According to the Ancient Greeks, inspiration came down to man in the form of nine muses - each of whom held sway over a specific form of artistic creation. Over the centuries, countless playwrights, artist, poets, and performers have invoked the daughters of Zeus to aid them in their endeavors - to grace them with their powers of inspiration. With our annual Pride celebration now only a few weeks away, in between all the shopping and primping a girls got to do, I find myself once again thinking about those who have touched my life; those who have - and still - inspire me to be who I am today.
For those who know me, family has always been a touchstone in my life. Much of what has shaped Juanita today - aside from some wizardry with padding - I owe to the women I grew up with. As Harper Lee wrote in To Kill A Mockingbird, "You can choose your friends, but you sho' can't choose your family." And for me, that family included a cadre of Puerto Rican women driving around in big cars, wearing fur with tons of gorgeous jewelry - not a stitch was out of place. But these ladies were also generous and loving - and it was in the kitchen, cooking for others, where they truly shined. These women inspired me to believe that beauty, beyond the bling, needs to have soul.
I've also been lucky enough to be inspired by the Divine. I remember going to the Alcazar Theater on Geary Street in the late 70's to see Divine perform in the "The Neon Woman." It gave me chills - I sat through the performance mesmerized. After the show I waited backstage for an autograph. When Divine finally came out she looked at me and said, "Are you old enough to be in here?" I wanted to respond, "Please take me away with you," but instead was speechless - imagine that! Divine inspired me to be open to myself and to the direction my life was taking- to recognize that there is nothing freaky about being a freak.
I also belong to another family, of which the legendary drag persona Glamamore brought me into. I first saw my "drag mother" perform while visiting NYC in the late 80's. As with Lee, I was mesmerized by her stage presence; she's what we call in the drag biz a "Stage Queen - and she'll probably die on one a very happy person. Glamamore's embrace of vaudeville, show tunes, and all things eccentric were totally foreign to me at the time. A soulful young queen still under the rapture of Sylvester and Rose Royce, I was awestruck when she introduced me to the likes of Liza and Fosse. From her, I learned to embrace - not only myself - but also that which was unknown. Glammamore taught me the value in understanding that, like life, an audience is never chosen - you play to what you're given.
And that brings me back to the Greeks; the inspiration the muses bestowed was discretionary - that was to say, there was often no rhyme or reason to its appearance. And, when I look back on my life, those who inspired me most came to me in ways I had no control over, in forms I would never have expected. The trick with inspiration is you have to be open to its effects when it shows up in your life; inspiration, it seems, is less about you finding it, then it finding you. This Pride, in the celebration of diversity, open yourself up to inspiration.
Loads of Love,