"Rumor has it Cate's going to close the show with 'You Don’t Own Me' while dressed as Marlene Dietrich," was said to me about an hour before the show even started. I immediately turned to my boyfriend, my photo assistant for the night, and said, “I’m going to cry if that’s true.” Exclamation points appeared in my eyes because, ICYMI, "You Don't Own Me" is one of my all-time favorite songs—thanks, mostly, to one of my all-time favorite movies, The First Wives Club.
I've had many a photo job at Stonewall—I've photographed approximately 89789 different performances there (drag and non-drag), their National Monument induction Ceremony (where I might've shed a few tears), and a few charity events. I’ve photographed awesome people at the Stonewall Inn too—people like badass activist Edie Windsor, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and queer singer/national treasure Mary Lambert.
An A+ Madonna performance (photo courtesy of yours truly)
But never before had I photographed an event with a headliner who is a two-time Oscar winner. Nothing I'd ever photographed before had boasted Galadriel (and the MCU's soon-to-be Hela) herself as a performer. So, yes, to say I was excited to be photographing an event with Cate Blanchett would be putting it lightly.
Backup Dancer Cate Blanchett, wearing Pussy Hats, inspired by the Women's March (photo courtesy of the very handsome David Abramovitz)
The show started opened with a parody version of Adele's "Hello" with the lyrics re-written to talk about calling Paul Ryan, sung by Margeuax Powell. With lyrics like, "When I call Paul Ryan, he never seems to be there anymore" and her Pussy Hat from the Women's March, I was already feeling emotional. Halfway through the song, Cate Blanchett and another drag queen, both wearing Pussy Hats, walked out to be backup dancers for Powell. Can you even imagine having an Oscar winner come out to a tiny stage at a historic gay bar only to be your backup dancer? They all held hands at one point and it was both a fantastic performance and pretty god damned moving.
Dropping it low (photo courtesy of yours truly)
Margeuax Powell, Aurora Sexton, Vanice Vega, Candice Cox, Brenda Darling, Tina Burner, and Zola Powell all made for an absolutely stellar show. And I say this as someone who has seen many, many stellar drag queens grace the small stage at The Stonewall Inn (let alone all around other bars and brunch spots in NYC). This was one of the best drag shows I had ever witnessed—and I would've said that even before the closing number…
The lights dimmed and the iconic opening chords of "You Don’t Own Me"began and Cate Blanchett walked out, channeling Marlene Dietrich in drag, with a spotlight being shone right on her. She wore a black tuxedo jacket with long tails that was perfect as were here matching gold sequined bra and bottoms, accompanied by gorgeous dangle earrings and bright red, glittery lipstick. There stood the Cate Blanchett, hands on her hips, ready to lip-sync for her life.
And boy, did she ever.
Let me tell you, it's really hard to photograph a performance while teary eyed because you've died and gone to gay heaven. She even walked out into the crowd, collecting tips from the audience and vamping it up all over the place. She then shouted, "Come on ladies" while heading back on stage and out came all the drag queens to accompany her on stage. Some of them even held hands. The song choice, the performance venue, the fact that it was President's Day—it was the absolute best kind of drag performance, a god damned political one. The perfectly uplifting political performance us sad queers need in this current nightmare political climate.
The ladies all finishing up "You Don't Own me" together (photo courtesy of yours truly)
And yes, I cried watching the performance (it’s hard being the girl from the end of Mean Girls with all the feelings).
"Oh, you have one of those cases? I love it," Blanchett said when she saw my Kim Kardashian-esque light-up selfie iPhone case while I was taking the selfie my BF and I were lucky enough to grab with her. Blanchett made sure to greet and take photos with everyone who approached her. All while still wearing her badass glittery outfit and tux jacket.
David and I after having ascended to a higher plane where Cate Blanchett performs "You Don't Own Me" in red glitter lipstick with drag queens at freakin' Stonewall and then takes a selfie with us after complimenting my phone case (photo courtesy of yours truly)
So, yes, Cate Blanchett is just as wonderful of a precious angel as you'd hope she'd be.