridays and Saturday Night Starlets. Photo by Scotty Kirby.
Diva, Miss Tucson Pride 2017
Echo: What made you decide to run for Miss Tucson Pride this year?
Diva: Tucson Pride is a title that represents the essence of the community here in our city. It’s not a title that acts as a preliminary to another contest. It’s something that makes an entertainer give back to the community that they grew up in. I am proud to be from Tucson.
Echo: What does winning this mean to you?
Diva: It means so much. I was proud that the judges and community felt as though I was able and ready to represent them.
Echo:What do you hope to accomplish as Miss Tucson Pride?
Diva: My biggest project at the moment is the first Tucson Pride Scholarship Fund. I think it’ll be a wonderful step forward in our community’s effort to further our youth support and education. I wanted to start this because of seeing the success in our sister city. It inspired me.
Echo: Are there any organizations or causes you hope to work with more as Miss Tucson Pride?
Diva: To be honest, it would be the Tucson Pride board. We are in a rebuilding year. I am excited to see where the road will lead us. But I am proactively going to be a part of this committee. As should any pride titleholder, I believe. We speak for the community. We should be heard.
Echo:Tucson performers have recently been making their mark in Arizona pageant systems. What do you think makes Tucson’s drag scene different?
Diva: Arizona has its own brand, and I love the diversity. Tucson has been evolving consistently. I love the new generation’s take on the art …
Echo: In what ways do you feel you’ve evolved as a performer since you began back on 2008?
Diva: I feel like I’ve grown up in an environment of great leaders. I feel like I grew into a performer that I liked to see from before I started. I love the old school, big hair, big jewelry [and a] lot of flowy fabrics.
Echo: What do you try to bring to the stage that is different from others out there?
Diva: One thing I always try to bring is passion for the song at the moment. What does it represent? What is the artist’s feeling? How can I give the same feeling to the audience watching?
Echo:What have been some of your favorite looks over the years?
Diva: My favorite looks have been the classic, sculpted hair, big-jewel looks from the past. I am a huge fan of classic Hollywood. So, I am deeply inspired by those looks.
Echo:How do you think being Miss Tucson Pride will help you to grow as a performer and person?
Diva: It’ll help me to connect more with the community that may not be at the shows or events. It’ll give me a platform in order to help those who need it the most. It’ll also help me create an opportunity for performers behind me to pick up where I leave off.
Echo:Who have been the biggest mentors to you as a performer?
Diva: The biggest mentors are those that came before and after me. All of those people around Arizona that keep performing, despite the price or the time. It makes me want to be a better performer.
Kriis Dikay hosts a show every first Thursday of the month at the PlayHaus with his group HOK, which also includes Dvyne Valentino and Or’ion Steele. Photo by Scotty Kirby.
Kriis DiKay, Mr. Tucson Pride 2017
Echo:What made you decide to run for Mr. Tucson Pride this year?
DiKay: After years of competing and taking my talent around the nation, I wanted to step back a little and focus on giving back to the community and bringing the people together.
Echo: What did winning this title mean to you?
DiKay: It was a complete honor. Feeling the spark inside me develop to a full flame is something that is beyond words.
Echo: Are there any organizations or causes you hope to work with more as the titleholder?
DiKay: I want to help cancer awareness organizations and also would like to focus to help any immigrant organizations who help or provide guidance to people in need.
Echo:Tucson performers have recently been making their marks in Arizona pageant systems. What do you think makes Tucson’s drag scene different?
DiKay: We give any entertainer the chance… It is all about diversity.
Echo: You’ve become known for bringing something different with every number and for your dance abilities. What have you tried to bring to the stage recently to set yourself apart from others?
DiKay: With our group HOK, we are giving Tucson something they haven’t seen before. We are bringing underground vogue and different styles to the drag scene … I still love performing top, and old, songs as well as doing characterizations and bringing new makeup looks into my art.
Echo: I know you went through a lot recently with overcoming cancer. After going through that, what made you decide to go back to performing?
DiKay: Seeing the difference and the reaction I had in people as a performer gave me the strength to come back and continue doing what I love. I was able to see that I am able to make a difference with who I am as an entertainer.
Echo: You were very open with sharing your story of overcoming cancer. What made you decide to do this?
DiKay: Being able to see that I can make a difference as an entertainer made me want to open up, give people the strength to fight … Right after the surgery, I also lost my grandfather and, two days later, my aunt to cancer. I knew I had to keep fighting in their memory and help others as much as I could.
Echo:How do you think being Mr. Tucson Pride will help you to grow as a performer and person?
DiKay: Being able to represent the city of Tucson in other cities and states will show me what other communities and performers do. It will definitely give me ideas on how to grow as a performer but also ways to bring people together and give back to our communities.
Echo: What have been some of your favorite numbers over the years?
DiKay: One of my favorites will always be my ThunderCats talent. Seeing it still brings tears to my eyes. Being able to be onstage with friends who love me and support me gave me energy to fully deliver that number… Also, I do a cover of Rise by Katy Perry, in all white costumes symbolizing an angel. I had multiple entertainers join me onstage to place each dash and medallion for every pageant I have won. My message to rise was to the Dreamers and all affected by the current DACA situation we are going through. Being a Dreamer myself, I knew I had to take a stand for my fellow brothers and sisters affected by it as well.
Echo:Is there anything else I haven’t asked about that I should know?
DiKay: Apart from the drag scene and entertainment, I am just a regular guy. I love spending time with friends, just going out to dinner, playing video games. And I am a huge family person. I love spending time with my mom. I’m a huge mama’s boy. She is my rock and the reason I am the man I am today.