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GayRVA Presents: Your Guide To The Stars Of VA PrideFest 2018

Ahead of 2018's VA PrideFest, we've got a full rundown on all the stars you can expect to see onstage this Saturday!

Marilyn Drew Necci | September 20, 2018

Here’s the first article from our Fall 2018 Pride Guide, released in conjunction with 2018′s VA PrideFest, taking place this Saturday at Brown’s Island. The rest of the articles from the magazine will be posted here after the event, but for obvious reasons, we figured we should get this one posted now. Get your copy of the print edition this Saturday at Brown’s Island, or check out the digital version here.

Photo by Raphael Chatelain

Jake Shears

It’s been six years since the Scissor Sisters went (mostly) on hiatus, and the world has missed their funky disco glam ever since. Now Jake Shears is stepping out as a solo artist, and it’s not a moment too soon! His self-titled debut solo album, which just came out a month or so ago, is the first we’ve heard from Shears in over half a decade, but it’s not like he’s just been lounging around since then. Not only has he done duets with everyone from Cher to Queens Of The Stone Age, he also recently appeared in an LA revival of the classic Martin Sherman play Bent, as well as publishing a memoir earlier this year with the provocative Bowie-inspired title Boys Keep Swinging.

While Shears’ was only one-fifth of the Scissor Sisters, he’s bringing a lot of that band’s characteristic sound into his solo work, recently telling Rolling Stone the big lesson he learned while putting his new album together: “Do what you do, what you love and what you’re good at.” Scissor Sisters fans will find a lot to love in his new solo material, though there are some new wrinkles, from a rollicking jazz sound influenced by his recently-adopted hometown of New Orleans to a surprising country vibe on the song “Sad Song Backwards.”

Scissor Sisters were always known for their wild, unforgettable live shows, and Shears plans to continue that tradition when he hits the VA PrideFest stage this year. His live band is the same ensemble that backed him on his new album, and it features some musical heavyweights, including members of VHS Or Beta, My Morning Jacket, Floating Action, and MMJ singer Jim James’s solo band. Despite the performance being billed solely with Shears’ name, he promised Vulture earlier this year that “it definitely still feels like it’s a band.” And seeing that band is definitely an excellent way to cap off this year’s VA PrideFest.

Heather Mae

Heather Mae got her start as a singer-songwriter as she was graduating from New York’s American Musical and Dramatic Academy in 2008, kicking things off with a bang with her “One Year Of Songs” project, which saw her writing and recording a song a day for a year. However, not long after she completed this project, she was sidelined for a couple of years due to nodules on her throat that required a lengthy recovery. “I was told I would never sing again and I went through an introspective time,” she says on her website. “It was having to sit in silence that changed me. I hadn’t ever used my voice for good and that became my mantra as I recovered.”

These days, Heather Mae is touring behind her 2016 EP, I Am Enough, which deals with subjects near and dear to her heart, ones she’d never felt confident enough to sing about before. The EP’s title song is a body-positivity anthem that interjects pop elements into Mae’s folk-based sound. Originally performing with nothing but her voice and a ukulele, she’s incorporated influences from the thoughtfully constructed pop sounds of artists like Tegan and Sara. And she’s made it a priority to sing about important issues, attempting to connect with audiences of all demographics. We’ve got a full interview with Heather Mae awaiting you in the magazine and on our site next week, but in the meantime, be sure to pay close attention when she and her band hit the stage Saturday at VA PrideFest!

Ashley Darby

You Real Housewives Of Potomac fans are in for a treat! You may have thrilled to the ups, downs, trials and tribulations of star Ashley Darby for the past three seasons, but there’s another side of this housewife that you’ll be seeing for the first time at VA PrideFest this year! She recently joined such luminaries as Atlanta’s Kandi Burruss in the exclusive sorority of Real Housewives stars with music careers, releasing a fun, bouncy pop single called “Coffee And Love” earlier this summer.

And at VA PrideFest, you’ll get a chance to see her perform the track, which she calls a “rump shaking, marriage making anthem,” onstage before your very eyes! As you fans know, Ashley’s been trying to convince husband Michael to get on the baby train for a while… will this song be enough to get him on board? And will Ashley’s VA PrideFest performance give you an opportunity to see yourself and your city on the next season of Real Housewives Of Potomac? There’s only one way to find out — be there!

Akashia

All you RuPaul’s Drag Race fans better get ready for this one, because Akashia is back! As a Season One cast member, she was part of the group that started it all, and the triumphs — and tragedies — we saw her endure are unforgettable. Indeed, some of her records have never been equalled; she’s still the only queen to survive multiple “lip sync for your life” contests.

In the decade since that season, Akashia has mostly stayed out of the limelight and off social media, leading to all sorts of rumors about what she might be up to these days. She told VH1 earlier this year that her home bar in her Cleveland hometown closed down last year, but she’s stayed busy nonetheless, doing cosplay for Los Angeles’s GaymerX and New York’s Flame Con — not that much of a surprise for a queen who took her name from Aaliyah’s legendary role as the vampire queen in Queen Of The Damned.

With Akashia making her permanent home in Cleveland where, she told VH1, “I can afford to live like I am rich,” she’s had a bit of a lower profile than some of the queens from past seasons. But as we saw earlier this year on the Season 10 finale, Akashia’s still as real as ever. She’ll be bringing her larger-than-life and performance to the VA PrideFest stage this year, and it’s sure to be a treat. Don’t miss it!

Alexis Michelle

If you know this queen’s name, it’s likely from her appearance on Season 9 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, where she portrayed everyone from Kris Jenner to Liza Minelli to Breathless Mahoney (Madonna’s character from Dick Tracy — raise your hand if you saw it in the theater). Alexis’s positive attitude toward her fellow competitors may have been part of what kept her from the top in her season of Drag Race, but it’s also part of her charm, and shows through in her team-up with the other NYC-based contestants from that season on a devastating house track, “CLAT,” they released in 2017.

That’s not the only singing Alexis has done, either — earlier this year, she released her debut album, LoveFool, the title track and lead single of which finds her doing a campy Broadway-style take on the classic Cardigans track. On the rest of the album she brings us material originally recorded by everyone from Carole King and The Beatles to Kermit The Frog, and it’s a total blast. And by the way, she’s Lisa Loeb’s cousin, so you know vocal talent runs in the family. Get ready for a bit of Broadway fun when Alexis Michelle comes to the VA PrideFest stage this year!

Biqtch Puddin

If y’all think you know what’s coming from this year’s PrideFest drag show just because you’ve been watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, well, think again. Biqtch Puddin (the Q is silent… as if you didn’t know) comes to PrideFest riding high on the triumph of winning the season 2 of the Boulet Brothers’ Dragula — and if you haven’t been watching Dragula, let me just tell you, you are missing out. Especially if you like horror. That’s right, GWAR fans — Biqtch Puddin is a drag queen after your own heart. (Guard it closely.)

The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula grew from a monthly “celebration of drag, filth, leather, and glamour” that was a fixture on the LA club scene for over a decade, into a reality show in which contestants compete to become “The World’s Next Drag Supermonster.” This season saw Atlanta native Biqtch Puddin take the crown, and it fits her perfectly. She’s sported looks from a Carrie-style blood-spattered prom queen to a pestilent Final Fantasy character, and calls Dragula “a sanctuary to the sickest and delightfully repulsive queer artists in the world — and I couldn’t feel more at home.” You can be sure she’ll bring the gorgeous gore for her appearance at VA PrideFest 2018. Don’t miss it.