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Portrait of a Diva

Nightlife's a drag for this glamour queen.

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By curtain time every night, Danyel Vasquez looks nothing like his early morning reflection in the mirror. In the course of an hour, he changes from a 5-foot-5 dude with shoulder-length hair to a 5-foot-9 drag dish with a bouffant 'do. Whether it's in a melodramatic Joan Crawford impersonation or a comedic take on the trademark "White Trash Sally Rotchacockoff" routine, Vasquez becomes a glamour queen, right down to the sequined gowns and rhinestone crowns. "Don't get me wrong," says the 32-year-old Vasquez. "It's not a fun process all the time. You wish you could snap your fingers sometimes and be ready to go onstage."

That's why Vasquez is willing to step aside once a year to watch illusionists from Cleveland to Columbus compete in the Miss Ohio Diva Pageant, which Vasquez founded five years ago. Based in Akron, the show has ballooned into a respected statewide event, with impersonators competing in talent, evening wear, and "diva sportswear" categories. "Athletic sportswear in the drag world is not what it is in the real world," says Vasquez. "It's more like high-fashion suits -- over the top. Like Joan Collins, with furs and hats."

When he was 18, Vasquez discovered homo bars -- and was "blown away" to see that guys could dress in drag. A couple years later, Vasquez entered and won an amateur night as a drag queen, and has worked the gay club circuit ever since.

Up until two years ago, Vasquez's gender identity was a gnawing issue. Finally, after a couple of days of surfing the internet, the diva mail-ordered a vial of the estrogen-fueled drug Premarin from a Canadian pharmacy. Three times a day, Vasquez pops a pill. "I was always afraid to get on hormones, but I always wanted to be a woman," says Vasquez. "Now I've got boobs! Like a B-cup!"

Recently, Vasquez started the next phase of the transgender makeover: laser hair removal. "I'm just another one that shows it's OK to be yourself and do what you need to do to be happy," says the diva. "Life can really suck, living in disguise."

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