Athena Dion thinks most drag queens have hearts of gold. But if that's so, then the hearts of Dion and her Dream Queens must be multi-platinum.
Earlier this year, Dion, real name Stavros Stavrakis, started volunteering his time at Jackson Memorial Hospital's Burn Center to bring burn survivors a makeover and some fun. Stavrakis said the first event at the burn unit in April, organized by Logan Almazan, a trauma and burns critical care registered nurse at the Ryder Trauma Center, motivated him to do more events like that.
"The good I saw come out of it and the outpouring of local support and requests to be a part of any other future events...I realized that my fellow drag queens wanted an avenue to use their specific talents to give back to members of our community who would appreciate them most," Stavrakis said.
Almazan said the event at Jackson Memorial was "life changing for everyone...the burn survivors and us that volunteered. It was an amazing high."
A winner of Mr. Macho with Coming Out Cuba, Almazan has volunteered at the Children's Burn Foundation of Florida for eight years. It was Almazan who asked Stavrakis to help his burn girls, patients he actually helped save, to teach them make-up tips.
"I wanted those girls to feel beautiful again and well, it worked," Almazan said. "I see Athena as the best in our community. Of course without me even finishing what I had planned, she said yes. That's how it all started."
After that visit to the burn unit, Stavrakis founded Dream Queens, a traveling troupe of drag queens and drag fans who visit people from all different backgrounds to "uplift, empower and motivate the human spirit through our talents and skills of beauty, personal strength, dance and laughter," Stavrakis said. The group planned an event for the homeless women of the Lotus House in September, but Hurricane Irma blew away those plans.
An event yet to be determined or finalized is scheduled to take place in January.
"The queens want to be a part of something special. They want to change the world, and I'm figuring out a way that we can do that," he said. "I think most drag queens have hearts of gold, it's just a matter of giving an opportunity for everybody to do it."
The Dream Queens work with local charities, shelters, children’s hospitals and any organizations "in need of a queen’s touch," doing hair and makeup parties, dance workshops and special performances. Now through Sunday, Dec. 24, add a toy drive for homeless children to that list.
The Dream Queens have joined forces with Miss Florida FI Kalah Mendoza to raise toys and essentials for homeless children and their families this holiday season.
"We will be collecting toys up until Christmas Eve during R House Drag Brunch," Stavrakis said. "After brunch, we will load up our sleigh and head down to deliver the toys to the children and their families. We're going to take all of the toys we gathered and we're going to drive down to Homestead in drag and deliver the toys as Dream Queens."
Brazilian drag queen Olga Dantelly is going to be Santa Claus. Stavrakis said the Chapman Partnership in Homestead will "have about 100 kids and they're really excited to have the Dream Queens come down and donate the toys."
Collections are happening at Score Nightclub on Fridays in Miami Beach, R House Wynwood, Azucar Nightclub in Miami and Pekaditos Mi Viejo San Juan Restaurant, also in Miami.
Stavrakis said the Dream Queens' ultimate goal is to "share laughter, light and fabulosity to anyone going through a rough patch in life or anyone who wants to add a little bit of razzle-dazzle" to their event.
Almazan said he and Stavrakis want to next do an event at the women's homeless shelter and for victims of domestic violence and eventually cancer patients. He said the "abused women are gonna get some big time love," as salons have contacted him to donate flat irons and blow dryers and nail people and make-up artists have also reached out.
"[This will be] a glam day for women who need hope that was taken away from abuse and hate like many of us in the gay community," Almazan said. "Speaking from experience, being homeless when I came out and mental abuse from my ex, this is personal and I’m paying it forward. Athena has a big heart, so I knew who I needed to help me help others."
Stavrakis said the Dream Queens are using their skills as performers and artists to uplift and empower the less fortunate.
"Our goal is to motivate the human spirit to shine bright, look fierce and be fabulous," Stavrakis said. "Everyone wants to be a part of this. Everybody wants to help, all of the drag queens, all of my drag sisters. Our queens love to make dreams come true."