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As one of Play Dance Bar’s playmates, Aurora Sexton is one of Nashville’s most well-known drag performers. She’s been performing coast-to-coast for a decade, but most Nashville audiences know her for the dark comedy and elaborate costumes she brings to the stage, often pushing “the envelope of morality, decency and taste”—and that’s from Play’s own bio!
What many may not know is that she spent a lot of her early career competing in national pageants. “I used to do pageants a lot when I was in my early 20s,” Aurora said. “The pageant circuit was a great place to network, especially for entertainers in my position…” She has been Miss Renaissance, National Entertainer Of The Year, and a top 5 finalist at Miss Continental, among many others.
Recently, she took one more foray into the pageant world, and won big. Aurora has now been crowned 2016 Miss Gay USofA! “I got dragged kicking and screaming back into it,” she said, joking.
There are many pageants and pageant circuits, but the USofA Pageants are one of the oldest and most respected. “There are three or four large competitions,” Aurora explained, “and Miss Gay USofA has been in existence for 31 years! Back in the 80s it wouldn’t have been unheard of for them to have over 70 contestants. The last time it was in Nashville was when Diane Hutton won, I think….”
In order to compete in the national pageant, one has to qualify through a preliminary contest. “I flew to Key West and won Miss Gay Southernmost of USofA,” Aurora said. “During the four months that followed, I was traveling all over, getting fittings and meeting with dancers. I documented the travel and the rehearsal all the way up to the pageant, and I am turning it into a documentary called Pageant Queen. It’s not just you. It’s you and a team of fifty people.”
Aurora and her team seem to have done a fantastic job: she won every category in the competition and finished with a lead of over thirty points over the second place contestant. Now what?
“As I’ve gotten older,” Aurora said, “I’ve also gotten more politically sound and have wanted to get more involved in activist work, and being a titleholder gives me a vehicle for some of what I want to do.”
Among other things, Aurora has a project in mind that brings together a number of her skills and interests, particularly performing, telling stories, and using social media to get a message out. “I have this idea to do a social media campaign I’m calling ‘On the Road with Miss Gay USofA’,”she explained.
In a way, the idea is similar to her documenting the road to the pageant. “As I’m traveling around the country for the prelims,” Aurora said, “while I’m there I want to highlight whatever is going on in the local community, whether it’s fighting homelessness or working on slowing the HIV epidemic. I want to use my platform to shine a light on local LGBT communities.”
She hopes that, by capitalizing on the prominence of her crown and using the social media skills she’s developed, she can help make a difference. “I want to tell stories that will be meaningful to our community. One of my biggest dreams was to be an actress, but I really think my calling is to be a storyteller, and I’m passionate about helping shape our story.”
Using the platform this way isn’t something she’s seen anyone else do. “I’ve seen a lot of people in the pageant community support fundraising for organizations and causes, which is great,” she said. “But I think with these really underused tools of social media, we can really use the attention paid to titleholders to wield real change and bring more attention to our community.”
Since the attack on Pulse in Orlando, Aurora has been working both in Nashville and with friends in Orlando to help however she can. “I have a lot of friends there… Todd and I and all of us were there ‘til 5am getting live updates, and I can’t even describe the feelings. Everyone I knew personally got out, but for days after I was watching my friends wail at the loss of so many of their friends.”
On Tuesday, Aurora traveled to Orlando with the support of Play and the USofA Pageants. “Everyone down there is broken… I had friends who lost up to twenty close friends, and people were going to 2-3 daily,” she said.
While in Orlando, Aurora participated in two benefit shows. “The line to get into the fundraiser at Southern Lights went on for blocks,” she said. That evening, the show raised $77,000, and the next evening the show at Parliament House raised an additional $5,000.
“It was really amazing to see the community come together. I had no idea how to perform for that, but I decided to take Joan Rivers, because I figured people needed to laugh. There were other times during the evening when people were all in complete tears, so they needed to smile. I’ll never be the same after that night.”
“We really live in a bubble,” Aurora reflected upon her return from Orlando. "So many of us who live and work in the gay community, we go to gay bars, we go on gay cruises, and so many of us don’t step outside of is. It’s too easy to forget how many in the world feel about us in the safety of these places. This really exposes us to how many people still feel about us.”
When she was in Orlando, Aurora said, people would come up to her for a hug in tears. “It wasn’t about me but about what I’m representing—it showed me a lot about what I can do with this… I hope I can work towards a lot of change while I have the crown.”
For those with a thirst to celebrate, Red Bull Unlocked is the key. In city after city, the most exciting bars, clubs, mixologists, performing artists, and more take over a local landmark building to showcase their signature ambiance while also collaborating for a must-see mashup. And now it's Music City’s turn to seize the spotlight, as the event brings 10 bars together in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood.
Fueled by the best of Nashville’s thriving music scene, Red Bull Unlocked has curated an eclectic night of show-stopping entertainment performances including a pop-up Whiskey Jam show, DJ sets, musicians, and more. The full lineup is here:
- Whiskey Jam (feat. Dozzi, Willie Shaw, and Johnny Hayes)
- A.B. Eastwood
- Daisha / Rap Girl
- Boom Bap (DJ Collective feat. DJ-Rate, Case Bloom)
- Whiskey Disco (DJ Collective feat. Coach, Jim O'Shea)
- Old Crow Medicine Show’s Jerry Pentercost (DJ Set)
- DJ Stretch
- DJ Griffin Green
- The Play Mates (Drag Show feat. Sasha, Vanity, Deception, Aura Mayari, Corlis Todd, and Carmin Triple C)
Counting down to the epic celebration, Daisha shares, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to perform in so many of Nashville’s top spots all in the same night. Fans can expect a lot of bops and high energy. I want people to dance and have a good time.”
Ward Guenther, Whiskey Jam Founder, adds, “Red Bull has been enjoyed at Whiskey Jam since the very first night, so it's only fitting Whiskey Jam is enjoyed at Nashville's first Red Bull Unlocked. Looking forward to this!”
Red Bull Unlocked Istanbul
Photo courtesy of Red Bull
Local favorites including Pearl Diver, Tin Roof, Lipstick Lounge, White Limozeen, and more will join forces for one epic night. Full list of bars and partners below:
- The Dive Motel
- Lipstick Lounge
- Pearl Diver
- Play Dance Bar
- Rosemary & Beauty Queen
- The Stage
- Tin Roof
- Whiskey Jam
- White Limozeen
- Woolworth Theatre – Opening Fall 2022!
- Eleven Eleven - Opening 2023!
Date: August 21, 2022
Time: 6 PM – 11PM CT
Location: 1102 Forrest Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Entrance: Ticked event
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A Gay Cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing Around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.