A year after a hate group tried to disrupt Pride, these five drag performers inspire and entertain North Idaho

click to enlarge A year after a hate group tried to disrupt Pride, these five drag performers inspire and entertain North Idaho
Young Kwak
Victoria Sumerz St. James gives her all at Mik's in downtown Coeur d'Alene.

Victoria Sumerz St. James enters wearing a turquoise sequin number, performing "Como La Flor" by Selena. The crowd at Mik's is small, but she gives the performance her all, something her husband, Philip Roberson-Wire, mentions with pride later in the night when nearly 100 people fill the downtown Coeur d'Alene nightclub.

Victoria weaves her way through the crowd, and for her, the performance is nostalgic. She tells the audience that Selena is a favorite, that her mom took her to a Selena concert in the '90s before the singer's untimely death. The crowd is rapt.

Victoria's opening number kicked off a new year for the local drag troupe North Idaho Gemstones, which performs frequently at Mik's, a welcoming space for Coeur d'Alene LGBTQ+ community.

North Idaho's LGBTQ+ community celebrated without incident last weekend at the annual Pride in the Park event. It was a peaceful anniversary. Last year, the event was targeted by 31 men associated with the white supremacist hate group Patriot Front, who were arrested before they could riot.

When the North Idaho Gemstones take to the stage, it's counterpoint to this and other troubles. Like the woman who doctored images of a local drag queen to mislead the public into believing the queen had exposed herself in front of minors. Or the failed Idaho state law that would've banned drag queens from performing in public. And the general anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes fomenting in some corners of the country.

But the Gemstones aren't here to perform in protest. They're here to celebrate.

"For everybody out there who feels like they don't have somewhere to go, Mik's loves you," Victoria tells the crowd, who respond with applause and cheers.

The show has three sets, and there's a lot of ground to cover. It's partly a birthday celebration for one performer, Jazmyn J. It also marks a late Cinco de Mayo, so many of the performers incorporate Spanish-language songs into their repertoire.

As the founder/owner of North Idaho Gemstones, Victoria — who was recently named Miss Gay Pride Spokane 2023 by PFLAG, the U.S.'s first and largest LGBTQ+ organization — produced the entire show.

Victoria's crowd is there from the beginning. In addition to her husband of 10 years, her mother, stepdad, sisters and her sister's fiancé are sitting at a high-top table at Mik's in the front row, cheering her on.

"She was my safety net, she literally did everything for me," Victoria says of her mom. "From the very first pageant that I ever entered — and won, mind you — my mother designed, created, sewed my dress. She did all of my wigs and hair for my shows back in the day. She's the reason I believe I felt safe to do drag, because whenever my mom was there, I knew that I was supported, and I knew that I was safe."

Victoria has come a long way during her 26 years of performing. She started when she was only 15, growing up in Canyon City, Colorado, which she describes as "a little red town in a big blue state."

After coming out at 14, she attended her first Pride celebration in Colorado Springs, where she saw her future drag mother, Unique, perform. The song was "It's Not Right But It's Okay" by Whitney Houston, and Unique wore a silver leotard, jumping off the stage into the splits.

"I literally remember this like it was yesterday, because when you are in the art form that I am, and you found a love for it, you'll never forget your first time seeing it," Victoria says.

Victoria first learned her craft because Hide N' Seek, a club in Colorado Springs, allowed people 16 and up inside from 2 am to 5 am, and Victoria got a fake ID that said she was 16.

She approached Unique, who at 2 am had just finished her show, telling her how good she was at Pride, and asking for tips and tricks. Unique took Victoria under her wing.

"She would teach me makeup skills, give me wigs, teach me the whole trade," Victoria says.

Her proximity to Unique — who was already a known entity in the Colorado drag community — catapulted Victoria to performing several times a month early in her career. That, combined with attending cosmetology school following high school, gave her an early edge.

Victoria's husband is from the area, and that was how they both ended up in North Idaho. Philip says he's seen how far the region's come, and he's so proud of what Victoria has created.

"It just brings a big smile to my face to see him so free," Philip says of Bobby, Victoria's non-drag name. "It brings joy to my heart to help him do that."

click to enlarge A year after a hate group tried to disrupt Pride, these five drag performers inspire and entertain North Idaho (2)
Young Kwak
The birthday girl, Jazmyn J, moved to Coeur d'Alene with her husband in 2019.


