The City of West Hollywood kicked off its celebration of the 2024 Pride Month with its annual celebration of Harvey Milk Day on Wednesday. The event was held at the West Hollywood Aquatic and Recreation Center Respite Deck as the sun set over the skyline.

Featured at the event was the second annual Jose Sarria Drag Paegent, featuring five drag figures who demonstrated their various talent while adorned in vibrant and eccentric outfits. The pageant is named in honor of the first openly gay person to be a candidate for a public office when he ran for a spot on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1961

Alongside the pageant were several features presented at the event that paid homage to or supported LGBTQ+ efforts. City arts grantee Pride Poets set up a booth of typewriters for typing custom poems to give to interested event attendees, and a Harvey Milk photo set up was made available for people to take photos with the icon as a backdrop.

A booth selling merchandise supporting the ONE Institute — one of the oldest active LGBTQ+ organizations in the world — was stationed next to several poster board displays outlining the lives of key figures in the queer community. The icons honored included both Milk and Sarria along with Julian Eltinge, Hetty King, Peter Labeija, and William Dorsey Swann.

But the main feature of the night was the Paegent, where each of the five participants donned bold outfits while appealing to several judges and West Hollywood Drag Laureate Pickle — who served as the event’s MC. Before the pageant, several elected officials in attendance — including West Hollywood Vice Mayor Chelsea Lee Byers and Councilmembers Lauren Meister and Sepi Shyne — spoke on the importance of Pride Month and recognizing all identities.

“Where some cities aren’t raising flags, we are raising them all over the city,” said West Hollywood Mayor John Erickson, who was also in attendance. “In a time where we have hatred and bigotry trying to take over our country, we say ‘not on our watch.’”

“It just touches my heart to see how this event has grown, [and] that this community remains committed to uplifting our beautiful drag queens,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath said at the event. “I couldn’t be more honored to be here with you.”

The winner of the pageant was Queen Angelina, a self-described “LatinX queer artist, activist, and drag performer.” Wearing colorful makeup and donning an outfit that was split vertically between a white frilled dress with rainbow stripes and a green suit with gold trim highlights, Queen Angelina performed several songs as part of her pageant showing, including a rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”

With a thematically appropriate purple athletic jumpsuit with distinct pink rings along the cuffs to match pink boots, Bilella Fierce (they/she) — who calls themself “THEE Athletic Queen of LA” — put on a more athletic showing, using props like trampolines and pogo sticks to perform somersaults and jumps across the small stage.

Dressed in a bold black dress with pink and purple ruffles lining the dress along with a necklace with a row of black jewels, Brazillian drag queen Cruella Brazil (he/him/she/her) presented a prose poem describing his experiences. She spoke of what it meant to her to grow up as Brazillian and what means to be a drag icon, throwing in fun and sometimes raunchy jokes along the way.

With a clean white suit adorned with gold jewelry and a gold choker fixed with an opal, drag performer Bitch Nasty took a similar route to Queen Angelina in using a musical performance as her audition to the crowd and judges. He lip-synced K.D. Lang’s “I Confess,” while moving from off the stage and through the crowd as he performed.

The final contestant was Linda Recessionista, who showed off a unique performative lip sync while acting out a dramatic scene. She wore a satin red dress with a blazer jacket over it that had a red rose pinned on the left chest and finished the outfit with an orange bead necklace.

On top of performances, Drag Laureate Pickle asked questions to the performers on their experiences in the drag scene and what their “slogan” was or would be. The final event of the night was the crowning of the pageant winner: Queen Angelina. She received a sash, crown, and flowers presented to her on stage as the other contestants congratulated her.

West Hollywood’s Pride Month celebration continues on Friday, May 31. For more information, about the city’s Pride activities, click here.

Photo of Queen Angelina by the author.

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