Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I Am What I Am!

By D' Ontace Keyes

Hello I’m D’ Ontace Keyes. Remember my “How are you healthy?” blog story?

So this past weekend, I had the amazing opportunity to go back to Philadelphia and perform for their annual pride celebration. Every year, “Philly Pride Presents,” chooses one individual to sing the unofficial “National Gay Anthem” which happens to be I Am What I Am from the Broadway musical, La Cage aux Follies. The celebration is done at Philadelphia’s William Penn’s Landing, where thousands of people come from near and far to have fun, socialize and be entertained by a great line up of performers. 

I was randomly chosen in a video store when I was picking up a movie for a date one night. The owner engaged me into a long conversation about pride and the anthem, asking me to sing on the spot. I’d chatted with her many times before, conversations sometimes lasting two hours, but this time I need to go quickly. I was in a hurry home from a performance because my date was on his way to my apartment. Wondering to myself where this conversation could lead, I sang one line of the song and she said, “You’re hired.”

It was an honor to be chosen to perform for Pride. I remember when I first attended Pride in Philadelphia. It was in 2009, and I looked in the paper at the line-up, wondering if I would ever get the chance to perform with them.

The official Pride weekend came and I was so hyped. I knew the song like the back of my hand because I’d performed it on several occasions. On some “private” occasions, I would be in my bedroom, doing a very special “Shirley Bassey Tribute”, in my sequined pageant gown, feather boa, and big red hair.  “And so what if I love each feather and each spangle!”

Saturday, the day before the performance, I picked up my festival passes and practiced my performance a little bit. That night, I decided to post the event on to my facebook to invite friends. I figure that since my picture was everywhere in Philadelphia’s news, I would stay low-key on personal promotion so I wouldn’t come off “arrogant.”  

Sunday, I woke bright and early to good wishes from friends and family on my performance. My dress concept was a tux, but I replaced the tradition suit jacket with a sequin half coat to add a bit of “show-girl” to my look. I was ready. I had friends coming along with cameras and my whole fan club was going to be there. (Yes I have a fan club!) 

I arrived in the hot sun at the Penn’s Landing stage, 20 minutes before my performance. I was greeted by other performers excited to be on the line-up with me.  The stage was huge, overlooking an audience of over a thousand people.  I remembered one of my loving supporters and friends telling me how much of a big deal it was. “Cyndi Lauper performed on that very stage several years ago!” I needed to channel my inner diva quickly!

10 minutes till I was on and I was ssooo nervous. Blackberry in one hand, towel in another, I was ready to piss my pants. In the moment of being a total mess, Mother Louie came to me like an angel. “Child look at you, YYEESSS!” Bam! That was just what I needed to get into diva mode.

Before you knew it, I was on stage, singing “I Am What I Am”. The sound system could have been better, but like a true performer I sang and kept face. It was good. The performance was fast and I had my fan club screaming the whole time. “Werk!!!” Mother Louie said. 

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