The second act of the night is the birthday girl, Jazmyn J, who performs to "Proud Mary" as a tribute to the late Tina Turner, and with her curly hair, frilly dress, and frenetic dance moves, it's a worthy homage.

"Her songs are always part of my repertoire," Jazmyn says. "It's Tina... you have to do it."

Jazmyn's name is a nod to her birthplace, the Philippines, where sampaguita, a variety of jasmine, is the national flower.

Jazmyn and her husband moved to Coeur d'Alene from Los Angeles in early 2019. Looking to make friends in their new home, they accepted an invitation to attend a drag show at the now-closed downtown Spokane venue, the Pin.

"That night was amateur night, and seeing the diversity of performers, it's not the drag we see on TV," Jazmyn says. "Seeing these performers here in Spokane — young, very creative, and voicing whatever they're experiencing at that moment — was really an eye opener. And I said, 'I'd like to do this. I'd like to do drag.'"

Jazmyn wants to be a drag performer with a purpose: to inspire everyone to express and be themselves. She particularly loves participating in events that are fundraisers helping to advance her community. The Imperial Sovereign Court of Spokane, a nonprofit that supports the LGBTQ+ community of Eastern Washington and North Idaho, named her Miss Wrangler in 2021.

"Our role is to raise funds and advocate for the communities, so I like doing those because it's intentional," Jazmyn says.

Jazmyn also hopes people who encounter her see her as approachable and nurturing. She enjoys doing all-ages shows, as well, and recalls a specific experience performing at a Pride in the Park in Moscow.

"Children see a very glittery person that exudes for them to come up and dance on the stage," Jazmyn says. "I have this mom, her boy was in front dancing with other kids. And I asked all of them to dance with me on the stage. To this day, the mom said that I have inspired him to do performances and be more outgoing."

Drag performers adjust their performances for the audience. Of course, a 21+ show is different from a show for children.

At last year's Pride in the Park in Coeur d'Alene, a woman doctored a photo of a performer, creating a blur effect on the photo, and spreading misinformation that the performer had exposed themselves during that all-ages performance. The City of Coeur d'Alene investigated the matter and concluded that the performer had not exposed themselves. The performer ended up suing the woman who doctored the photo for defamation, according to the Spokesman-Review.

But Jazmyn says that even the logistics of what that person was claiming was ridiculous.

"I'm wearing four tights. Even if I'm wearing a gown, I'm wearing tights underneath that," Jazymn says. "On top of the tights, I have my underwear, I have my corset. There's no way, even if I open my legs so far, that it will break and show my hoo-ha, you know what I mean?"

But Jazmyn says this misinformation about drag performers fuels actions like Idaho House Bill 265, which would've restricted drag performances from public spaces where minors were present. (After passing the Idaho House, the bill didn't receive a hearing in the Senate.)

"It doesn't mean that we can rest on our laurels because they can always come back," Jazmyn says. "Whenever we have this Pride event, even if it's in a private facility, or place, they will be outside and protesting about this. I'd like to invite them to see it for themselves."

Tonight at Mik's, Jazmyn's performances are bittersweet: Victoria announces that Jazmyn is leaving the Gemstones.

She'll still be performing, but has decided to go the independent route rather than be part of any one group. For her last song of the evening, she performs "Never Enough," a song from the movie The Greatest Showman, with obvious emotion.

"'Never enough' is something that I'd like to give to the Mik's audience," Jazmyn says. "They've been very welcoming. They've been very supportive, especially here in North Idaho."

When Rita Mikalatos opened Mik's in 1997, she wanted it to be a non-discriminatory place for everyone. She's thrilled with the North Idaho Gemstones.

"They always put on a high-energy show," Mikalatos says. "It's a lot of fun, and great crowd responses... A lot of support in the community from that."

Those wanting to see Jazmyn perform won't have to wait long, though. She'll be part of CDA4Pride: Pride on the Runway, an event on June 29 hosted by North Idaho Pride Alliance.

click to enlarge A year after a hate group tried to disrupt Pride, these five drag performers inspire and entertain North Idaho (3)
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Dylan Tank Phoenix St. James was Mr. Spokane Pride in 2021-22.


The third act, Dylan Tank Phoenix St. James, sports a button-down shirt, jeans and cowboy boots while performing "Girl Crush" by Harry Styles, and his presence is that of a heartfelt crooner.

