As the annual Pride celebration approaches, local drag performer Juanita MORE! transforms from a humble (but stylish) weekly DJ into a sequined general. The “Juanita MORE! Pride Party 2015” is her engagement.
Widely recognized as the best party of Pride, it doesn’t come together alone: MORE! rallies a small army of people to fuse art, music and fabulousness.
“At this point it really does take me a full year to plan,” MORE! told the San Francisco Examiner. “I have an amazing team of people. They really support what I’m doing.”
At this year’s bash — widely considered the “ball” of Pride — MORE! will bring together DJs who run the gamut of LGBT nightlife, from Steve Fabus, David Harness and Jackie House to MORE!’s own son, Robert Jeffrey.
“I’ve got this spectrum of music that showcases where queer music has been and where it’s headed,” MORE! said. Each DJ represents a different era of local LGBT musical history.
Sister Roma of the radical queer nuns known as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence told us MORE!’s was “the” party of Pride, and even state Sen. Mark Leno, who is openly gay, has honored MORE! for her efforts (and has attended her parties as well).
Brian Basinger, head of the Aids Housing Alliance, put it simply: “It is the best party in town, period.”
We asked why.
“You know what it is? She’s just got love,” Basinger said. “She creates a space that is lovely and accepting and welcoming and warm, fun and edgy.”
Many people the Examiner spoke with agreed: As San Francisco Pride floods with national newcomers, Juanita MORE!’s party can be a welcoming oasis that celebrates the local LGBT community.
And MORE!’s parties are, well, “more” than just a party. For 10 years the nonprofit show also serves as a philanthropic fundraiser. Last year she raised over $45,000 for Basinger’s organization, which helps find housing for those with AIDS. This year, the Youth Empowerment Summit will rake in the donations after all of MORE!’s guests are done grooving.
YES is a conference for Gay Straight Alliance youth groups, and hosts workshops on sexual safety, LGBT history and more.
“The bottom line for me is, these kids are going to be my voice in another 10 or 15 years,” MORE! said of her reason for donating to YES. “They’ll be changing policy and will be the voice I want to be standing up for me. I want them to be really awesome, great queers.”
The sponsors for Juanita MORE! Pride 2015 are local, from marijuana group Sparc to Google — the latter of which was spurred by a group MORE! said goes by the name “Gay Googlers.”
“I don’t know what kind of drug I’m sprinkling around,” MORE! said, but major donors continue to pony up for good causes.
MORE! has performed in drag for nearly 25 years, and got her start in the Castro at a bar that is now Martuni’s. She’s a local DJ, chef and hostess many say packs more glamour into her painted pinky-nails than some divas have in their entire glitzy outfits.
But she also hails from humble Fremont, and says she owes much of her professional skills to her parents.
“My dad was an amazing, super social guy. My dad didn’t see race or religion, size, anything. He’d talk to anybody,” MORE! said. As for her mother, “When she arrived, she was the life of the party. I feel like I have that energy.”
Now that planning the party is (mostly, but not entirely) complete, MORE! is turning her efforts to the most stylish part of the party: herself.
Her outfit, she said, is realized by local designer Mr. David and dyed by Quan Nguyen. Kirk Maxson crafts her jewelry, and her hair and shoes are taken care of by other professionals. It’s her art, she said, but it’s also hard work.
“I ain’t that pretty without everyone else’s help!” she said.