By Angie Jaime
I love drag queens— that much is a fact. Something about a confident, statuesque man in a sequined dress lip synching a power-pop anthem just tickles me endlessly. But let me back up a bit. If you’re a reality TV fan you may have heard of RuPaul’s Drag Race, a Top Model-like show designed to crown America’s next drag superstar. In its fourth season sharp-witted goth queen Sharon Needles walked away with top honors. When I found out that I’d be going to Seattle over LGBT Pride weekend to hang out with Miss Needles, I was unabashedly ecstatic. To add to the awesomeness, this would be my first visit to Seattle, so I’d also get the chance to explore the city.
It was immediately clear how stylish Seattle truly is. I stayed at the Hotel Max, smack in the middle of all the action. The hotel functions as a kind of live-in gallery space, with a sleekly designed lobby and contemporary paintings sprinkled throughout the guest rooms. The fifth floor features the work of ’90s Seattle music photog Charles Peterson, whose images of Nirvana and Pearl Jam line the walls. Rounding out the lobby is the chic Asian fusion joint Red Fin, which sculpts the freshest Pacific catches into delectable sushi gems.
The savvy concierge led me to Capitol Hill, the center of the city’s LGBT universe, where I took a look around by foot. In Seattle Pride is truly a holiday, and the denizens of Capitol Hill had decked the halls. Rainbow everything lined the streets in preparation for that Sunday’s parade, brightening the stereotypically rainy landscape. Dozens of tiny cafés, vintage clothing stores, tattoo parlors and knickknack shops lined the Pike/Pine corridor and Broadway Street.
But the reason for my visit, of course, exceeded all expectations. The hilariously titled “Hey Tranny, It’s Tranny,” event featured Sharon Needles as its headliner and served as a fundraiser for the Seattle Gay City Health Project organization. Clad in a curve-hugging black patent leather jumpsuit, a cropped glitter jacket and towering sky-high stilettos, Sharon’s mistress-of-the-night look belies her friendly charm. Her act is edgy, a punk rock fueled expression of her political stance on everything from gay marriage to pop culture, but behind the scenes she’s giddy with her newfound fame and hungry to thank fans with every spare second in her now busy schedule. In many ways, she fit right in with the backdrop of Seattle—a city with a brooding exterior and a vast, welcoming heart.
Angie Jaime is a writer at Orbitz, a lifelong traveler and ran into Sharon Needles at Party City.