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BETTER WITH AGE

These Drag Queens Of A Certain Age Are Not Only Tireless, They’re “Beautiful By Night”

Donna Personna
Donna Personna

If you’re one of those die-hard Madonna fans who thought the Material Girl should have either embraced life’s natural aging process or hung it up the second she hit 50, you’re sure to appreciate the dedication, talents and natural beauty of these incredible aging drag performers.

Senior drag queens Olivia Hart, Donna Personna, and Collette LeGrande are performers at Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, the only remaining gay bar in San Francisco’s once super-LGBT-friendly Tenderloin district, and the subject of photographer and filmmaker James Hosking’s new documentary, Beautiful by Night.

Collette LeGrande
Collette LeGrande

Upon moving from New York to The City by the Bay in 2009, Hosking discovered the nightclub in an alternative newspaper and was immediately intrigued by the three tireless performers who, after all these years, were still working the floor. (Aunt Charlie’s has no stage, and the performers lip sync their tunes while mingling with the audience.)

As he tells Slate, he was fascinated by their history and curious to know why they continued performing. “They open themselves to ridicule because of their age, yet they seem to relish the opportunity for provocation and confrontation,” he says.

Olivia Hart
Olivia Hart

With long nights that involve two-and-a-half hours of makeup beginning at 6:30 p.m. and showtime from 10:30 to 12:30, the drag queens work for dollar tips and change outfits with each new number.

Why do they continue doing it? Therapeutic reasons, says Hosking: Donna suffers from anxiety, which she confronts with the help of her stage persona; performing motivates Olivia to maintain her sobriety; and Collette needs to express herself and her feminine side.

It’s not just a living, he says, it’s a lifelong passion. “I think they’d miss it if they stopped,” he says.

Check out the documentary below.

Beautiful By Night from James Hosking on Vimeo.

Photos © James Hosking

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5 Comments

  • gauty

    These queens are all beautiful in their own way, but I feel like they would get more respect simply by being up-to-date on make-up techniques and styles! Like, If they just sat down with a Raja or a Shannel and got taught all the deets from the bottom up, they would look more professional and fierce…

  • Jim

    This documentary was worthy of award. Well done and edited, I was taken away for 27 minutes and wanted more! As for the stars of the show, I applaud their beauty and style, they are truly a cornerstone to our gay heritage. “Drag Queens not only remind us that we live in a world full of diversity but that we are expected to treat each other human with the fullest of respect”
    I salute them not only for their courage but for their history.

  • Tracy Pope

    Great documentary. Amazing people. If you haven’t seen it , there is a music video featuring Donna Persona. It’s Perfumes Genius’ Normal Song. Beautifully done.

  • Tracy Pope

    My apologies. Finger fumble. It’s Perfume Genius. Not Perfumes. And shame on me for misspelling Donna Personna.

  • Ms Urethra Johnson

    Bravo !!! Now, there’s “reality” for you.

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