Interview: Empress XXXIX Of Vancouver, Raye Sunshine

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Last month, the rockstar queen that locals in Vancouver know as Raye *Mother [email protected]#ing* Sunshine, stepped up as the 39th Reigning Empress of Vancouver for the Dogwood Monarchist Society. Although in it’s 39th year, she found a lot of people in cities around the country, including Vancouver, don’t know that their community is involved with, and doing noble work for, everyone around them.

The beautiful supermodel queen has always been known for looking flawless, giving her all in her performances, working the circuit, and turning it out at every possible corner. This year, Raye takes a different kind of journey having the  honour of working for the DMS. I sat down with her at her home, The Odyssey Nightclub, to talk to her about this new path, her killer body, and to clear up what it means to wear this elusive big shiny crown for 2010.

NO: I am sitting here with the current 39th reigning Empress of Vancouver Ms. Raye Sunshine, hello!

RS: Hello, hello.

NO: How are you? We just actually finished the first set of Frequeency and are between sets at The Odyssey Nightclub.

RS: Yup, a little rest.

NO: And it was a fantastic show.

RS: It’s always a good show on Frequeency! It’s always very innovative and creative. The girls that we hire are little bit top notch. They’re the younger crowd and more top 40 queens. They do some dance work and some comedy, and then my cohost Kamelle Toe does country. So you get a large range of everything.

NO: For those of you that don’t know, Frequeency is Raye’s show at The Odyssey every Tuesday night at 11:30. And that’s a little different from other shows, the whole top 40 aspect of it.

RS: Yes, I love our shows. You gotta give props to the big names like Carlotta and Joan-E who really push the boundaries with their shows. And sometimes our show too, does something completely out of the ordinary. You get songs that haven’t even been released yet. And luckily we know some DJ’s that help us with that, to always turn something out in a week. Sometimes it doesn’t ALWAYS work out, sometimes it DOES….but you know…

NO: That’s the nature of the beast.

RS: That’s the nature of the beast and it works out just great.

NO: You are here every tuesday!

RS: Yup, 11:30. We try not to pull any drag time.

NO: And it’s always an adventure seeing who is there every week.

RS: Yup. Frequent guests are always of course me and Kamelle and Buttah, but Buttah is not around for the shows right now so we have a rotating guest of special queens from all over Vancouver. We plan on actually having Isolde from East Vancouver soon. She’s the star of the Queer Bash Parties.

NO: Yes of course. I think a lot of our readers would be familiar with the Queer Bash Parties.

RS: She was the Entertainer of the Year for the 38th Reign. Amazing performer.

NO: I know seeing the show for the last four weeks it’s been solidly different everytime and I recommend that everyone come out and see it just to see how different it is.

RS: Well it’s on a Tuesday night. And if you don’t feel like standing in line at a straight bar….or a gay bar….whatever you wanna’ call it, uhm…we have a strictly gay show here. We’re dudes in dresses. We’ll make fun of anyone sitting in the room.

NO: Yes I’ve noticed.

RS: Oh yeah. If you sit in the front row you’ll probably get picked on. It’s the best seat.

NO: And that’s where you get the jello shots anyways.

RS: Exactly! That’s where you get the free jello shots!

NO: And the other thing you do is the Zodiac Parties at The Odyssey every month, and we just had a reeeeeally kick ass Pisces party.

RS: We did. Pisces party is my own party, cause it’s my sign. But for that one I had just stepped up as Empress that NIGHT so I only did one number at the party, but what I heard from the crowd….

NO: Yes?

RS: My ass looked amazing!

NO: Yes Raye your ass looked amazing.

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RS: Thank you very much! I got the  emails and I got the love, so thank you to my fans and everyone else out there.

NO: And that was the night you came back from Coronation which of course I wanted to talk about as well because you just stepped up as Empress with Marty Mojo Stevens as Emperor, and there’s not a lot of people that know about the DMS or Dogwood Monarchist Society and the whole Monarchy that goes on with it, so…this just took place on the 13th of March right?

RS: It happens every second week of March. And what the DMS does is raise money for charities that don’t get government funding. In the queer community we all use free HIV testing, free condoms, whatever is out there that’s free. And quite frankly these charities need funding to keep giving us these important free things, so the community elects representatives for help. The DMS steps in and provides funding. This year one of our charities is Qmunity. And we’re actually giving Qmunity a facelift. It hasn’t been upgraded since the 1950’s.

NO: Only the name has changed I guess.

RS: Only the name has changed and that’s it. They still have old hot water heaters for heat, and the facility just doesn’t look like it should.

NO: And it got a lot of attention over the Olympics being Pride House.

RS: That’s right, it was Pride House, but it doesn’t reflect what Pride House means. So we’re going to help them out. We took a tour of it a couple days ago. It’s amazing how long it’s lasted without these upgrades.

NO: Amazing.

RS:  Another one that we’re doing is the HIM Campaign.

NO: And I understand you’re doing a shoot for them as well.

RS: We’re doing a photo shoot yes for them on April 3rd. It’s going to involve community figureheads, or, quotation, “celebrities”, people that everyone recognize.

NO: For our community.

RS: Yeah. So they’re going to feature a pile of people like that and will be posted all over in bars and nightclubs.

