“Diversity, Unity and Inclusivity” were the foundations of the “Stars and Stripes, Ohio’s First Annual Pin-Up Pageant” which we attended on Saturday evening, July 5th, at the Beachland Ballroom. This event was part of the 4th Annual International Ohio Burlesque Festival founded by Ms. Bella Sin, which is not her real name, of course, but she has a good time with the campy, naughty ambiance of it.
At this point some may be wondering what we were doing there but we had met Ms. Sin just the week before at Cleveland Pride and found her both delightful and caring; in fact she asked a friend to help us when we were having problems setting up our tent so we decided to give it a whirl and were surprised at what a fun evening that it turned out to be.
Let us emphasize that what we saw last Saturday night could best be described as a whimsically infectious entertainment package which was certainly suggestive without being degrading or obscene. In fact, all of the performers including Letty Martinez, a self-described “drag queen”, who did an absolutely stunning dance number, seemed to be enjoying themselves just as much as the audience was enjoying them including the proud parents of one of the performers. We talked for a while with several other audience members and we agreed that most people would find it no more shocking than most “R” rated movies.
Moreover, Margaret W. Wong and Associates is a proud sponsor of Gay Games 9 coming up next month in August and we learned that the Ohio Burlesque Festival is the only officially recognized entertainer for these games.
What’s more Ms. Sin, herself, has quite a story. She was born in 1984 in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico and immigrated to the United States with her mother in 1997 when she was thirteen and settled in Denver, CO where she immersed herself in American history and culture and was fascinated by the burlesque stars of not-that-long-ago era so in 2003 she moved to Akron, Ohio and formed Le Femme Mystique Burlesque which is now Cleveland’s Premiere Burlesque troupe and is credited for revitalizing Burlesque in the Northeast Ohio area.
Ms. Sin’s accomplishments have been written about in many publications including Cleveland Magazine and she was featured in “All That Glitters” a documentary about Burlesque. In addition, Ms. Sin is a very active supporter of the LGBT Community and women’s issues. During Saturday night’s show Ms. Sin talked about Cleveland Pride and how she was the Logistics Director in 2013 but not in 2014. “It took five gay guys to replace a burlesque queen,” Ms. Sin proudly said.
As an immigrant herself, she also briefly talked about immigration and said that she was very glad that the 2012 U.S. Presidential election turned out the way it did because she preferred President Obama’s immigration policy to that of his opponent. Saturday’s contest consisted of people dressed up in various costumes as 1950’s entertainers, for example Peggy Lee and Billie Holliday, and competing to be either the Queen, the Princess, or the People’s Choice. Along the way the contestants were judged on Day Look, Evening Wear, on stage question, innovations, era accuracy, modern twist and personality.
The pageant was all inclusive and accepted all participants who identified as women including the transgendered. The hope was to foster acceptance of all kinds of beauty. Ms. Sin said that she believed that this pageant showed “everyone as beautiful” and went out of her way to note that it took courage for a person to perform on stage like we were seeing that evening. Not everyone thought so because threats were made which resulted in the party who was to provide the crowns for the winners to withdraw. Nevertheless, another sponsor stepped in and crowns were provided.
As for the questions asked of the contestants, one of them was what is equality? The contestant that was asked the question hesitated and said that we all deserve an equal chance no matter who we are or where we are from and that if you see a celebrity on the street it is all right to be momentarily in awe of them as long as you realize that you are just as important as they are.
Along these lines Ms. Sin said that what she wanted was “acceptance and celebration” of everyone here tonight. And judging from the ever-apparent upbeat mood of everyone at the end of the evening, her wish was indeed granted.
On Sunday, July 6th, we stopped by the annual picnic of the West Side Irish American Club for an hour or so and had a good time conversing with some old friends and listening to the Irish Celtic music group, The New Barleycorn.
There was a fishing contest and a magician named Colette Morris O’Linn, who we exchanged contact information with, for the children as well as pony rides. According to John Lally, the club member who organized the picnic, there were 375 people of all ages here; and one man who we sat with several months ago at the Claddaugh Ball said it was his favorite club event of the year because the whole family could get together and have a good time.
When we first arrived we tried to fish but were unsuccesful so we mostly sat back and talked to various people including a gentleman who at first was hesitant about the need for immigration reform but when we told him of the low number of people allowed to immigrate to the United States from Ireland each year he agreed that some reform was in order.