Smile Politely

Spotlight: Drag shows in Champaign-Urbana, Part I

Until very recently, my limited knowledge of drag shows came from films like Victor/Victoria and The Birdcage. I wasn’t avoiding the shows of course, but I hadn’t attended any locally, and traveling to Chicago to see them isn’t really in my budget. Eventually, through some friends, I came across the name Leiloni Stars. She was this fabulous woman who often posted on a friend’s Facebook page. One day, she said something funny on my friend’s page, and I joked with her. She sent me a friend request. Of course I accepted it and the next thing I knew I was a “fan.” And that’s how I learned about the ubiquitous, hardworking, talented group of drag performers that we have right here in C-U.

Since then, I’ve seen Leiloni and quite a few others perform, but only through UP Center events, like Pridefest and Turn It UP. I simply never got around to attending any of the shows that happen here on a monthly basis. L.A. Enterprises (co-owned by Leiloni and Aurora Lamont-Carrington) frequently coordinates and produces shows at Emerald City Lounge (The Emerald City Divas) that have both local and nationally-known female impersonators on the bill. And Chester Street Bar also books many drag performers, both from here and around Illinois.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to some friends, and they mentioned wanting to “go somewhere to see some drag shows,” but they didn’t know where to find any. “Maybe Peoria?” Swallowing my chagrin about the fact that they obviously didn’t read my weekly column, I said, “But we have drags shows here, in Champaign, at least once a month and often, more.” Witnessing their blank looks decided it for me — I needed to correct this horrid injustice; I needed to write about drag shows in C-U.

Fortunately, my timing was good, as the Emerald City Divas were performing a holiday show on December 10, and I quickly contacted them about reviewing it. They couldn’t have been more welcoming. I met with Justin Johnson, who performs as Leiloni Stars, and my interview with him will be published tomorrow, but today’s article is all about the fabulous event — titled Tis the Season: A Holiday Extravaganza — that the Emerald City Divas hosted on Saturday.

I arrived about an hour early because I wanted to see the decorations and enjoy a few drinks all by my lonesome before the place became crowded. Until now, I’d only been to Emerald City Lounge for brunch, never in the evening. So this was a treat. As I expected, the stage was decorated beautifully (my picture doesn’t do it justice), and I was also delighted to see a runway. This was going to be a lively, energetic show.

Four gorgeous and talented women performed: Aurora Lamont-Carrington, Leiloni Stars, Dymond Champagne-Calloway, and special guest Ceduxion Carrington. Aurora was our Mistress of Ceremonies for the night. She joked around with the audience, and it seemed that she was familiar with quite a few who were there. Aurora has a fun and easygoing personality. She’s saucy, carefree, and I doubt that she’s easily flustered or offended by anything.

And then, all four divas opened the show with a really breezy, fun number.

Please forgive my seizure-inducing camera work. I’m an amateur.

This first performance let me know that I was in for a great time. They performed as one unit, and they knew the lyrics, which is — to me — the most important aspect of performing a good drag show.

Ceduxion Carrington made her Emerald City debut on Saturday. She was captivating. Every inch of her body, every expression on her face, are on when she’s performing. She seems to be able to make eye contact with the entire audience; she communicates everything she’s singing to all of us; and she’s enormously sexy.

Aurora Lamont-Carrington had the double duty of MCing the event and performing as well. This woman is gorgeous, and, as I said before, full of confidence and sex appeal. Aurora is mesmerizing. I wish that I could have taken more pictures of her (everyone, really), but I was keenly aware of the very large crowd and of being in people’s way.


Dymond Champaign-Calloway is a name of which I was already familiar. She was the first alternate in Miss Gay Illinois America two years running (2009 and 2010). The photos that I took of Dymond are not good at all, unfortunately. I simply wasn’t able to capture the excitement, flirtatiousness, and versatility of her performances. And they’re blurry.

But check out the photo on the left, to see just how strikingly beautiful she is.

Finally, there is Leiloni Stars herself. She’s absolutely exquisite. I swear, she literally glows. Leiloni gives off nothing but love, energy, and joy when she’s performing. Check her out:

Sorry about the extreme close-ups!

Drag shows are not just for gay men. They are not just for men at all. They’re fun, and riotous, and full of life. L.A. Enterprises, Emerald City Lounge, and Chester Street Bar all work hard to bring these shows to our community. Give yourself a treat and check them out!



Drag Shows in C-U, Part II
Drag Shows in C-U, Part III

Drag Shows in C-U, Part IV

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