Tabbi King or Jamison St. James. You may know her as both. But no matter the name, this girl is a D-I-V-A. And not in that slam down the phone, that was a crappy interview, bring me my water now dammit kind of way but in the glamorous, hardworking to perfect her craft, beautiful soul kind of way.
While she prepares for a national competition in March, Jamison St. James will take the stage this weekend at Play Dance Bar to crown the new Ms. Tennessee Diamond Diva on August 11. We caught up with the Diva and chatted about her USofA dreams, how much her drag family means to her and the difference between Tabbi and Jamison.
Hi Jamison, you're being honored this weekend at the 8th Annual Tennessee Diamond Diva pageant. What is your definition of a Diva?
I get asked this question a lot. (laughs) It is a person that is born female and they want to be a female entertainer. They want to be a mini-drag queen basically. It's a female who gets up and does the hair, does the makeup, she does the lashes, she does the costume and she gets out there and takes a song and makes it her own. The wrong way and its glorified lip-synching, the right way and you can be an amazing mini-drag queen. And that is what a Diva is to me and that is what I strive for every time I go on stage.
Can you share your inspirations for your foray into performance and pageantry?
Q-Tip Chanel got me involved in pageants. I started performing at random little bars around Nashville and Mac Production and Q-Tip Chanel got a hold of me. They would talk about Tennessee Diamond Diva and that was three years ago.
My really close friend Trey Alize got me and helped me through everything I did. With that and my close friends and family, we pulled together and we did it. It was amazing and I was hooked that first time but it was my first pageant and I had no clue what I was doing … no clue. (laughs) But it was fun and amazing and I enjoyed every second of it and ever since then I have been addicted.
You're being honored August 11 at this year's Diamond Diva pageant. Can you talk about that honor?
Wow … Diamond Diva. Like I said, I tried my first year for Diamond Diva and I was not successful because I was very new. Last year when I competed, I did win the crown. When they said my name the tears in my eyes were sincere. I did not think I was going to win at all … but I did … it was a shocker (laughs).
When I won Tennessee Diamond Diva, the main goal for me is to have our divas have a chance. Diamond Diva has always been won by an outsider and I wanted someone from Tennessee to win it. And when I won it, it's opened up a lot of other doors for all these other divas that are coming out at these bars like Chameleon's, Mustangs, and Social Club and just now Divas just got on the cast at Play for the first time in four years. That is huge and I don't really think any of that could've happened without Tennessee Diamond Diva.
On August 11 when we crown the new Diamond Diva, it's going to be very emotional and very huge for me because it's taken us that long to get us at an art form where we are now. When I crown the new [Diva] it's like okay it's really happening. That Diva could be on this level and open up so many more doors than me. It's very humbling.
This year's pageant has a super-hero theme. If you were competing, who would be your super-hero inspiration?
Captain America (laughs). I know that Captain America is a man but he is my all-time favorite superhero. He has the morals of a saint basically and he has a good heart. He does everything the right way even when he shouldn't so Captain America is my all-time favorite hero.
You competed recently in Indiana and rocked this emerald green piece with your chest popping and these spiky shoulder pads- where do you draw fashion inspiration from?
That's a hard one (laughs). Honestly, it's going to have to be my drag family and queens around me. Aurora Sexton inspired that a lot. For the shoulder pads, I saw [them] on the floor at Goodwill and thought oooh these can be really fun. My drag brother, Lucas Prescott, was like you can use nails for spikes and I sat there for hours and hours and glued nails for spikes. So I can't take credit for anything I do whole-heartedly because my family around me helps inspire me and helps push me every single day in everything I do.
You've mentioned your drag family- can you elaborate?
When I say drag family, I mean those around me that are associated in drag whether or not they are a performer. Like drag wives- the ones behind there helping, the drag queens, the drag kings.
Family to me are the ones around you who hold you and lift you and are there to support you. Not just when you're at the top of your game but when you're at the lowest of your low. They're the ones that are there holding you and supporting you and keep pushing you to drive and drive and drive.
In the pageant world, the USofA pageants system has added a Diva category. Is that one of your goals to compete on a national level?
Yes, it is (huge smile). USofA is an amazing circuit for pageantry. Past two years, I've gone with our drag kings and I've helped them- running around, getting coffee, gluing stones, cutting hair, diffusing meltdown bombs.
Last year, when they announced they were having the Diva part of it, I think I almost died a little bit on the inside. It was amazing. I cannot wait to compete on a national level and on such a great circuit like USofA and that is going to be in March.
Do you have a favorite performance from your past?
Oh, I have to think about this . . . My favorite performance was with another performer, Trey Alize. It was "Just Give Me a Reason" by P!nk. WhenI hear a song, i try to think of it in a different way than the artist portrayed it. The way I pictured this in my head was during Halloween and we had two graves set up. I was in this old, creepy wedding dress that took us almost a month just to find. I put dirt and a little bit of blood on it. He was in a suit and it was a bride and groom that were dead. They started out in two separate graves and we did the song to each other. When the song ended, we were in the same grave. It was absolutely beautiful.
Your performances are very theatrical. Do you have any acting aspirations?
When I was a little girl, I always dreamed of being an actress (laughs). I love losing myself in what I do- just becoming another person. I am Tabbi but Tabbi is a tomboy and not many people know that. So when I become Jamison, it really is a transformation for me to put on all that hair and the lashes and the makeup and the high heels. Just acting as someone else and becoming her … it's an amazing. If I had that size two body and that sparkling face, I'd totally be an actress.
You're beautiful though, stop that.
(laughs) Thank you.
photo credit: Katy Parson (Lucas Prescott, back left, and Jamison St. James, front center)