By Denny Patterson
The 2019 Ultimate Miami Drag Queen Competition is proud to announce Karla Croqueta as its winner. Also known as Josue Garcia, the 31-year-old bearded beauty instantly became the crowd favorite once she set foot on the stage. With her beaming confidence and abundance of skills, Croqueta sang live during the talent portion and played to the audience with her Celia Cruz-inspired gown. She delivered an awe-inspiring performance and an actual tray of croquetas to the judges during her final strut on the runway. Talk about staying true to her name! Croqueta believes that staying true to herself is what helped her clench the winning title and the $5,000 grand prize. I had the pleasure of chatting more with Croqueta about her passion for drag, the competition, and what she hopes to do with her platform as the 2019 Ultimate Miami Drag Queen.
Denny Patterson: Congrats on winning the 2019 Ultimate Miami Drag Queen Competition! How surreal is this win to you?
Karla Croqueta: Winning Ultimate Miami Drag Queen is still beyond surreal. As a drag performer, I have oftentimes been marginalized, or not taken seriously because I am a bearded drag queen. To me, having this title justifies that all my hard work does not go unnoticed and that I am the Ultimate Miami Drag Queen!
DP: Was this your first time competing in this competition?
KC: This was my first time ever competing in a drag competition besides a small lip-sync battle at a nightclub. I did not know what to expect. I am very competitive by nature, so I wanted to be sure that if I was going to compete for a title, I was as prepared as I could be to take the stage.
DP: What was your favorite part and some of the night’s top highlights?
KC: There were many moments that I will forever remember. My favorite experience was backstage. I was able to meet very talented and determined personalities that all had the same goal in mind; to win that crown. It was amazing to see how different everyone is at their preparations. There were some performers putting together pieces of their costumes, while some were relaxing and getting their makeup applied by their assistant, and others just working quietly. It was very nice to see everyone’s process and how differently we all are to prepare ourselves for a huge moment in our lives. For me, making a new family backstage was the highlight of my night.
DP: What made you want to compete in this competition?
KC: I have been looking into this specific competition for about three years now. In all my branding and everything I do; I represent Miami to the fullest. There is no other title I wanted more than to be Miami’s Ultimate Drag Queen! I am often told because I am a bearded queen, that I do not take my craft seriously, I am not “polished” enough, or even that I am not actually a drag queen because I don’t shave. I took this leap of faith to compete to prove to myself that those words by others were not true and that I do work hard, and my drag is valid.
DP: Tell me more about your drag persona, Karla Croqueta. Who is she and what is she all about?
KC: Karla is a first-generation Cuban-American girl living her freedom fantasy. Karla Croqueta is everything you need in your life and then some. She is loud, colorful, eccentric, and above all, loving. Croquetas are the social ice breaker at any Cuban event and I wanted that to be true for myself as well. Whenever you are at any momentous event in a Cuban family, there is surely a ‘bandeja de croquetas’ somewhere that reads “in case of social tension: BREAK PLASTIC WRAPPER.” Croquetas are the perfect conversation starter.
DP: How long have you been doing drag, and where did your passion for it come from?
KC: I have been performing in drag for almost eight years now. My passion for the craft is deeply rooted in my background. As a kid, I grew up in community theater, show choir, dance, chorus – anything performative. Doing drag is the one platform I can use to combine all my passions and talents and present them on one stage.
DP: What can audiences expect from a Karla Croqueta show?
KC: If ever you see Karla Croqueta on stage or in a video, expect to laugh! I always have something to say; sometimes it is perfectly inappropriate and other times it is just downright funny. As a performer, I think it is very important to connect with your audience, so always expect a lot of audience interaction at my shows, but also expect to sit back and be entertained. Karla is a one woman show. I can sing, act, dance, tell jokes, and entertain you to the point of never wanting to leave!
DP: What is your favorite part about doing drag and performing?
KC: My favorite part of performing has to be the crowd reaction. I live for the applause. To me, creating a connection with the audience is the most important aspect of a show, so to see their faces light up with joy, fear, confusion, laughter, or any emotion is priceless. I live to entertain, and that experience is only complete if the audience has a reaction to my action.
