by Forbidden Fruit, New Orleans, Louisiana
Forbidden Fruit consists of Lisa Beaumann [L.B.], Teryl-Lynn Foxx [T.L.F.] and Reba Douglas [R.B]. Since winning the Marsha Delain Award of Excellence 1997 and being named ambassadors to the New Orleans "drag" culture, we have decided to write a collection of articles. It is our intention to address issues of interest to the gay community. We see and hear so much about the performers who the public considers to be the "stars" of the "drag" scene.
In this article Forbidden Fruit would like to take a look at the person behind the performer. We refer to him as:
The man behind the face!
Alvin Coleman (a.k.a) Victoria Vershe' is a hairdresser and make-up artist extrordinaire. He currently is employed by Burke & Friends At The Fairmont (Hotel).
Alvin is best known for his talent as a "star" maker. He has quickly developed a reputation as a backstage helper and coordinator for various stars in the pageant world.
Alvin has helped such winners as Miss Louisiana America, Miss New Orleans, Miss Gulf States America, and Miss Emerald City.
L.B.: What are the most important tools one needs to secure a pageant crown? Would it be talent or consistency?
ALVIN: Definitely consistency, because it shows several different professional aspects. Someone needs to be good in every catagory, not high in some and low in others. The person who stays consistent is the one who ends up the winner.
T.L.F.: It has been said that a backstage helper or the creator of illusion lives vicariously through his creation. Do you find that statement to be true?
ALVIN: I don't understand how you use the word "vicariously."
T.L.F.: How do you allow a contestant's personality to dominate?
ALVIN: Usually I meet with the contestant over dinner, or a happy hour to discuss his or her ideas, then I will present mine. I present my ideas-the contestant can run with it or throw it out the door. The contestant will get his money's worth. Most people I work with know my capabilities and most clients are referals.
L.B.: How much do you charge?
ALVIN: Usually $20 per wig, $50 for backstage help that evening and it goes up from there.
R.D.: When your contestant wins the pageant, how does it feel? Do you think "I could have won it?"
ALVIN: It's like winning the grammy! I may not have it on the shelf, but I helped win it. It's my hard work that basically helped the contestant win the pageant. Oh, and the contest, also.
L.B.: Other than the local girls, who are your favorite drag stars?
ALVIN: Carmella Marcella Garcia, Jimmy James, and Coco.
T.L.F.: What do you enjoy most-creating an illusion or performing?
ALVIN: Fifty - Fifty. When I see my illusion on stage, it's seeing a part of me, knowing that I was responsible for the illusion.
R.D.: Do you have any plans to enter any of the pageant systems?
ALVIN: Yes and No. Because I know how much hard work it takes to win and because I get really nervous; however, in the next five years, I may enter.
T.L.F.: How old are you?
T.L.F.: That's a long time to put your future on hold.
ALVIN: But I would need time to prepare myself.
R.D.: Which system would you enter?
ALVIN: The America System. It's the only system I know about.
L.B.: What's the most common mistake people make in putting a contestant together?
ALVIN: Preparation. You must prepare well in advance. If you don't prepare, things fall apart.
L.B.: Is that where a backstage helper comes in?
ALVIN: Yes. You must know what has to be zipped, whether the contestant needs to be taped in the dress, and what to put on first.
T.L.F.: Do you find it difficult to be in a relationship with an entertainer, and be an entertainer yourself?
ALVIN: Most definitely. Yes. It gets in the way, because of the fact they are the illusion I created. It's me and my illusion battling in my mind.
R.D.: What's the worst thing that happened backstage while you were helping someone?
ALVIN: Well, it's kind of funny now (laughs), but at the time it was very stressful. A zipper ripped on the "perfect" talent dress. I told the contestant to bring a back-up dress, but they didn't like it. They ended up having to wear the dress anyway. They looked better in that dress than the original. The contestant started jumping up and down. Two tiles fell from the ceiling. I was so embarassed!
L.B.: Thank you Alvin for your time. I must get ready for the illusion show at OZ.
T.L.F.: I have to go. I have a fashion show to get ready for in Slidell.
R.D.: Well Alvin, I guess you thought we were going to have you for lunch.
ALVIN: No, just for dessert.
R.D.: No, we'll save that for Miss Stephanie. Gotta go. Don't forget to taste Forbidden Fruit on Sundays at Rubyfruit Jungle at 9pm. It's what the snake never told Eve.