Welcome home Athena! Have you recovered from the jet lag after spending the summer abroad?
Thank You so much ! Yes The jet lag is still kicking my butt, but the Miami Cuban coffees are definitely helping regulate my waking hours! *Laughs*
Oh god, that Cuban coffee could have powered your jet home! I would be awake for months with that!
*Laughs* Very true ! But being away for two months with a seven hour times difference and then jumping right back into work here, I’m taking all the help I can get!
So let’s start right there on the Greek isle of Mykonos, shall we? This isn’t the first time it has come up during one of my interviews. I was fascinated hearing about NYC queen Epiphany living her best life over there when we talked! How did this opportunity arise for you?
Yes God bless Epiphany! We became very close over this summer! It’s actually a very funny story how my summer played out. Prior to Mykonos I was in Israel hosting part of the Tel Aviv gay pride celebration as well as touring the beautiful country of Israel. I had planned for the last few days of that trip to take a mini vacation over to Mykonos. Me being Greek, I like to return to the motherland as often as I can and I hadn’t been a few years so this seemed like a perfect opportunity. Well time wasn’t on my side and that didn’t happen so as I’m sitting on the beach on my last day in Tel Aviv looking at the ocean leading to Greece upset that I didn’t make it this year, I get a message from a club owner on the island of Mykonos who had found my Facebook page and he asked me if I would be interested in joining them in launching a new club this summer in Mykonos. Of course I didn’t have to do much thinking and after a few negotiations and business talk I agreed and I had one week to return to Miami pack my things and hop on another plane to Greece. So I guess I owe it a little bit to fate, a little bit to marketing myself in the right direction and I ended up having the best summer of my entire life!
Why don’t I ever get offers like this? The best deal I ever get is RuPaul offering me $50 off a Casper Mattress. Was it a major uprooting of your life to make such a major change on pretty short notice?
I wouldn’t say it was a major uprooting but I would say it did take a lot of quick thinking and planning. I had about a week to cover all my shifts and all my shows that I have here in Miami, as well as subleasing my apartment for two months, plus also pack two months worth of drag while still being conscious of bag and weight limits for airline. I’m very grateful to have very understanding employers and I came back to my gigs with open arms and welcome home wishes! Plus like I said I am Greek and I have lived in Greece. I would travel to Greece growing up almost every summer so for me it was like a different kind of homecoming in itself. It was really amazing to be doing what I love to do in the country I love so much. I never thought it would actually be an opportunity I would have.
So the fact that your drag name is the same as the Greek goddess of wisdom isn’t a coincidence then is it?
*Laughs* Not at all! It was a “wise” name choice!
Growing up in a Greek household, what was your upbringing like? Do you remember what your first exposure to drag was?
My upbringing was very family oriented we would go to church every Sunday, Greek school, Greek dance lessons; we’d participate annually in Greek festivals. pretty much like any other Greek boy across America probably grew up. On top of all that my stepdad was in the military so we were military family that relocated every two years but the one constant thing we had in every place that we live was our Greek culture. We would always find the closest Greek church and the closest Greek community and start new in every city we lived in.. I was always surrounded by very strong-willed women with big personalities, big opinions and even bigger hair. That could possibly be my first exposure to drag to be honest with you, but I do remember as a child watching the classic movie The Birdcage with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane with all its South Beach drag queens and all the glamour! That’s when I started falling in love with the arts and with drag! Talk about going full circle, here I am performing on the same street which that movie was filmed!
Did that movie have an influence on bringing you to your current home of Miami?
No! There is that funny thing “fate” again! My dad was stationed at Southern Command in South Miami which is eventually where he retired so it was our last stop in our military lives. I was about 14 when we moved down to South Florida and I got to be a typical teenager and sneaked out underage to different gay clubs and see the real South Beach divas turning it out! Then the drag bug bit even harder!
What was your first time in drag and please tell you me were a total booger then because you’re a basically a living Greek goddess now?
*Laughs* Well the first time my boyfriend at the time got me into drag because he was a big Miami queen at he time. It was obviously for Halloween and it was professionally done so I think I looked pretty darn good or at least I acted like I did. After we broke up, I started to pursue drag on my own. Fast forward a few years, he ended up becoming my drag mother. I landed my first gig on my own at a club in Fort Lauderdale and I was the hostess at the front door. I’ve always had a pretty consistent aesthetic. I love goddess vibes. I love long drapey gowns and I love big hair. I blame mom! But I always stay true to myself and I always enjoyed it which is why I think I’ve become successful.
