AP NEWS

New Mexico drag performers put on their acts for a good cause

May 12, 2019

Marie Antoinette Du Barry isn’t sure if they will be eating cake at her annual birthday fundraiser.

But the drag artist said the show will pay homage to both of her namesakes and another great lady of Paris — Notre Dame.

Du Barry — who out of drag is Paul Valdez, a funeral director intern at Riverside Funeral Home in Santa Fe — will be “giving out” for her birthday, a May 12 fundraising tradition she started in 2015.

“I have everything I could possibly want,” said Du Barry, who is one of more than a dozen drag kings and queens on Sunday night’s performance lineup at the Twist Club in Albuquerque for this year’s event, #ParisIsBurning Save Notre Dame. Some of Sunday’s performers will lip-sync and others will sing live.

There’s no cover charge, she said, but performers will contribute all of their tips to benefit three causes: the New Mexico Gay Rodeo Association, the Santa Fe Fire Department and the city of Paris, which owns the iconic cathedral that was destroyed by fire April 15 and has vowed to rebuild it.

The name of the celebration harks back to the 1990 documentary chronicling black and Latino gay and transgender communities involved in drag-ball culture in New York City.

Du Barry plans to showcase a few different looks at the celebration. She’ll open with Cendrillon, the French version of Cinderella. Her second look will involve a late Baroque, star-studded, peacock-blue gown and a flaxen-gold brocaded overdress in the style of Marie Antoinette.

“Performers are in this to raise money for charity, not for themselves,” said Keith Holtzclaw, president of the New Mexico Gay Rodeo Association, which has an event planned June 29-30, the same weekend as Santa Fe Pride festivities. “They choose to do something for the community.”

Du Barry was named 2019 Miss New Mexico Gay Rodeo Association. She also held the title in 2017 and took the international title in 2018.

Du Barry also has been crowned a “half-empress” by the nonprofit United Court of the Sandias, an advocacy and charitable service organization, for her fundraising efforts in the LGBT community.

Rollin Tylerr Jones, a city of Santa Fe firefighter, said most of the money raised Sunday for the Santa Fe Fire Department will go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, a cause the department supports. Jones has known Du Barry for a decade, he said, and she’s assisted him in fundraising for the department for years.

He described her as “passionate and compassionate all at once.”

Du Barry said the charity effort helps connect her with the women in her life — in particular her grandmother Eva Griego, a dressmaker who instilled in her a love of sewing and accepted her identity — as well as the Virgin Mary, or Notre Dame.

“It was so tragic because I wasn’t able to see her before the fire,” Du Barry said of the cathedral. “While the roof was still burning, I put the fundraiser together.”

She had some help. The Albuquerque venue was donated for the night, she said, and she couldn’t have organized the fundraiser without the help of her husband, Richard Polley, who also serves as her manager.

Du Barry was raised Catholic, she said. She recalled making garments with her grandmother for La Conquistadora, a centuries-old Marian statue enshrined at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis de Assisi. This gave her a broader respect for the cultural significance of the French cathedral, she said: “I feel an obligation to Notre Dame — Our Lady — in any form, in any type.”

She acknowledged the Roman Catholic Church has budged little when it comes to acceptance of the LGBTQ community.

Still, she cited a duty to her own faith. She describes her spirituality as “encapsulating every light-loving faith,” and said the donations to Notre Dame will demonstrate to the Catholic Church that the LGBTQ community is displaying love.

“What better way to show them who we are as a people, as the LGBTQ community,” she said, “than by selflessly giving of ourselves?”

If you go

What: #ParisIsBurning Save Notre Dame, a birthday fundraiser drag show organized by Santa Fe drag artist Marie Antoinette Du Barry; the event benefits the New Mexico Gay Rodeo Association, the Santa Fe Fire Department and the city of Paris, which owns the Notre Dame Cathedral that was destroyed by fire April 15 and has vowed to rebuild it.

Where: Twist Club, 109 4th St. NW in Albuquerque

When: 8 p.m. Sunday, May 12

Cost: No cover at the door; 100 percent of performer tips and other donations will go to the three causes.

What to know: Cash donations preferred; attendees must be over 21.