Little boys and girls may dream of becoming princes and princesses, and vice versa, but little girly-boys with ambition and a BeDazzler dream of becoming Empress.
“I’d wanted to be one of ted’s empresses ever since I was a little girl in Surrey,” confesses the Dogwood Monarchist Society’s exiting Empress XLIII Kiki Lawhore (aka Kevin Kreisz).
Lawhore is referring to pioneering gay activist ted northe, who not only founded Canada’s first chapter of the Imperial Court but became its inaugural Empress in 1971.
“I was the last Empress crowned while ted was still alive,” Lawhore says. Northe — a Q Hall of Fame inductee, recipient of the Governor General’s Special Service Medal, and self-proclaimed Empress of Canada — died on March 30, 2014.
On March 14, 2015, Lawhore passed the crown to newly elected Empress XLIV Babette Co-Taylor.
Granted a luncheon audience with the retiring royalty, accompanied by Imperial Crown Princess XXXVI, The Bovine Miss M (aka Mark Vossberg), I asked Lawhore if she had any advice for the incoming monarch.
“You need an outlet outside the court or it will consume you. It’s very taxing,” she offers, capriciously nibbling on her five-cheese stuffed ravioli in a suitably humble blush sauce.
With an impressive history of fundraising (estimated at roughly $10 million over four decades), Vancouver’s Dogwood Monarchist Society has understandably high expectations of its Empresses-to-be. While a slow month may involve just two fundraisers and a single royal trip to a foreign court, holiday seasons demand countless, back-to-strapless-back functions.
“Before Halloween, I spent two straight weeks in drag,” Lawhore says, her trademark soprano giggle threatening nearby glassware.
When asked about meeting her royal obligations, she waves her slender hand modestly, spilling nary a drop of her double vodka-lime-with-a-splash-of-cran. But the Bovine Miss M praises her legacy.
“Kiki can get a little wild, but she kept it together. She made her travel commitments, raised money, and made it to the Ball Weekend in good standing and one piece!”
The society’s beneficiaries have included Friends for Life, the Saige Food Bank, the Health Initiative for Men, Qmunity, Out in Schools, the Queer History Project, and even the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association.
Incoming Empress XLIV, Babette Co-Taylor, has set herself a personal fundraising goal of $10,000, as well as a clear agenda.
“I want to bring diversity back,” she says. “I want to produce shows based on variety. I want to have drag performers, transgender, bi, straight, gay, live singers, comedians — I want to help the community remember that we’re all one.”