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A Star is Born

by Steve Desroches

Drawing attention to yourself is easy. Becoming a star is hard. The first can be done in an instant; the second takes much longer. The spark and sparkle it requires to be something special rather than a flash in the pan is recognizable, and Qya Cristál, the newly crowned Miss Gay Massachusetts USofA, has the potential to join the long and storied list of those who got their start in Provincetown before hitting it big.

With her magnetic charisma, powerhouse voice, and smooth style, Cristál topped the field of contestants at the annual pageant this past Patriots’ Day weekend, not only earning the crown, but a chance for the Miss Gay USofA title. She’ll travel to Dallas, where she was born, to compete this Memorial Day weekend. But since her arrival in Provincetown in 2014, Cristál has continually and increasingly been a rising star, whether it’s belting out “The Acid Queen” while singing with Space Pussy or delivering a devastating quip in last summer’s Gold Dust Orphans’ production of Greece. She is a force for sure.

Photo: Dan McKeon

Born in Texas, but raised in Cape Giradeau, Missouri, a small city on the Mississippi River, Cristál took center stage early in life. Her talents became apparent at an early age and her mother put her in their local church children’s choir. At four years old she moved up to the adult choir and soon thereafter was given solos, holding her own among the other members, some old enough to be her grandfather. That experience helped her flourish and thrive.

“I’m forever grateful for those beginning lessons in the choir,” says Cristál. “It taught me about not being afraid to let myself be heard and gave me a very loving and supportive creative outlet, all while instilling in me the kindness and grace of God’s love for everyone and how to treat others.”

“I had no idea about Ptown’s culture,” says Cristál. “Boy, was I in for a shock! It was so inspiring seeing people living in their truth. Seeing drag queens walk side by side with families, and go-go boys walking along side furries and baby dolls was crazy, but in the best possible way. It was like living on Fantasy Island.”

Qya Cristal performs during the talent portion of the Miss Gay
Massachusetts USofA Pagent. Photo: Dan McKeon

Come junior high school Cristál, who identifies as gender non-conforming and feels comfortable with any pronoun, found musical theater, a discipline that incorporated all her loves and talents. Her passion, smarts, and discipline led her to the spotlight early when she was given the lead in her school’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Years later she realized that being cast as Joseph had an added significance, as she was the first “young black man” to play the lead in a musical in her hometown.

All those early accomplishments and community support put Cristál on a trajectory that would take her places she’d never dreamed. Rather than stay close to home she attended Berklee College of Music, where she applied on a lark, never thinking she’d actually get in. She not only did, but she received a North American Tour Scholarship. It was in Boston that she begin to experiment with drag one Halloween when she dressed as Beyoncй in a gold second-hand dress and CVS makeup. She then tried her hand at performing in drag, first as Whitney Houston, then as her own character, especially after meeting fellow drag queens Liza Lott and Sapphira Cristál. It was Liza who introduced her to Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans, and she was soon cast in their production of Snow White and the Seven Bottoms, which brought her to Provincetown for the very first time.

“I had no idea about Ptown’s culture,” says Cristál. “Boy, was I in for a shock! It was so inspiring seeing people living in their truth. Seeing drag queens walk side by side with families, and go-go boys walking along side furries and baby dolls was crazy, but in the best possible way. It was like living on Fantasy Island. Never had I been to a place where people felt safe enough to leave their doors unlocked and say hi to complete strangers with a genuine smile. Never had I worked in a community where everyone truly cared about how you felt that day and were willing to take the time out of their own busy schedules to sit down for a cup of tea and chat about life.”

Photo: Dan McKeon

Four years later Cristál is definitely one to watch in Provincetown as she speedily heads toward headliner status. This weekend she is performing at Machine in the Orphans’ latest show Brokelahomo, a satirical, musical mash –up of Oklahoma and Brokeback Mountain, with other camp westerns thrown in for good measure. But before coming to town this summer to perform with the Orphans and at Showgirls, her sights are set on the Miss Gay USofA Pageant. She revels in this new challenge for its opportunities to see where drag can take her, and where she can take it, as well as her quest to continually hone her performing skills in every genre. For that she finds motivation everywhere.

“I draw a lot of my inspiration from such divas as Diahann Carroll, Princess Diana, and Oprah,” says Cristál. “I want Qya to be a well-rounded, cultured, well-respected, and educated character. She walks into a room and all eyes are on her, ‘cause you know she’s about to own whatever she sets her sights on. The drive and determination that these women have is what drives me out of bed every morning, to get on my grind, and make it happen. No one else is going to do it for me.”


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Graphic Artist

Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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