By Staff, November 2017 Issue. Meet the rest of the Class of 2017 here.

What started off as a hobby (or so he thought) has evolved into a way of life for Edward Castro. The Tucson native first became acquainted with the world of pageantry in 2007 and, when reflecting on a decade dedicated to promoting a wide variety of contests and entertainers, Castro simply said, “I would have never imagined that it would lead me to where I am today.”

As the director of Solo Entertainment Productions, a promotional company that specializes in red carpet entertainment, and the founder of arizonadrag.com, a website dedicated to the art of drag, Castro finds pageantry as the perfect complement to both.

“Pageantry, to me, is my outlet to produce events, meet new people and network with people from all across the country,” he said. “Another part of pageantry, to me, is helping others achieve their dreams. There are [drag performers] in our community who … aspire to be national title holders, so they need promoters to promote pageants in order for them to do that.”

Throughout the years Castro has seen entertainers he considers friends achieve their dreams, improve in their craft and become better people overall. And that’s all the motivation Castro needs to continue doing what he does.

What you may not realize when you see him out and about, however, is that he’s constantly working and learning whatever it takes to make someone else better – from helping performers get started in pageantry to helping bring new systems to Arizona.

“I’ve been involved in a variety of different systems because I’m always looking on how to improve the drag community in Arizona and to keep traditions alive,” he said. “We have such a rich history of drag and pageantry here that [rest of] the country looks at Arizona as one of the top places to compete. We have some of the strongest competitors living right here in Arizona. I’ve been involved in pageantry, help bring new systems to Arizona and help others get their start in pageantry.”

Additionally, Castro maintains that drag is a critical part of the LGBTQ community that serves as an outlet for creative expression, an avenue for fundraising, an entertainment escape for the audience and so much more.

This, of course, led to another venture he thought was just a hobby: In 2009 he launched arizonadrag.com.

“Once I realized that drag in Arizona was very popular, and there wasn’t a place where people could go to find out information about drag, I launched the [arizonadrag.com] with only five pages – it now has 10 pages that features everything from local to national drag news and features,” he said. "I went into it blind, from creating the website to putting together the content. With the help of some popular queens, it became a hit with local queens and drag fans. I would have never imagined [that] today it would be nationally known with over 15,000 people liking it on social media and others using the webpage as there way to keep in touch with drag."

Like any media outlet worth its salt, Castro realized arizonadrag.com needed a way to award annual recognition. Inspired by the Echo Magazine Readers' Choice Awards and Barbra Seville's Golden Wig Head Awards, Castro hosted the inaugural Diamond Crystal Awards 2010 with only 10 categories. Today, the wards have grown to 20 categories that involve all aspects of drag, including  queens, kings, male performers, femme performers, fans and community members.

“The Diamond Crystal Awards are important because everybody likes to be recognized for their achievements … [and] we honor the entertainers’ achievements throughout the year,” Castro said. “It’s also a way to help promote the [arizonadrag.com] brand … and involve the community as each sponsor gets to present the award to the winners.”

Community, to Castro, means working together.

“I believe if we work together at one common goal everybody succeeds,” he said. “We are stronger together!”

This outlook is the reason you’ll find Castro involved with so many organizations and causes locally. Some of his most memorable work has been as a part of Phoenix Pride’s Entertainment Team.

“I love being a part of the Phoenix Pride organization ... It’s my way of giving back to the community,” he said. “It’s a lot of work but I’m always up for the challenge and learn something new every year.”

It’s no surprise that someone who’s committed so much of his time to community would define also use community to define success.

“Success to me defined by the people you meet, the relationships you build, the accomplishments that you achieve that make a difference in the community,” he said. “[When you] dedicate your time … you will be more involved and feel more passionate about what you are doing and the cause that you are dedicating time to.”

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