About 30 years ago, Ema Katoa’s second cousin was infected with HIV and died shortly thereafter. She said she’ll never forget the reaction from the family and how her parents told people he died from a brain tumor.
“A lot of times in the Polynesian culture, you just don’t talk about being gay or lesbian,” Katoa, who is straight, said. “But I want to help fix that. All my closest friends are gay or lesbian, and they helped raise my nine children and nine grandchildren.”
Katoa, along with several others, is co-organizing a drag pageant with contestants from Utah, Nevada, Hawaii, California and Mexico. Dubbed the Queen Extravaganza Pageant, the categories include introduction, talent, formal wear and question. The winner of the contest will receive $500 and the accompanying bragging rights. The show, on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m., will be held at the Elegant For Less event hall, 8700 S. 450 West, in Sandy. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. A $35 VIP ticket includes dinner, drinks and access to the after-party masquerade ball. Everyone over 18, regardless of race, sexuality or gender identity, is invited to attend the show. It’s being sponsored by Elegant For Less, Katoa’s event-planning business.
“I wanted to create a whole new pageant experience. If you go to the drag shows at the bars, people are laughing and it’s fun, but I want to show the queens on the stage that they are embraced and loved. This is going to be the real experience and a chance to see all the talented queens,” Katoa said.
Katoa has been involved in a group of Polynesian gays and lesbians, which she refers to as The Sisterhood, for about 18 years. The group meets regularly and can sometimes attract more than 100 people.
A large event like this has been needed for a long time, said Sakalia Leiataua, another of the event organizers.
“One of the reasons to throw this pageant is to show to the younger gay (Polynesians) that it’s OK to be yourself,” Leiataua said. “We want everyone to be accepted and loved.”
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to the tinyurl.com/queerpageant.
You Should Go
WHAT: Queen Extravaganza Pageant
WHEN: Oct. 22, 7 p.m.
WHERE: 8700 S. 450 W., Sandy