Manila Luzon is always looking for an opportunity to wear her designer shooz. The Asian Glamasaurus will pack up her “Fooey Vuitton” luggage full of wigs and fabulous heels to pump her way to the Sixth Annual Kalamazoo Pride event at Arcadia Creek Festival Park.
“I’m originally a Midwest gurrrrl!” she says. “I mean, Michigan is where Madonna is from, so it’s nice to go back to the queen’s home state.”
This year’s event, presented by Bell’s Brewery, Inc. and coordinated by the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center, kicks off with a performance by Luzon at 7:30 p.m. June 14.
When asked what she enjoys about Pride festivities, Luzon gave her typical funny-girl answer.
“I enjoy that they are usually during the day when it’s 100 degrees out and you can see all my man features under the bright sun after I’ve sweated off all my makeup,” she says. “Just kidding. I love to see everyone out trying to enjoy themselves as much as they can, to celebrate how we are all the same because of our differences. What kind of pageantry answer is that? I just love all the rainbow colors and how Pride is when all the sexy lesbians come out of hiding.”
Also scheduled to perform are JC, Kimi Hayes and Deja Vu. “I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with these girls. I don’t really watch “The Real Housewives of Kalamazoo.” I watch the Atlanta girls. Go NeNe Leakes!”
Festival-goers and Fanilas can expect to hear Luzon’s super fake-sounding singing voice live when she performs her hit single “Hot Couture,” co-written and produced by Grammy Award-winning producers of KNS Productions.
“It’s the only song I know all the lyrics to these days,” Manila says. “And I don’t like to have expectations going into a place I’ve never performed before; but if you all want to have some expectations of me before I get there, then go ahead and form them in your brains so I can totally let you down!”
It’s this bitchy attitude viewers couldn’t get enough of on season three of Logo’s crossover hit reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” where she placed second to Raja and announced that she’d get the crown when Raja died of old age.
“I really wanted to win, but totally lost … twice! But look at me now, doing better than ever,” she says.
Luzon was brought back as one of the 12 contestants for season four of “RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars.” She and Latrice Royale were paired in the first episode under the name “Latrila.” Luzon has many drag sisters, but there’s something special about Royale.
“We are just the right amount of balance. We were a mismatched pair on ‘All Stars’ and we made it work because we were both back on TV to turn the party. I can’t explain it, but that is one friendship that I am really proud of.” Together, the bitter divas got over being kicked off the show and released an inspirational single called “The Chop.”
The self-proclaimed “Heather” (the name used during “Drag Race” to describe her mean-girl queen clique) landed herself a spot as a Drag Professor on “RuPaul’s Drag U” where she had a chance to make over her sister Rachel.
“That was so much fun! It was easy. My sister and I look so much alike; it was like I was doing my own face, if I was naturally way prettier,” says Manila.
Born as Karl Westerberg in Minneapolis, Minn., Luzon said the show has allowed her family to see what drag has done to her. “They’ve seen how I’ve used it to expand my creativity and how I’ve grown as a person. They’ve been very supportive of me before the show and even more now since the show. They tell me how proud they are, and that motivates me to do more. I love my family.”
In celebration of her Filipino background, she is named after the capital of the Philippines: Manila. Additionally, her last name comes from the Philippine island Luzon. As a Filipino, gay drag queen, Luzon doesn’t know what it’s like to be anything else. Not far from age 30, she is optimistic about what her future holds.
“Screw goals. That just sets you up for failure. You have a five-year plan? Well, what happens if you don’t accomplish your goal? Or what happens when you do reach your goal and it’s not what you expected? What if you missed out on an opportunity that came by because you were too focused on your main goal? I try to keep myself open to whatever comes my way.”
Right now Luzon is working on music. “The creative process has been really gratifying to me. I’m coming out with a music video cover of “One Night in Bangkok” in 3D. (The video was recently released.) Yes, get your 3D glasses out, honeys! And I just filmed the music video for my new rap song with the super talented and super sexy Cazwell. It’s called “Helen Keller,” which will be coming out later this summer. And I just went to the studio to record a new song called “Bring It” that will be featuring the super sweet and super sleepy Jinkx Monsoon. I’m still touring around the world. I’m going back to Europe soon, and I’m working on touring Asia and Australia.”
Perhaps there is where she will find a new beau when she’s ready. Her lover and best friend, Sahara Davenport, who appeared on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season two, passed away tragically of heart failure last fall.
“After losing Sahara, I look forward to spending my days with someone I love and who loves me and isn’t afraid to celebrate the great love I shared with Sahara. I suppose time will heal … I can’t remain a widow forever!” As far as marriage equality is concerned, Luzon says, “It’s going to happen. We can count on that.”
A party girl at heart, Luzon is found all over the New York City club scene, but uses her place in the spotlight for a good cause. In a television ad called “Red Ribbon Runway,” Luzon appeared in a designer gown that was later auctioned by Logo to fund AIDS research.
“Honey, tomorrow is not guaranteed. I don’t care if you live with HIV or not. The point is that you are living now. I try to enjoy every moment I have here on this Earth … after all, I could get run over by a truck delivering shoes to Bergdorf’s tomorrow.”
7:15 p.m. June 14
Arcadia Creek Festival Place