DP: What do you plan to do with your $5,000 grand prize?
KC: I plan to travel some and gain new love, respect, and inspiration from my roots. I plan to visit Cuba with the money I earned from winning Ultimate Miami Drag Queen. In the past, my family would talk me out of visiting Cuba because my grandparents and parents fled a communist regime to seek freedom. My family often saw it as counterproductive to visit the country and put money back into their economy. As years pass, they see how much love and influence I take from my Cuban roots and they have now become my biggest cheerleaders of visiting the country!
DP: What do you think gave you the winning edge over the competition?
KC: I was unapologetically myself on that stage. I think that is what gave me the winning edge in the competition. I walked on that stage as if I were in the living room of my grandmother’s house and talked to everyone in the room as if they were my friends and family. I mean, most of them were! I was 100 percent true to myself and my brand and I think that resonated with the judges and the audience that night.
DP: I want to go back to the fact that you are a bearded queen. Why did you decide to choose that style of drag, and are bearded queens becoming more common within the drag community, or are they still being looked as, like you said, unpolished?
KC: Being a bearded beauty has been one of the biggest challenges of being a drag queen, but it has also been the pillar to my success. I started doing drag with a beard not even knowing the true intention behind it. When I first started, I would jokingly say, “my Cuban aunt has a 5 o’clock shadow and so does Karla” – and that is still true today! My aunt still has some stubble, and Karla does, too. Being fat, Latin, and hairy I have often been marginalized by the gay community. In the past, there was very little representation for people like me and I always felt it was my duty to create that platform and go against social norms of beauty standards. I decided to be true to me and that is why to this date I continue to be a bearded beauty. I have been performing with a beard for almost eight years now and it has only been in the last two to three years I have even seen more than 10 other drag queens with beards, but they are not even all based in Miami. The trend is growing, but still working on breaking barriers. I hope that one day bearded drag, and all drag, is respected equally.
DP: Have you ever auditioned for RuPaul’s Drag Race? If not, do you have any desire to?
KC: I have not auditioned for RuPaul’s Drag Race mainly because I am very self-aware, and I did not think I had the qualities to win the show in the past. Now, I am fully confident that I could, even regardless of the beard. However, RuPaul is not a pillar of success in the drag community. It is not the end goal for all drag queens, and it is not what we are all working towards. The show has broken the mold and brought drag queens to mainstream media and I will celebrate all the positive things the show has done for the community, but I can point out that it continues to celebrate perfectly chiseled male bodies, the Pit Crew, and continually values soft feminine drag over any other type of drag that is out there. I do intend to audition for the show and hopefully break new barriers within the community.
DP: As the winner of the Ultimate Miami Drag Queen Competition, what do you hope to accomplish with your platform?
KC: I plan to use my Ultimate Miami Drag Queen title to bridge a gap in the gay community that has been long overdue. There has been a separation between the “south beach queens” and the “alternative drag scene,” and I think that those lines need to be blurred a bit and put everyone on the same platform and give new, emerging artists the opportunity to shine as well. I will do this by diversifying my lineups in the shows I create, as well as by speaking out on social injustices and trying to work on them here in our own community so that Miami can have a voice of its own within the queer community.
DP: What’s next for Karla Croqueta?
KC: There are a lot of plans for what Karla Croqueta has in store! I plan to put together more immersive shows with diverse casts and have equal representation for all. I plan to take this scene and continue to work on the changes I have wanted to see in the community for years past. I hope to make a few changes to the actual competition itself. I learned this year that if your driver’s license says “Female,” you are unable to compete in the competition and I think that gives a big exclusion to many female identifying drag queens. Assigned Woman at Birth, trans-women, all people can be drag queens. Not only cis men. So, we should not have these guidelines in place. I plan to continue to reach for the stars and hope to make a name for myself not only in my hometown of Miami, but worldwide.
Follow @KarlaCroqueta on Instagram to see current happenings and her upcoming performances.