Article Title:Counting down to 'The Queen of the Whole Universe'
Author or Credit:Matt Akersten
Published on:19th November 2007 - 09:40 pm
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Story ID:5262
Text:I was a little late to the rehearsal. The first thing I thought when rushing through the doors of the Grey Lynn Library Hall on a sunny Sunday afternoon was: "Woah. There are loads of people here." "Point those heels!" This year's Queen of the Whole Universe pageant will feature over 40 entertainers - and in the countdown to showtime, they meet twice a week to practise their routines, with choreographer Owen Anderson (AKA Miss Kenya in 2005's QWU pageant) putting them through their paces. The number of people involved make these rehearsals one of New Zealand's largest LGBT regular social group events. 2007's pageant on the 30th of November will be the fourth annual, and since so many of the performers return each year with a spotlight-hungry friend in tow, the fifth anniversary QWU next year looks set to feature 50 frocked folks on stage. I took a seat at the side of the hall and started eyeing up the crowd as they shimmied, swayed, pointed and waved in time to the music and (almost always) in time with each other. There were people I recognised from Urge, Family, Dorothy's Sister and various gay events, but there were also several who I'd never seen before. The mixture of looks on faces were hilarious - some were smiling and miming the words like the best drag divas would, others were a picture of intensely serious concentration - trying desperately to remember the moves! The pageant's Creative Director Jonathan Smith heads over, all smiles, when he notices me snapping a few pictures of the guys practising in their heels. He gets right into it, moving around the rows of dancers and taking a few shots himself. "Almost all the pageant girls are here," he enthuses, "and all ten Leather Men!" "Ready, set, camp!" Not only is it a great way to keep fit, but the rehearsals are very social, with me barely able to get a word in edgeways during the tea break. The conversation is all about elaborate dress-up plans for the night - it seems the maximum head-gear height will be reached by several of the contestants, and quite a few of the outfits will begin with an understated look, then transform into something far more glorious in front of the audience's eyes! I tried to get details from a few people, but oh no, I got told "sorry, I've been told not to reveal any details to anyone," and "it's top secret, sorry," and "ha ha, you'll have to wait and see." Thanks, divas. I'd previously tried to set up interviews with a couple of the performers and get sneak peeks at their costumes. I shouldn't have wasted my time - they run a tight ship at the Queen of the Whole Universe, with no leaks! I can reveal however that there are less than 400 tickets left (1,700 seats are already filled) so get in quick an support the show - all the money raised goes towards the good work of the NZ AIDS Foundation. And if forty frocked queens and ten leather men aren't enough for you, the after-party will feature an all-new Ink'd underwear showcase. There's now less than two weeks to go until the big night, and the strict rehearsal schedule continues. Will all the stiletto heels hold out? Will any of the girls crack under the pressure? Will the 2-Dollar Shop run out of little coloured beads and shiny sequins? See you at the Aotea Centre on the 30th of November and we'll all find out together… QUEEN OF THE WHOLE UNIVERSE A Very Queer Beauty Pageant 8pm, Friday 30 November 2007 at the ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland. Matt Akersten - 19th November 2007    
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