Michael Cornejo and Lauren Ashley are Emperor and Empress of the United Court of the Pikes Peak Region. The Court is a statewide nonprofit organization within gay and lesbian communities which raises awareness and money for a variety of causes and charities. Michael and Lauren were elected to their posts as Emperor and Empress in November by the community and their peers. The Court in Colorado Springs has approximately 200 members. Michael and Lauren have been involved with the local Court system for nine and 13 years respectively. Both are performers, though Lauren performs in drag, while Michael prefers his tux.
What are your primary duties as Emperor and Empress? Lauren Ashley: We serve as leaders and advisers for the community and coordinate the fund-raisers. We are also in charge of all of the functions, 10-12 major events per year. Michael Cornejo: Basically, we are in charge of fund-raising, and then determining where the funds are distributed. Proceeds from shows have gone to organizations like Hospice, Silver Key, the Humane Society, breast cancer organizations, S-Cap, AIDS Research.
How does being Emperor differ from being Empress? L.A.: It's all about the drag. He's (Michael) not in drag. I am. But he performs just as well as I do. As for responsibilities, we share them. M.C.: Yes. My role is basically the same as Lauren's. We represent this organization, together. Whether we travel or are here in the community. We plan and attend events together.
How long does it take you to don your full (drag) regalia? L.A.: About two and a half hours. It's a process. Between the makeup, the hair, the costumes.
Did it take you a long time to learn to walk in high heels? Not really. I've been in theater almost my whole life, so it wasn't all that huge of a transition, the makeup and the clothing. Don't get me wrong, I definitely had to practice. Especially with the shoes. I used to put them on at night when I got home from work and walk around my apartment. That's definitely a learned thing; not easy. But now it's like second nature.
Do you have a difficult time finding shoes and clothing? Believe it or not, Colorado Springs is pretty good. I can go into any of the department stores, the women's section, and try on clothes. I just explain to the sales people, and most of them are OK with it. But then, this is something I've never hidden. I think that makes a difference. Sometimes the older ladies in the store have a problem. But usually by the end (of shopping) they become very helpful.
OK, I just have to know -- what's the deal with Judy Garland? Why is she so often emulated in the world of drag? L.A.: I think it's the song, "Over the Rainbow." It's an inspiration to most of us. The gay symbol is the rainbow flag, so I think that's why it's such a big inspiration. But that song does get done a lot and if I had a quarter for every time I've heard it done throughout the years I've been doing drag, I'd be a wealthy person today.
Are there Courts like this all over the country? M.C.: There are over 70 Courts like this in the United States, 10 in Canada, four in Mexico and one in England. In a sense, each Court is like one huge family. Your line of succession is like your children. You prepare and educate them for the future, to take over for you.
Do you have any favorite royal figures? L.A.: Of course, everybody's favorite. Princess Diana. p