(Photo Credit: Howard Austin Field)
By Rafa Carvajal
Elaine Lancaster is one of the most beloved and enduring personalities in South Florida entertainment, a drag diva of the first class and a name synonymous with irreverent and colorful performances, whether live or on television.
Born James Davis, Elaine took her stage name from a pair of characters in a Jackie Collins novel, demonstrating immediate diva tendencies. Elaine arrived in South Florida in 1997 and has been an iconic emcee, hostess and performer every since.
Although one of the most sought-after hostesses in South Florida, Elaine travels the country wherever the work – and a chance to share her fabulousness – takes her. She has worked with the likes of RuPaul, Kevin Aviance, Lady Bunny (who has been a dear friend since childhood), disco legend Thelma Houston, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Martha Wash, Loleatta Holloway and Dennis Rodman.
Elaine Lancaster makes for quite a presence onscreen as well. She has appeared on Entertainment Tonight (four times), Deco Drive, the NBC sitcom Wings, A Current Affair, Inside Edition, Ocean Drive Television and Hard Copy. Elaine was also hostess for Wild on South Beach, a one hour E-TV entertainment show. She was also featured in the HBO documentary Drag Time, which aired in January 1998. She made her feature film debut in The Versace Murder, which was released as a television movie in the United States after a Cannes debut and a theatrical run in Europe in 1998. Her role in The Real Housewives of Miami continued her ascent, and other roles continue her way as Elaine emerged a multi-faceted performer.
Elaine will be the emcee for this year’s Miami Beach Gay Pride. I sat down with Elaine to talk about Miami Beach Pride, life, career, The Real Housewives of Miami and much more.
Rafa Carvajal: Tell our readers about yourself and what you do for a living.
Elaine Lancaster: My name is Elaine Lancaster and I have made Miami and Miami Beach my primary residence since July 15, 1997. I moved to Miami Beach to work for the Versace family, but sadly that was the very day Gianni was murdered in front of his home. I was subletting a studio apartment from a girlfriend, Frances Lorden, I had met during a prior vacation. I was living on 9th Street and Collins Ave., and awoke to Frances’ phone call telling me Gianni had been killed. Naturally I said she was wrong. I pulled on my shorts and ran around the corner to discover it was all true and I was in shock for about four days. On the next Wednesday, the hottest gay dance bar in Miami Beach, Warsaw, was having a memorial tribute to and celebration of the life and memory of Gianni since he, Donatella, Elton and everyone in that time period used to make Warsaw the place to hang out. Maxwell Blandford was standing inside the lobby of the club welcoming guest, so when Elaine Lancaster walked in, Maxwell said, “Who are you?!” I said, “My name is Elaine and I’m new in town.” He wanted to know if I was visiting or if I lived in town. Then he offered me a job on the spot as the co-host of the World Famous Amateur which was on Wednesday. Little did I know how coveted the job was. Kitty Meow and Paloma were the hosts, and when I appeared on stage the following week, I was instantly hated by the other queens in town, who would have killed for the position. I have not stopped working from that fateful evening, walking through the doors of Warsaw and meeting Maxwell, who became a champion and a dear friend. Then other club owners came calling. I saved every dime I earned for about five years and bought real estate. Now I manage my investments, operate my own cosmetics company, www.ElaineLancasterCosmetics.com, DJ, host major corporate & Fashion events and work my tush off to keep it all fresh.
RC: What does Miami Beach Gay Pride mean to you?
EL: Being “Proud” means taking responsibility for oneself. Not being ashamed of who you are. Knowing as a member of the LGBT community that we are not better than anyone else, but also nobody’s any better than us either. Demand the equality that is afforded to other American’s.
RC: Why do you think it is important for the LGBT community to celebrate Pride?
EL: This is something that I think is very important. Sometimes people say, “Oh Elaine, why do all the gays need to have a Pride parade and march in the streets?” I say, it’s because we’ve had years and years of systematic organized heterosexuality on TV – shows like Leave It to Beaver, the family with a mother and a father and 2.3 children. You never see gay people. It’s like they don’t really exist. One year, when I was in college at the University of Kansas, an athlete friend of mine said to me, “When I was little, we used to think gay people were like Martians – you hear they exist but you never actually see them.” That’s why getting into the streets and being seen is so important for acceptance. It’s so important, especially right now with places like Russia, where they’re trying to imprison gays; like Iran, where they think gay people don’t exist; like Uganda, where they’re trying to kill gays. It just blows my mind. It’s human rights, it’s civil rights, we’re all human beings, and we’re all entitled to equality no matter how you express your love.
Miami Beach is a microcosm, an enclave of the gay community, like New York or San Francisco. I think it’s very important that we have a strong presence, and I can’t think of anyone better to be the leader of the band than Elaine Lancaster. I love this town. It’s helped to promote and facilitate the characters I’ve created and given birth to since the day I moved here. I’m so proud to be the emcee. I think I will probably get there around 4-4:30 p.m., and I’ll be there until the fireworks take off.
(Photo Credit: Dale Stine)
RC: What are you looking forward to the most as this year’s Pride emcee?
EL: I think it’s just seeing all the people come together. It’s not about being Latin or Cuban or American – it’s about being human beings. That day, we all have a common thread and that’s our humanity. Celebrate life; it’s so short, and the older we get, the faster it goes by. I’ve always said life is like a roll of toilet paper – the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes. I hope everyone comes out and has a good time. We all know that the gay community knows how to have fun, so hopefully on the 13th, they will let her rip! Let’s have a good time and kick up our heels. What’s the purpose of being a queen if we can’t kick up our heels and have a fabulous time?
RC: What would you like for people to know about you?
EL: I never give up. I fight for what is right for myself and for those who are not able to fight for themselves.
RC: What three words would you use to best describe Elaine Lancaster?
EL: Loyal, dedicated and determined.
RC: What do you think about the future of gay marriage in Florida?
EL: I think gay marriage will become law for gays and lesbians in Florida soon because there are a lot hard-working men and women working to see to it that Floridians will have marriage equality. I also hope we will be allowed to adopt children that need a loving home.
RC: What has been the best thing about being part of The Real Housewives of Miami?
EL: It was an overall fun experience. I got to spend a lot more time with my girlfriend, Lea Black, who is co-hosting the VIP Reception with me at the W Hotel this Thursday, April 10. The iconic Gloria Estefan, who is a Grand Marshall and a friend of mine, will also be there to share the love with everybody.
RC: What is your favorite memory of The Real Housewives of Miami?
EL: That it’s over. If there is another season, I will not be a part of it. There are only two or three women who are authentic and the rest are pretenders, wannabes. They focus on trivial bull crap and I’d rather spend my precious time doing good works with great folks. There are a lot
of insecure and sad people out in the world who would rather hate then love. I’m a lover!
RC: Is there anything else you would like to share with Wire Magazine readers?
EL: I hope everyone comes out to the various events during Pride weekend, but especially Sunday the 13th for the Festival and Parade. DJ Alex Infiniti kicks things off. Then crazy ass Lady Bunny – she and I have been a friends for about 30 years – will be DJing on the TD Bank Main Stage while I emcee. I will be inviting all the professional female impersonators to join me on stage because we are family! There are several surprise guest entertainers too. We also will have, as the entertainment headliner, the delightfully talented Courtney Act, who is a contestant on Drag Race this season.
This article was originally published in Wire Magazine, Issue 15, 2014