He moved to Spokane from California nine years ago, and a mutual friend connected him with his drag mother, Christina Phoenix St. James. (Drag names can derive from who taught the performer. However, St. James is one of those last names that many drag queens and kings claim to be descended from.)

He always wanted to do drag, he says, but never knew the right people in California.

"She's been like a mom to me," Dylan says of Christina. "We've had a great relationship."

Dylan connected with Victoria through his drag mother, but this was Dylan's first in-person performance with North Idaho Gemstones. While Dylan had participated in the virtual show Victoria put on during the pandemic, he had to take a break to have shoulder surgery.

This night was his return.

"As Dylan, I've done a lot more things and gone a lot more places than I would have as me," he says.

Dylan is also a member of the Inland Empire Kings, a drag king group based in Spokane that had their first show at the Garland Drinkery on June 3.

He was named Mr. Spokane Pride by PFLAG for 2021-22, was an Imperial Crown Prince of the Imperial Sovereign Court of Spokane from 2019 to 2020, and was named Mr. Gay Spokane 2018-19, also by the Imperial Sovereign Court of Spokane.

click to enlarge A year after a hate group tried to disrupt Pride, these five drag performers inspire and entertain North Idaho (4)
Young Kwak
Daisy Deluxe Andrews St. James lives in Colville and has been performing for 11 years.


Following Dylan is Victoria's drag sister, Daisy Deluxe Andrews St. James. When Victoria introduces her, she says Daisy's been performing for 10 years.

"Eleven!" Daisy calls in sisterly fashion from behind the curtains. She appears in a pink dress with flowing blond hair — the perfect Barbie — and performs "Por Siempre Tú" by Christina Aguilera.

Daisy lives with her family in Colville. She grew up feeling that something was out of place, but it wasn't until she was a teen that she learned she had a twin sister who died during her mother's pregnancy.

"Doing drag makes me connect with my twin," Daisy says. "This is what she would have looked like, this is how she would have acted. It keeps me humbled in that part of my life — it fills that empty hole that I've been missing all these years."

When Daisy was growing up, her mother struggled with addiction, and so she was primarily raised by her father, who was homophobic and threatened to disown her if she came out. At 21, she came out and he did just that. Luckily, around the same time, her mother got clean.

"I am very, very proud of my mom for that," Daisy says. "She has been in my life ever since, and I could not have asked for a better mom."

For Daisy, coming out and becoming a drag queen happened nearly at once. She came out on social media and that day went shopping for shoes at Payless. There, she met a gay man who introduced her to local drag queens Nova Kaine and Beyonce Black St. James, and Daisy began learning to be a queen. Since then, Daisy has been a Miss Wrangler 35 for the Imperial Sovereign Court.

"When I'm Daisy it's like the whole world is just my playground and I just want to explore it," she says.

click to enlarge A year after a hate group tried to disrupt Pride, these five drag performers inspire and entertain North Idaho (5)
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Camilla Sumerz St. James was born and raised in Coeur d'Alene.


Last to the stage, but certainly not least, is Camilla Sumerz St. James, wearing a red feather headpiece, a two-piece and animal print high heeled boots, performing "El Pañuelo" by Romeo Santos and Rosalía. Camilla has a distinctly flirtatious presence, and the audience eats it up.

Almost exactly a year ago, Camilla, who was born and raised in Coeur d'Alene, attended Pride on the Runway at Mik's with her mom and grandmother, who were volunteering. The people putting on the drag show ended up getting Camilla's name and number, and Victoria got in contact, asking Camilla if she wanted to compete in a pageant to select a new Gemstone performer.

Camilla won, and was named Miss North Idaho Gemstone 2022-2023. North Idaho Gemstones is hosting the pageant again this summer, beginning their search for the next Gemstone on July 29 at Mik's.

"I went through the pageant with all the ups and downs," Camilla says. "I really didn't expect what drag queens had to go through. I never understood how much went behind that."

Camilla says the past year doing drag has opened her up to the gay community.

"I never was really the person to go up to another gay person a year ago," Camilla says. "If I went out to the bar, and I saw someone I just kind of walked the other way, I didn't really feel included. Now that I'm in drag, knowing that there are more people in the community that have lived the life that I've lived or are going to live the life that I've lived, it's just really nice to know that I'm not alone." ♦

Kyle Kinane @ Knitting Factory

Fri., Sept. 22, 8 p.m.
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