Dragnique ends Friday night with the crowning of Atlanta's next drag superstar, and I'm kind of bummed to see the end of a fun weekend tradition.
Some combination of my friends and I have made it out each Friday for the past six weeks to see the competition at Jungle, and from the very beginning it was clear that Draqnique was to be a unique offering to Atlanta's already diverse drag scene.
I've seen a lot of drag since I moved to Atlanta almost six years ago. I dated a former drag queen and during our time together, it often felt like we went from drag bar to drag bar to see what amounted to a lot of the same thing over and over again. While I believe it takes talent to transform oneself from male to believably female, my patience for lip-syncing songs with mediocre stage presence is fleeting.
When the incomparable drag legend Charlie Brown launched a “Drag Idol” series at his cabaret in Underground Atlanta, and eventually WETbar (which is now Primal), the scene gained greater interest with a viewer friendly format. It was kind of like a live reality show, where each week queens were dealt a drag challenge and the audience ultimately decided the winner.
Building on that concept, Dragnique took to the stage January 7 at Jungle — the only local venue with a true performance stage. While the idea stayed true to Atlanta's earlier competition efforts, creator and drag host Eve Michaels took the production to a higher level with a video introduction, taped interviews with contestants and footage of the first challenge.
Beyond that, the contest was also a fundraiser, donating contestant tips to a different charity each week. Of course donating money is a wonderful idea, but I believe the true genius was widening the competition's audience to include local non-profits and their interested patrons.
The audience determined each week's winner, but judges helped lead the way.
Though RuPaul's Drag Race alum Nicole Paige Brooks helmed the judge's table each week, an interesting mix of guest judges—one “celebrity” judge, and one charity judge—filled other slots to various results. Some were hilarious and helpful in their critique, while others were rather dry or just plain mean.
Last week, in a surprise turn, Michaels eliminated two low scoring contestants, Alissah Brooks and wild card winner Pasha Nicole, leaving only two finalists: Gunza Blazin, a member of the spectacular fundraising Atlanta Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and Janelle Brooks, a captivating dancing diva.
The differences between the two are remarkable, and it should make for an interesting last hurrah.
Special guests for the night's festivities include RuPaul newsmakers Venus D Lite, Mariah Paris Balenciaga and Phoenix, along with drag personalities Princess Charles, Brent Star, Monica VanPelt, Pandora Pussybox, Amber Divine, Summer Knight, Cartier Paris and reigning Mr. Atlanta Eagle Chandler Bearden.
It'll be quite the show, and as always, we'll have pictures so you can judge the performers and contestants yourself. The party starts at 11 p.m.
Check out our photos from the past six weeks of competition: Week 6 , Week 5 , Week 4 , Week 3 , Week 2 and Week 1.
(Photo: Janelle Brooks (right) takes on Gunza Blazin' in Friday's Dragnique finale on Friday, Feb. 18)