Introducing Drag Queen Story Time at Seattle Children’s Festival: A Chat with Aleksa Manila

This year, we welcome an exciting new program to the 4th Annual Seattle Children’s Festival: Drag Queen Story Time, which will be hosted by one of Seattle’s most respected drag personalities, Aleksa Manila. Sharing stories that celebrate inclusion, acceptance and diversity, Aleksa will provide a fun and lighthearted story time at the Festival for kids and their families from 10 – 10:45am.

Aleksa Manila is known for her extraordinary performances and her work within the LGBTQ and Filipino communities. Since her move from Manila, Philippines to Seattle, Aleksa has been taking this city by storm, from performing and emceeing events big and small, to serving on various panels and educating youth on issues affecting our communities.

We had a chance to sit down with Aleksa to ask her about her proudest accomplishments, her love for community and what “folk life” means to her.

Photo courtesy of Aleksa Manila

Hello Ms. Aleksa Manila, thank you so much for talking to us today! How are you doing?

Hello! Thanks so much for this great opportunity to work with you. I am doing fabulously, staying busy with life and staying out of trouble.

Can you describe yourself in just five words?

Oh my…that might be a tough one. Let’s play: Drag Counselor, Political Provocateur, and (Fill-In-The-Blank)

We are so excited to have you at this year’s Seattle Children’s Festival! This is our first year of having the Drag Queen Story Time program. What are you most excited about for this year’s festival?

I’m most excited about meeting new faces and families [at] the festival. And also looking forward to seeing diverse families celebrate with each other and be welcomed in their spaces.

Your list of accomplishments is incredible and ever-growing! You’re a performer, comedian, singer, activist and community leader. Of all of these feats, what is one of your proudest accomplishments thus far?

I have a  couple of proudest moments–the first one is when I won my very first drag title of Miss Gay Filipino in 2001. I won every category, except Miss Congeniality. But the moral of the story is that I was able to share this special moment with my mom who supports me wholeheartedly. Another special accomplishment is singing with the band, Pink Martini while I reigned as Miss Gay Seattle.

Along with that, alongside your work as a notable performer, you are very involved with the LGBTQ and Filipino communities. Can you explain why these communities are important to you? What vision do you have for these communities in the future?

As a genderqueer Filipino-American, I am part of diverse and intersectional communities. As a minority, it is very important and critical to unite and work together to ensure everyone has access to all resources regardless of our differences.

“My personal vision is that the unique and special attributes of my communities are celebrated and honored like others and not just positions of power.”

Why do you think it’s important to expose the youth to various cultures, identities, and people?

Children and youth are very insightful and definitely smarter than most adults assume them to be. I worked at Children’s Hospital for a number of years, and I saw firsthand the strength and resilience of the little ones. They were incredibly inspirational. If we merely shelter children from diverse cultures, identities and peoples–then they are unable to create memories, unable to practice discernment, unable to build coping mechanisms, and so on. This limits the power of the mind, it chains the human spirit, and ails the body.

In relation to that, how do you hope to do this through your program, Drag Queen Story Time?

My hopes and dreams with Drag Queen Story Time is that the little ones realize that pinks aren’t just meant for girls, that blues aren’t just for boys, and that they recognize there are more to just boys and girls–and they know that they have families that love them just the way they are–especially from this Princess Boy!

As a fellow Seattleite, what is your favorite aspect of this big neighborhood?

We’re very lucky to live in Seattle where diversity exists. Being in a coastal city that’s exposed to rich history of migration and honoring of Native American peoples and land is not very common. Just the other day, I heard the great, great, great grandson of Chief Seattle speak at a Mayor’s event at the Seattle Center…how cool is that? I am in awe of the natural and architectural landscape… from sunrise to sunset and under the moonlight, Seattle is breathtaking!

How have the combination of your identity, heritage and cultural background played a role in who you are today?

It challenges me to be a creative and compassionate creature! The legacy and history of my descendants influence and shape the person I am today and who I will be tomorrow. I often think about, “what would my mother think of my performances or how I present myself to my audience?”

What piece of wisdom can you give to our audiences who may still be in the process of understanding their self-identity?

“Self-love” is necessary for self-care and community. My mom always told me growing up, “tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” Surround yourself with peers, family (including chosen-family) and community who are smart and loving, and who inspire you to be the best person you want to be. Don’t be afraid to ask “why?”

How do you live out the meaning of “folk life”?

I’m just “me” and no more than I expect others to be themselves. “Folk” denotes tradition. 

“That said, as a community, let’s continue to create tradition. Tradition changes over time, let’s adapt to ensure everyone is included in our traditions.”

Her passion for performance and her commitment to making our communities and spaces inclusive for all are just some of the many reasons we are proud to call Aleksa Manila one of our neighbors in Our Big Neighborhood.

Join Northwest Folklife and Aleksa Manila in celebrating Our Big Neighborhood at this year’s Seattle Children’s Festival on Sunday, October 8 at the Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion and Armory. Drag Queen Story Time will take place at the Armory Loft 1B at 10 AM. Events like this are made possible by Friends of Folklife and your generous donations. See you there!

Aleksa Manila: Website

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