2016 was a HORRIBLE year. Not only did we lose some incredible national celebrities, we lost a big local one here in the Phoenix area. I was visiting my partner Chris in New Hampshire when I got the news. Bruce Williams (a.k.a. Jalissa Andrea Michaels) had passed away. I've known Bruce since my first year in Arizona, and I must say, the news left me feeling some kinda way.
What can one say about Bruce? Let's just say this, if you've met Jalissa Andrea Michaels, she left an impression - good or bad because with her there was no indifferent. Jalissa could be abrassive, annoying, overbearing and too much. Lord knows she could. But those things aside, you can not deny the impression she made on the Phoenix drag community. The founder of National Capital Cities pageantry system and the promoter for Arizona's Entertainer of the Year pageant, she has probably crowned more local drag queens that several other systems combined.
I met Bruce back in 1999, not long after I arrived in Phoenix. Chris was working for the downtown YMCA. One day he came home telling me about this new character that had joined the YMCA team. He described him as "over the top," Then, one day at the Y, the day came came that Bruce would be having a show and it was time for his transition into Jalissa. We lived close to the Y and Bruce wanted to stop by and change at our place. He didn't show up alone. That was the night that I met Jalissa Andrea Michaels and her friends Tiffany Saigon and Locious Loreal. All three of them were alot of fun.
Some time later, when Jalissa held her Mr. Southern Regions pageant, she asked me if I would compete. Let's just say she could be persuasive. Next thing you know she's got me on stage rocking a speedo in the swimsuit competition, doing my Stevie Wonder impression for talent, and pulling out my wedding tuxedo for formal wear. It was at this pageant that I was introduced to Byron Lord and Sean Boone, two individuals that would go on to become really good friends. That night I was crowned Mr. Souther Regions and during my reign I met some of the greatest gay male performers and most amazing female illusionist the city ever knew. And it was all because of Jalissa.
Jalissa liked to be called "Mama." She loved performing but more than that she loved promoting her pageants. She could be demanding but that was because she had a vision for herself and her system and she never wavered from achieving that vision. Love her or hate her, she has left her mark in Phoenix. I seriously don't know a single drag queen I can think of that has not been a part of one of her pageants. She will truly be missed.
I really want to give a shout out to Tim Gram (aka Shakra Devine) for documenting the Phoenix Drag community. At every performance she attends she has her camcorder in hand and has done a remarkable job capturing so many performances of so many entertainers for us to relive over and over again for years to come. Please check out some of her videos of Jalissa below . . .