Drag Monarch, Alma B*tches, Reflects on a Year of Charity

Photo credit: Fernando Cysneiros @thedragseries

By Kendell Yan

If you’ve been to a few drag shows in Vancouver over the past five years there is a fairly significant chance that one of them was hosted, MC’d, and/or performed by Alma Bitches, her most imperial sovereign majesty, Emprex 48 of the Dogwood Monarchist Society.

Charity and community work have always been a focal point for Alma, having started their career in drag as a member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a worldwide charity organization, almost 10 years ago. It was a natural progression for them to apply for election to the title of Emprex.

Founded nearly 50 years ago, the Dogwood Monarchist Society (DMS) is a local charitable organization that raises funds in conjunction with the network of the Internation Court System to support the LGBTQ2S+ community. Alma has spent the past year tirelessly raising funds for charity with their counterpart Emperor 48, Del Stamp. On March 14th they will step down as reigning monarchs at the 49th annual coronation ball at the Commodore ballroom, and a new pair of monarchs will be elected to carry on the charitable legacy of the DMS, and the traditions of the International Court System which is active across Mexico, the US, and Canada.

“This year I wanted to reach out to five different branches of the community,” they reported, “so we have Positive Living for HIV [affected folks], Saige Community Food Bank to reach out to gender variant people, Rainbow Refugee to help people get to Canada, Zeezee Theatre for the arts, and the one I’m most happy about, Urban Native Youth Association“.

“I’m happy about all [of the charities], but I really wanted First Nations involvement. I remember when I was a kid and I didn’t get it,” they say, thinking back to the lack of education and story telling in the school system regarding Indigenous cultural practices and history of colonial violence, “even when I first got involved with the sisters, the founding members of the sisters did land acknowledgments, and I didn’t get it, but as I’ve stuck around and as I’ve listened, and learned, and read, it’s like oh my god, we have not done right AT ALL, so it was important for me to do land acknowledgements at my shows, but I don’t want to do them empty.” Putting their charitable money where their mouth is, Alma is trying to hold space, acknowledge unceded territories, and create tangible change. “Reconciliation is dead,” says Alma, “but we can fund the revolution instead.”

Photo credit: Fernando Cysneiros @thedragseries

On top of coordinating fundraisers throughout the year, at every show they produce, Alma has included a tip-for-charity number at all of their shows, and encouraged every drag host in the West End to do the same. “Before reign 46 most of the drag involvement in the DMS was at court centric events, there wasn’t a lot of involvement from the professional drag community to raise funds,” they said, referring specifically to the passing of baskets at weekly shows, “that’s a relatively new thing, and it didn’t start with me, but we’re definitely keeping it going…there has been more community involvement this year than ever.” Before passing the bucket around for charity, Alma always has a message that’s centered around love, “I never really try to use guilt, I just try to acknowledge the gratitude that you should have for living in a place like Vancouver. There are lots of problems in Canada, don’t get me wrong, but I just feel like I can be who I am and no family members are coming into my room in the night saying ‘you have to leave they’re coming to kill you.’”

After they step down from their responsibility as Emprex, Alma intends to take a short and well deserved break from drag. “Being Emprex pushed me to my limit, and I was already in drag more than I was out of drag,” they tell me, “but the most rewarding thing I don’t think has happened yet. I’m told by lots of past Monarchs that everything becomes really solid about what you did when you take your cheques and you hand deliver them to your charities, so I’m looking forward to that moment.”

Continuing their legacy of providing space for artists to grow and create, in their stead they are inviting members of the drag community who might not have equal opportunity of platform to host their weekly shows, Sanctuary at the Pumpjack and the Wednesday Show at the Junction.

Alma wants you all to know you have one last chance to help donate to the 5 DMS supported charities at the upcoming Coronation 49 Vancouver: The Immaculate Filth Ball  which takes place on March 14th at the Commodore Ballroom. The candidate this year for Empress 49 is Kendall Gender, and the candidates for Emperor 49 are Sean Malmas and Kevin Horn. Immediately following the 49th coronation, the Command Show features a stacked lineup of local talent including Rose Butch, Berlin, Rich Elle, Tommi, Rogue, Continental Breakfast, Maiden China, as well as RuPaul’s drag race alumni Roxxxy Andrews and Tatiana.

Tickets are still available for purchase for coronation and all tickets to the coronation include admission to the Command Show! Come see some drag royalty get crowned, and some drag royalty give you the show of your life, all in the name of charity! (Tickets to the command show can be purchased separately from coronation).

Follow Alma on Instagram: @alma_bitches

Kendell Yan is a queer, Second generation POC who navigates the hyphen of mixed ethnicity diaspora on Coast Salish territory. Better known as Maiden China, an intersectional feminist drag artist, member of the Darlings and the House of Rice, they love to bolster their community by promoting QTIPOC events that center diversity and inclusion.

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