It sounds like the drag bug bit you pretty hard right away then? What was the South Florida drag scene like when you were just a baby goddess?
Oh honey, South Beach when I came out was poppin’! It was coming down off of a huge peak from the 90’s era! It was PRE-IPHONE PRE-GRINDR PRE-SOCIAL MEDIA. I think we were just barely getting into MySpace at that time. There were gay parties all over the beach! There were tons and tons of things to do! People got dressed up to go out and see their favorite queen perform at the time! There weren’t too many drag queens and since there was no RuPaul‘s Drag Race, there were no cookie-cutter queens. Queens were original and fierce! Queens were popular by word-of-mouth or by getting printed a magazine, not by television and not by YouTube. It was a different time but it was quickly changing. It was way more fun in my opinion. There was a thrill in not knowing what you were getting into or not knowing who is going to be at the club you were going to. The drag queens were fierce, they were goddesses and they were the superstars of the scene!
Who were your role models then as you were finding out who Athena was?
Well my ex-lover/ Drag Mom Vegas Dion, Erika Norell, Adora, TP Lords, Daisy Deadpetals! These were my local heroes!
For someone that hasn’t seen you perform, how would you describe your drag?
I love me some good ole drag!!! I have add classic glamour to every thing I do. I love some older disco numbers. I’m a huge Cher fan so I’m no stranger to sequin and big hair! I love high fashion and Couture ! And I host a lot of my shows as well so I’m a yapper!! I like to fuse classic drag into today’s world.
Since you mentioned it earlier, what kind of impact do you feel that Drag Race has had on the evolution of the South Florida drag scene?
I think it’s had a huge impact on the drag scene across the world. On the one hand it’s amazing for the exposure it’s brought to our community and the doors it has opened for so many people who have been on the show and who have not been on the show alike. Drag is cool now. It’s mainstream. Brides want to have drag bachelorette parties. Everybody wants a piece of drag so the market has grown a lot. As far as the queens are concerned, I’ve noticed some people feel like unless you’re doing drag like someone you’ve seen on TV then you’re not really doing drag and and I don’t really agree with that. I feel like there needs to be some originality with everything you do and you need to put your own heart in your own art. But I think in general it has really brought drag queens out of the shadows and it’s showing the world that we are people with hearts and very, very creative minds that can share our talents with many people for the better.
So of course its the least imaginative question to ask a drag queen but do you ambitions of ever trying to be on the show?
*Laughs* Well at one point it was heavily on my mind that unless I got on the show, there was no point to continue doing drag just because of the amount of exposure and in the pay difference that the queens get once they are on the show. But I let that opinion go and I started doing my own thing. I opened my own drag entertainment company here in South Florida and I’ve been traveling the world as Athena Dion without ever being on the show, so for me, I’m just milking the amazing opportunities that are coming off the waves of Drag Race. Will I ever audition? Maybe., but something I’m most proud of is finding the strength in myself to do this and do what I wanted to do with it on my own and I think that’s actually very rewarding. I think unless you have that drive to go full throttle, you won’t really ever survive if you do get on the show. You have to find the strength in yourself first and foremost. You really have to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?’.
There is nothing I love more right now than queens finding their owns ways of thriving in this business beyond the shadow of Drag Race. Can you talk a little more about your company and how that came about?
I would love to! My company is called Dream Queens (Check them out here!) and we actually started out more as a humanitarian project. I was invited to the burn center of Jackson Memorial Hospital here in Miami to do make up for some of their burn survivors, young children, young girls, as Athena Dion. The kids were so excited that I was there doing their make up for them and they loved having me there. That inspired me and it touched me so much that I want to do more for the community! All the local girls reached out and they said if I ever do it again, they wanted to participate in it. I thought this would be a great opportunity to start something to show the world that we are not just creatures of the night and that we are human beings with amazing talents! I wanted to create a platform to share our talents with the people that can’t make it out to the gay club, thay can’t make it out to the gay pride parade. We are going to take the fabulousity to them! Since then we have done events with the homeless women shelter, we have spearheaded toy drives for the homeless shelter at Christmas time and we have returned to the burn center at the hospital. It’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Now apart from that, I decided to create an entertainment company based around drag queens catering to bachelorettes and bride’s weddings. We offer celebrity impersonators, wedding officiants, drag bartenders (Drag tenders) and basically anything you want related to drag. We can provide it for you and your event. (mydreamqueens.com)
That is incredible! Working with sick and injured children is so incredibly inspiring! I commend you for that. Have you been surprised by the public’s desire for more drag queens?