NO: Can we  go to the DMS website for links?

RS: Yup, they’ll all be featured on the Dogwood Society website.

NO: Which is dogwoodmonarchistsociety.org

RS: ORG.

NO: No joke there. And is it really hard to choose the charities of your choice?

RS: It’s honestly really hard cause there’s so many people that need support.

NO: But it sounds like you chose some noble ones.

RS: Yes, we also chose the Out On Screen project, which will feature the DMS reign as a kind of a short film, and something called the Generations Project which shows kind of where we came from. Quite frankly nowadays there’s not a lot of people from this generation that remember what we had to go through to get where we are, and how little support we had.

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NO: I’ve always been solid in the fact that there is a huge divide between the two generations in the LGBT community. The young generation just hasn’t had to go through the struggles that the older generation did and even though there is a movement going on right now they haven’t had to fight as hard. So I think it’s really imporant to seek out causes like that, that can really teach something.

RS: Even nowadays we’re still struggling. The International Court system that started in the states just started the Harvey Milk Stamp Campaign which is truly amazing. That man did so much for his community. And we also have the Matthew Shepard Foundation over October. We do a lot of charities, and sometimes the younger community doesn’t understand the work that goes into it, but you do go through your own journey, and we’re hauling ass helping out.

NO: Definitely. I think everyone gets to a certain age when they have to start giving back. And it’s good to know that those causes are out there. With the whole monarchy, I know that you were elected, and it’s a vote system. What do you have to go through to even be considered?

RS: You have to go through a few checkpoints. Criminal record check. Make sure that you can financially substain yourself throughout a whole year because quite frankly…

NO: It’s busy.

RS: Being an empress, and I hate the word because of that DAMN video haha, but IT’S BUSY. It’s very, very busy.

NO: And there’s a lot of travel involved right?

RS: There is.

NO: Why is that?

RS: Well because the court system is all over North America, right from Hawaii to Alaska, all the way to Nova Scotia and everywhere inbetween. We all help each other out with each other’s causes.

NO: I think that’s amazing. I knew a little bit about it, but I think there’s a lot of people in the community, let alone outside of our community, that don’t know anything about it. So I think it’s so important for people to read this and know that people are doing this kind of work, and that it’s possible to get involved and donate.

RS: Yeah we do this in any province and in the States and in Mexico. We have one city in Mexico that does it, Tijuana, and they’re also the city that sometimes needs it the most. There’s a fund actually that goes out every month. Every queen that travels with the DMS actually saves their extra shampoo, conditioner and soap, and they send them all to San Diego to the Empress and she sends it to Tijuana to people that need them. All these people get together to do something so small that makes such a big difference.

NO: And I know over Coronation Week, I mean I was here the entire week, and what a week it was, it was really amazing because there were SO MANY Emperors and Empresses from all around. Does that happen often in Vancouver?

RS: It was special. You really have to put the work in to get them to come here, and we help each other raise funds. Joan-E said it best: “Footprints made in the sand are not made by a queen sitting down.” She makes a point. It’s not about having a grand title. You gotta put the blood and sweat and tears into it. You put your life on hold. I have friends saying “when can I see you?”, and I keep saying 2011. Haha. This bitch be that busy!

NO: So having said that what can we expect from you this year?

RS: We have and are planning events for the whole year, all the way from J-Lounge to The Odyssey, my home, to Celebrities, to Numbers and Pumpjack. All you gotta’ do is keep your eye out for posters and the big shiny hats and you’ll find us!

NO: And I’ve seen them a few times. Those crowns are hard to miss!

RS: The regular events are like Wednesdays at The Odyssey, which is the Faux Girls show. You pay the cover and it automatically goes to charity.

NO: Yeah not a lot of people know but Faux Girls is a drag show every Wednesday, show at 11:30, and everyone that performs doesn’t get paid because it’s completely for charities involved with the DMS.

RS: Nope, nothing goes remotely towards the nightclub. And no we’re not spending money on crowns. My crown is paid for by a sponsor! And nothing that you guys give to us this year will go to myself or Marty. We’ve come up with a system this year, like if you want to buy pre-sale tickets, they’re cheap, but if you come that night, they’re going to be a little bit more, but it’s all for our causes so…

NO: It all sounds like a fantastic year. Good luck with the hustle and bustle. I hope this enlightens people on the Monarchist Society, and I think your choice in charities are admirable.

RS: And in closing, I’m still the same person before the big shiny hat. I’m the same old bitch. I’ll be wearing my two pieces and rocking the abs that I have.

NO: Love it. Thank you beautiful.

RS: Thank you too!

Come down to The Odyssey for the Faux Girls show with all proceeds going to charities involved with the DMS, every Tuesday at 11:30 pm.

Raye and Kamelle’s top 40 show Frequeency can also be seen every Wednesday night at 11:30 pm at The Odyssey.

Make sure to look for events around the city this year and help all the worthy causes chosen, or go to dogwoodmonarchistsociety.org for information and contacts on how to get involved.

  • Dave

    Love it! So proud and happy that u won empress 😀 Love the shows, love you. Keep up the awesome work. you rock raye

  • Emperor XIII Dirk (San Diego)

    I’m a “huge” fan ! I’d love to meet, I’d love a call.
    Mutual friends say great things about you and your contributions