Review: Crowning a New Miss First Nation Queen

Miss First Nation drag pageant shines a spotlight on queer First Nations communities and stories, writes Davey Thompson. Blak Critics is a YIRRAMBOI initiative giving voice to First Nations writers and critics.

Drag is a sacred art form in queer communities, reminding us of our potential and keeping us connected to our humanity in our own unique way.

Though our drag kings and queens have been such a large part of our makeup, they haven’t always been as visible in the mainstream, nor in the queer First Nations community, until quite recently.

The character of Jimmy in iconic film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) was an early example, but by the same token, the stage adaptation recently caused controversy by excising him, claiming they couldn’t find an Aboriginal actor to take on the role.

Thanks to the unforgettable efforts of Miss Ellaneous, Marzi Panne and the Party Passport team, writing us out of the story is now impossible.

They are the brains behind Miss First Nation, Australia’s First Nations drag pageant, the third outing of which closed this year’s YIRRAMBOI Festival, thrusting talented First Nations queens into the collective spotlight.

Eight contestants battled it out in an epic competition rivalling the final season of Game of Thrones. A bank of 35 judges scored the queens over a number of heats on categories including modelling, lip-syncing, costume and attitude (commonly known as Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent).

Each queen had their moment to shine and show us what they’re made of.

Anna’Mal TuckerBox was the first Tasmanian to enter the competition and her supporters were out in force. Rose Quartz’s burlesque flavour very much reminded me of old-school Hollywood glamour, and I’m looking forward to seeing what she does next. Sydney’s Tyra Bankstown was a fierce presence and her elegance screams J-Lo, with the performance energy to match. Ayleesha Tried’s sultry presence was very hard to miss and her outfits were gorgeous, while Jojo Zaho returned to the competition after having a year off, upgrading her look big-time between competitions, with padding to-die-for and lip-syncs that were executed fantastically.

Each with their own flavour of spunk, they had plenty of supporters going wild in the crowd as they battled for the coveted crown.

Whittling the field down to three, Sarah Moany presented a number of camp and creepy looks with high-octane performances. Think Sharon Needles crossed with Milk, only pretty and talented. Nana Miss Koori is classic drag and just as heavenly as her name sounds. With her impeccable style and captivating lip-syncs, Aunty came to show these babies how it’s done!

The winner, Dhungutti queen Chocolate Boxx, easily has what it takes to be one of the most formidable drag queens in the country.

Consistently blowing the judges away, from her electric lip-syncs to her dramatic costume reveals, her supermodel style and undeniable connection with her audience genuinely operates on a level far beyond her years of experience. It’s truly exciting she’s representing our mob. Keep your eyes on this one, because she’s going to go far.

Miss First Nation stands out in the world of drag pageants, fostering a true feeling of community, support and camaraderie between the artists and organisers that I don’t get from many other places on the planet. The inspiration Miss Ellaneous and Marzi Panne bring to this competition is giving our community life that can’t be communicated with words, celebrating our culture, our love and our love of our culture.

I hope the competition returns to YIRRAMBOI. If Miss First Nation was this good in 2019, imagine how fierce it will be come 2021?

Miss First Nation premiered in Melbourne at YIRRAMBOI Festival 2019, presented by Party Passport.

Image: Miss First Nation 2019 by Joseph Mayers