Legendary drag queen Juanita More on her Pride plans, LGBTQ+ activism, and her Pride mascot, Frenchie. Juanita More & Jackson
"I commission a lot of work from local artists for my Pride events and I always try to incorporate Jackson... It’s incredible to see how artists capture his many moods: from grumpy to tongue-waggingly happy!"
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Juanita More has been a pillar of the San Francisco drag scene and LGBTQ+ community for nearly three decades. In that time she has helped raise more than $900,000 for local charities and received countless awards for her philanthropic efforts. A testament to her status within the community, murals by local artists bearing her likeness can be found across San Francisco, often featuring her adorable pup, Jackson — the spirited little Frenchie who came into her life nearly 10 years ago and has been by her side ever since. “Little did I know what an essential part of my life he was going to be!” says More. We caught up with this luminary to talk Pride marches and parties, knowing your queer history, and commissioning Jackson-inspired artwork.
What would you say is Jackson’s best quality?
He’s a little lover. He wants all the love! He can be very demanding, though, usually when I’m in the middle of dinner. As soon as I sit down to eat, I’ll see him in the hallway with his back to me — having just come in from a walk and finished his own dinner — looking over his shoulder as if to say, “it’s time for you to take me out again.”
What’s his love language?
Physical touch. Every day there comes a point when he lets me know that it’s time to rub his belly. He rolls over and starts snorting until I come over and do my job.
Have you taught him any tricks?
He doesn’t know a trick in the book! I have a few tricks, though. Like if he’s in a bad mood, sometimes I hide his favorite toys while he’s sleeping and then pretend I’m giving him a brand new toy. That gets him every time.
Will Jackson be with you during San Francisco Pride?
Jackson goes on vacation during Pride. He spends a luxurious weekend away with other dog friends at the queer-owned Mr. Muggles’ Dogs in the Mission District. But he will make an appearance at my annual Pride party in the form of a Jackson mascot, which I commissioned from an artist in Toronto in 2015 and has traveled with me and been featured in my performances and public events ever since.
I always find a way to include Jackson in what I’m doing. For instance, I commission a lot of work from local artists for my events and I always try to incorporate Jackson in some way, whether it’s a custom backdrop for a photo booth or the poster for my annual Pride party. It’s incredible to see how artists interpret Jackson and capture his many moods: from grumpy to tongue-waggingly happy!
Are there any Pride events you are particularly excited about?
The People’s March & Rally, which I did last year with activist Alex U. Inn, will happen again this year, on Sunday, June 27. Once again, we will be marching to denounce violence against communities of all colors, led by an all-black and brown committee of queer and trans community leaders, artists, and performers.
Do you think Pride will feel different this year?
It’s going to feel like a real homecoming. After last year, so many of us are looking forward to gathering socially again. But I am following all protocols and safety guidelines to ensure a safe event experience.
If you could change one thing about Pride, what would it be?
The more accepted Pride becomes, the more it is being co-opted by corporations to make money. Gilbert Baker’s rainbow flag gets slapped on just about everything in June and many of the corporations using it don’t actually support the LGBTQ+ community.
You often donate your time and talents to helping the LGBTQ+ community in San Francisco and across the country. What issues are you particularly passionate about?
I’ve been working with the San Francisco LGBT Center since they first opened their doors in 2002 and I’m particularly interested in bettering the lives of queer elders. The queer elders in my own life have taught me that the only way forward is to live our lives unapologetically and without fear. The road to achieving freedom comes from knowing our queer history.
What is your greatest wish for the queer community in 2021?
Unity. José Sarria used to say “united we stand, divided they catch us one by one.” José was a drag queen, civil rights activist, and philanthropist who founded the Imperial Court of San Francisco in 1965, of which I am the current reigning Empress and I am proud to follow in his heelsteps.
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