You don’t need to appear on RuPaul’s Drag Race to become a legendary queen.
Some of the most respected and beloved drag queens within our community have earned their status through an ability to entertain, a passion for activism, and a dedication to inspire those around them to make positive differences in their lives and communities.
Party impresario, activist, and philanthropist, Juanita MORE! is one such figure. She’s now as symbolic of San Francisco as the Golden Gate Bridge and Castro Street–and we mean this quite literally, as huge murals of her likeness and that of her famous bulldog, Jackson, can be found around town.
MORE! was born in East Bay and raised in San Francisco. However, it was on a trip to New York in the mid ’80s that she fell in love with drag, after being taken under the wing of her drag mother, David Glamamore.
“I first got to see Glama perform at Boy Bar on St. Marks Place in New York City in the mid-80s. Up until that time I had no interest in drag or drag queens,” she said in 2015. “Standing front row watching Glama do Chez Chez La Femme by Dr. Buzzard’s Savannah Band — I was just mesmerized. We became close friends.”
That friendship led to MORE! trying her turn in front of an audience. She made her debut at the now-defunct drag bar called Lily’s (later Martuni’s) on San Francisco’s Market Street.
Related: It turns out Cecilia Vega and Juanita MORE! are cousins and we’re deeply jealous
Besides entertaining, MORE! is famed for the parties she hosts and the money she raises for nonprofits: an estimated one million dollars over the last couple of decades. Organizations to benefit included the GBLT Historical Society & Archives, Our Trans Youth, Queer Lifespace, and Transgender Law Center, among many others.
One of her biggest fundraisers is her annual Pride Party. This year’s event, the 18th, takes place on Sunday, June 27, at 620 Jones. It will directly benefit Q Foundation, which supports LGBTQ people facing homelessness and those impacted by HIV.
MORE! sees Q Foundation as matching the work of some of her own initiatives, such as Juanita’s List, a Facebook group for those seeking or offering housing. It has over 11.5k members and has helped find homes for countless numbers of people in the Bay area.
Last year’s Pride Party beneficiary was the San Francisco Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund, after MORE! saw the devastating impact the Covid pandemic had on so many who worked in the industry.
MORE’s impact on the local community, and her belief in helping others to help themselves, saw her honored with the position of Absolute Empress 56 of the Imperial Council of San Francisco in April 2021 (she handed her crown over earlier this year to Ehra Amaya, the reigning Empress).
Imperial Council of San Francisco was founded by Jose Sarria in 1965 and distributes charitable donations to other charitable causes. MORE! recently told Queerty that her time as Empress has been one of the most fulfilling of her life, as it’s allowed her to help so many others.
“I am the 56th Empress, and that honor to me was super special, following in Jose Sarria’s footsteps, I’m so honored, and so proud that me and Emperor [longtime friend and stylist] Mr. David Glamamore … almost $200,000 that we distributed back to the community. I’m super proud of all that.”
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MORE! knows there is no end of deserving causes out there, but told Queerty she has, “a soft sport for queer youth and our queer elders. Our queer youth are my voice when I’m not going to be able to talk, the voice of the future. And our queer elders … are holding out history and teaching us lessons from the past.”
MORE! Has become a part of the fabric of San Francisco in a way that’s unique for a drag performer. Quite literally. She’s been celebrated with not one but more than half a dozen mesmerizing street murals.
You’ll find her immortalized in SoMa (Elliott C. Nathan‘s Loads of Love at the Powerhouse), Polk Gulch (by Serge Gay Jnr, on the exterior of Lush Lounge at Fern and Polk streets), and Steiner Street at Grove (by J. Manuel Carmona and Guilherme Lemes Cardoso e Silva) among other locations.
It’s a worthy testament to a drag queen who has left an indelible mark on the city she calls home.
Related: 11 awesome murals & memorials worth a trip to San Francisco