'Juanita: 30 Years of MORE!' - art exhibit celebrates the drag icon

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Sunday September 25, 2022
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Juanita MORE! portrait by John Vochatzer
Juanita MORE! portrait by John Vochatzer

There's no doubting the status of Juanita MORE! as a drag icon. For the past three decades MORE! has been a fashionista, an activist and a denizen of San Francisco gay nightlife. Her annual Pride party has not only become popular, but legendary. MORE! has been a drag mother to many young queens.

From September 30 through November 12, the San Francisco Arts Commission will celebrate thirty years of Juanita MORE! at their main gallery in the War Memorial Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue.

The exhibition will feature a curated selection of photographs, posters, more than forty commissioned works of art, and dresses that offer a rare glimpse inside the glorious and fabulous life of MORE! The exhibition will be on display Wednesdays through Saturdays from 12pm to 5pm. Admission is free.

Juanita MORE!'s drag persona was created in 1992 on Halloween when famed New York City drag queen Glamamore, also known as Mr. David, put MORE! in drag for the first time. Before painting her face he said, "You're going to be hideous!"

When MORE! recounts this story, she always said, "Well, I wasn't and I'm not. I have loved it all and I haven't stopped since."

Juanita MORE! portrait by Doug Sandlin  

In an interview with the Bay Area Reporter, MORE! recalled how Glamamore first came into her life.

"When I was living in New York in 1987 I went to the club BoyBar to see a drag show," she recalled. "I remember walking my way through the crowd towards the front of the stage. I looked up and I saw a queen demanding every bit of my attention. She captivated me in a way that no other queen had. For a moment I felt as though I had never seen drag before."

MORE! immediately knew that someday she'd be friends with the person onstage.
"The MC asked us to give her a big round of applause and introduced her as The Hog Queen of Lip-Sync, Glamamore," she said. "We officially met a year later and have been friends ever since."

MORE! came up with her drag name when she and Glamamore were having dinner at a restaurant. They had already decided that she would take the last part of Mr. David's name, More. While dining they noticed that they were sitting underneath a poster of the 1959 film "Imitation of Life" and read the name Juanita Moore, one of the film's stars.

"And we said, Bingo!" MORE! said, also taking a moment to explain why her last name is always capitalized with an exclamation point.

"It was always about giving and having MORE!," she said.

Juanita MORE! portrait by Dan Nicoletta  

MORE! is rightfully proud of her achievements.

"There are a lot of things I'm proud of these days," she said. "One is Juanita's List on Facebook, which is an inclusive forum for all members and allies of the LGBTQIA+ community to offer and seek rental housing opportunities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The group now has over 10,000 members. Yesterday someone introduced themselves to me and said they found affordable housing through my list. It made my day."

"Juanita: 30 Years of MORE!" is curated by Oakland-based trans contemporary artist Marcel Pardo Ariza.

"Juanita's practice embodies so many things we need more of right now," Pardo Ariza said in a statement. "Collective care, bringing people together, valuing and uplifting artists' work, centering pleasure, friendship and collaboration. She's a fierce advocate for queer and trans rights, a true San Francisco icon, and a deeply loved member of the LGBTQIA+ community. Curating this exhibition has been an absolute honor."

"In this exhibit, I share my gratitude and appreciation to everyone who contributed to the formation of all things Juanita MORE!," MORE! said. "Over the years, brilliant collaborators have paved the way for many iconic moments in our artistic community that has continued shaping my creativity. As a result, the work exhibited at the San Francisco Arts Commission Main Gallery will have something from every part of the last thirty years."

MORE! has nothing but love for her many admirers.

"I've never claimed ownership of Juanita's creation," she said. "Instead, I've been the vehicle that brought her to life through the work of many talented artists. And this exhibit is my loads of love letters to all of them."

'Juanita: 30 Years of MORE!' at the San Francisco Arts Commission Main Gallery, 401 Van Ness Ave. September 30 opening reception, 6pm, through November 12,
Wed.-Sat., 12pm-5pm. sfartscommission.org www.juanitamore.com

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