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The Tria Connell Story

By Marilyn Fernando

I would have never expected the awe inspiring talented mind behind Peaches Christ’s macabre and eccentric wardrobe to own parrots. Let alone, teal and lime green colored parrots named Bubu and Kiwi. This contrasting and unexpected trait qualifies Tria Connell to be the underground hero she deserves to be.

In the back of my mind, I was hoping for her to greet me with a showering of glitter and sequins or a quirky rhyme done in the style of Dr. Seuss. I’m not proud of this assumption. The hug was more than enough.

Walking through the hallway, my attention darted to the walls. They’re adorned with posters chronicling Connell and Peaches’ stellar 16 year collaborative relationship. It’s the Smithsonian of Peaches Christ.

Growing up in Ohio, Tria was enchanted and introduced to the offbeat world of fashion in an unexpected arena. “I went to raves when I was living in Ohio,” she explains “it was one of the places I was introduced to colorful and creative look of fashion.” In addition to raves, she notes Cyndi Lauper and Michael Jackson as two of her main inspirations. “She (Cyndi Lauper) is a fierce queen” she says with a chuckle.

After graduating with a BA in fashion design from the University of Cincinnati in 1995, she moved to San Francisco. “My dad was in San Francisco in the 1960s,” she explains, “he loved it and wanted to move back.” This opportunity allowed her the chance to live rent free and “find my place in the universe” she explains.

Connell met her soon to be partner in crime in 1996. “I met Joshua Grannell (Peaches Christ) when we were both working at the Bridge movie theater on Geary,” she says “he was brought in as the new manager and I was an employee.” Bonding over the same underground-subculture mentality, they became friends and the mind-blowing collaboration started. “I began designing Costumes for her (Peaches Christ) and working on the long running Midnight Mass with your Hostess Peaches Christ event.”

In 1997, Grannell took her to her first Trannyshack event and introduced her to the "Faux Queen" drag aesthetic. A light bulb went off. “It was something that just clicked,” she says, “this was a way for me to express how I felt and I was thrilled that there was a way for me to perform onstage.”

The Faux Queen Pageant is the mind child of Ruby Toosday and the late Michael Collins, aka Diet Popstitute. A popular staple in the San Francisco underground art community, Popstitute established the KLUBSTiTUTE KOLLECTiVE as an outstretched hand to individuals he felt shared his eccentric and nontraditional approach to art and performance. While it is difficult to directly define what the KLUBSTiUTE KOLLECTiVE is, Cynthia Robins of the Examiner defines it as “a loosely organized alternative theatrical troupe that celebrated its campiness and gay sexuality in a floating circus of drag queens, muscle boys, GGs (genuine girls) and boisterous gender-tweakers”

Beginning in 1995, the Faux Queen Pageant as been a silent roar in the drag community. The DNA lounge has hosted a bulk of the Faux Queen Pagents of the past, however other venues including the Bottom of the Hill, Slim’s, and what Connell describes as “a dark and divey bar in the Mission whose name I can’t remember” have also served as host.

Under the name Bea Dazzler, she competed in her first pageant in 1997. “I lost, but entered a second time in 1998 where I won” she says with a smile. Her stage name is a combination of the iconic craft tool of the 80’s and an obscure 70’s comic book hero, The Dazzler.

“I was never into the comic book scene,” she says, “but this one caught my attention, she was a roller skating superhero whose power was blinding people with light.” Adding to this kitschy mashup she explains Bea Dazzler aesthetic is “a combination of Toddles and Tiaras and My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” If Bea Dazzler had a Match.com profile, it would read “she is from outer space, she is on a universal quest to find and populate her own planet (Planet Faux Queen) with Fierce, Fabulous Faux's! She loves high fashion, Trash TV and animals, specifically parrots and bunnies.

In addition to the parrots, Connell owns three rabbits. Her white rabbit Pirate sat patiently in her lap, almost acting as a stress reliever. “I could sit here and talk about my animals all day” Connell says. Like a punky, sci-fi reincarnation of Snow White, she explained the Faux Queen Pageant has always been a fundraiser. “In the beginning, primary beneficiaries included local women’s organizations,” says Connell.

Being in charge of the pageant this year, she made it a priority to include Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue and Save-a-Bunny to the list. She adopted all of her pets through these organizations, leaving them both a special place in her heart.

The theme of the pageant also celebrates a life long obsession of hers “I’ve always loved the look and fashion of science fiction,” she says “this is another place where I’ve gathered most of my inspiration.”

Instead of going the traditional route of posters and flyers, Connell depended primarily on posters, word of mouth and Facebook to advertise the pageant. “I thought advertising with flyers was a waste,” said Connell “I wasn’t going to stand outside a club and hand them out.”

This year’s Faux Queen Pageant will be held at the DNA lounge on September 16. Connell co-hosted the last one in 2005 and is excited to see the changes in the seven hiatus.

There are dozens of drag shows available for the curious San Franciscan at anytime. A faux queen show is a treat

With the razor sharp knowledge of the drag culture, hands-on work producing and working behind the scenes and contacts that read like a page in Heidi Fleiss’ little black book, she has the tools, intelligence, and creativity to ensure this Faux Queen Pageant will not be the last. In addition to this, her hardworking and humble sense of self ensures a consistent level of approachable professionalism and passion in every event she participates in. That sense of humility and kindness was certainly enough to distract me from the large chunk of sunroof her parking structure took from my car.