Indigenous drag performer Lasey Dunaman has won the coveted title of Miss First Nation 2018 at a pageant dubbed the “Olympics for Aboriginal drag queens.”
The drag competition, which ran all last week at the Imperial Hotel in Sydney, invites Indigenous drag performers from all over the country to showcase their talents.
Lasey (pictured, centre) was crowned winner on Saturday night, beating her fierce competition in front of a judging panel of entertainers including The Sapphires and Redfern Now actress Shari Sebbens and Wentworth‘s Danielle Cormack.
Lasey is the alter-ego of TJay, who is originally from Gunnedah in New South Wales and now lives in the state’s Northern Rivers region.
She has been performing drag for four years and is best known for performing with real-life partner Nova Gina as the Dreamtime Divas.
Lasey said she’s passionate about raising awareness of mental health issues affecting LGBTIQ people, especially young people, and believes visibility is key to allowing others to open up and be themselves.
The Miss First Nations pageant was first held last year as part of the Darwin Pride Festival, and saw Josephine Baker crowned the inaugural Miss First Nations.
Co-organiser Daniel Cunningham, who performs as his alter ego Marzi Panne, said Indigenous performers from the Northern Territory, Melbourne and Sydney had travelled to take part in this year’s competition.
“We realised there wasn’t really a platform to showcase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander drag queens,” Cunningham said last week.
“Drag in lots of the major cities around Australia had become really whitewashed. It was difficult for people of colour to get access to performing.
“[Miss First Nations] brings to life a whole lot of other issues around self-acceptance and self-worth, particularly for people living in rural and remote Australia.”
Raising awareness of homophobia and Indigenous suicide
Last year, the inaugural Miss First Nations competition was filmed and turned into the documentary Black Divaz.
Three of the competing queens shared their personal stories in the film, travelling to their hometowns to reveal the challenges and triumphs they’ve experienced that have made them who they are and brought them to the stage.
As well as glitz and glam, the documentary also covered more serious issues facing Indigenous communities including homophobia and youth suicide.
This year, the Miss First Nations competition partnered with advocacy group Black Rainbow, which works towards preventing suicide in Indigenous queer communities.
“It’s an event that not only contributes to the increased visibility of the Indigenous LGBQTI community but also highlights amazing talent our community has,” spokesperson Paul Calcott said.
(Photos by Joseph Mayer)