I’m not really surprised with the desire for more drag queens. I mean we are in a world where if it’s trending and it’s popular everybody wants a piece of it. RuPaul just won an Emmy the other night for her show. This is a mainstream thing now and unfortunately when things go mainstream, they lose some of that grittiness that really made it special but it also has opened doors for a whole new industry. It’s just going to go up from here and now I think drag will morph into something like it has never been before and more and more people are going to want more and more of it.
Was it a challenge to manage your business while you were overseas?
Not really because I took the business with me. I was being reached out to on the island to find entertainment for various events private parties. If you remember I was present during Lindsay Lohan‘s famous viral dance video saying “This is how you throw a party in Mykonos bitch!“. I was pretty much referring to myself! *Laughs* At that event I actually hosted and I found them the talent and I found them for GOGO boys and a lot of the performers that perform that night so I took my business with me as I do anywhere I go as any business person should.
Wait! Lindsay Lohan didn’t try to give you any of those Kälteen Bars, did she??
Have you noticed I’m only wearing sweatpants lately? *Laughs*
*Laughs* What was THAT whole experience like?
Oh girl I could write a book just on that day alone! MTV was filming a reality show around Lindsay Lohan and her Mykonos beach club. This particular day they were having a gay pride event and at the last minute they lost all of their acts, all of their talent and all of their entertainment. So they called me to host the event and to help them find entertainment for the whole night which I did and it turned out to be a pretty successful event. I got to hang out with Lindsey, dance with her, take pictures, make videos. It was a really wild experience being with your childhood celebrity best friend. She was actually very pleasant to be around. I don’t know if she was overwhelmed by everything or not but she seemed pretty normal besides her dancing of course. I had a fantastic time and that video has gone viral and my voice has reach millions of ears which I think is pretty freaking crazy.
Its the power of going viral! I’m grateful you’re still humble enough to talk with the likes of me after that! Mykonos has always had a reputation for a great place to party but has it always been this haven for drag queens?
Mykonos has always been a very popular summer destination specially with the gay community. The island definitely has a certain magic about it. As far as being a drag haven, I wouldn’t go that far because there were only about five of us on the whole island altogether but the island just promotes a very open minded and fun lifestyle. Some people come for a week, go home and come back again in one summer! It’s just got a great energy!
We have reached the most dangerous part of the interview…..THE LIGHTNING ROUND! Are you game?
Oh my god, let’s go! *Laughs*
Must Have makeup item?
Contour! Right now I’m using Anastasia Beverly Hills.
4 AM post show food craving?
PASTA with Olive oil and salt.
The best part of drag?
The audience response.
The worst part of drag?
Most surprising thing about you that people might not know?
I’m actually Greek! *Laughs* Surprisingly!
Queen you would pay to see?
Does Cher count? *Laughs*
Puppy hunting on the Humane Society webpage.
Last movie to make you cry?
Death Row last meal?
My grandma’s dolmades (Greek stuffed grape leaves).
Netflix Binge recommendation?
Disney character you relate to the most?
Final question, most embarrassing song on your phone?
Fran Drescher’s “Eye For an Eye”
Well, we tabulated the final numbers and it looks like you have survived THE LIGHTNING ROUND! Condragulations!
*Laughs* Wooo hooooo! Where can I pick up my new car?
So for those of our readers in South Florida, where can they see you do your thing? And for those of us elsewhere, where can we keep tabs on you on the interwebs?
Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Also check out my website Mydreamqueens.com And soon I’ll be launching Athenadion.com! You can catch me every Sunday at R house restaurant in Wynwood, Miami for my fabulous brunch! You can also catch me at Palace, Score Nightclub, and Southern Nights Ft. Lauderdale!
So you’ve already accomplished so much Athena but what else is still out there on your proverbial drag bucket list?
My goal is to build my company to help kids and others in the community that need some drag loving. I want to provide an outlet for drag queens and entertainers to grow their talents in more ways than the clubs. And I really would love to host my own TV show one day in or out of drag! That’s always been a dream! That and riding off into the sunset with my Prince Charming! He’s due to show up any day now. *Laughs*
Gee, is that all? All that is missing is, “and world peace!”.
*Laughs* Well that too!
Well my dear, I think we have just about reached the end here but I am so glad we got the chance to kiki for a bit! I’m super excited to see what is next for you. Do you have any final words of wisdom for the WERRRK.com Universe before we call a night?
Well I wanna thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me! Final words to anyone reading…..just do what makes you feel good in life because when you feel good, YOU LOOK GOOD! Thanks so much diva! Hope to link up with you again real soon!