The Drag Queen Gala in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: 25 years of history

The contest has become a unique and distinctive feature of the festivities of a city that presents its big event to the world in platform shoes

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 20 February 2023. The Drag Queen Gala in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year in the 2023 Carnival, dedicated to the world of the legendary disco Studio 54. A quarter of a century, no less, of an event that has become the unique distinctive feature of the Las Palmas festival. Indeed, drag has achieved the greatest global impact as the face of a celebration that Spain has just declared a Festival of International Tourist Interest: the gala is followed on television, social media and conventional and digital news channels all over the world. And its platform shoes have become a trademark of the modern Carnival.

The festival still maintains the major traditional events on its agenda (the contests for murgas and comparsas, the election of the Carnival Queen, the children’s programme), and in the new century it has gradually incorporated attractions that are now well established (the International Body Painting Contest and the Dog Carnival). And it has confirmed its image as a special celebration, not only for the way it is experienced in the street, but also for the appeal and pulling power of its platform-soled stars.

The city, an urban tourist destination in which visitors share everyday life with the locals in a totally natural way, daringly and audaciously adopted this innovative contest at the end of the twentieth century. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria has always been an open, cosmopolitan city, whose Port of La Luz, a key logistical centre for Atlantic shipping, is a permanent gateway. However, 25 years ago society in general had not yet evolved as far as the current model of coexistence and diversity.

The very fact that a small group of people involved in the artistic direction and production of the Carnival took the step of conceiving and proposing a drag contest in the city was a real demonstration of the free-spirited nature of Las Palmas. These people found out about an incipient contest for transvestites being held in the south of Gran Canaria: the island’s major tourist area, which also had a specific space for the LGTBI community in its vicinity.

The ideas captured in that contest, inspired by the world of the film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, by Stephan Elliott (1994), and the aesthetics and style of emerging stars like RuPaul confirmed the original concept of the Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Gala. The great contest was eventually scheduled in the programme and grew year by year, so much so that a finalists’ preselection phase was needed: there are many drag artists wanting to be included in the grand final night in Santa Catalina Park on its sumptuous stage.

From the first moment in the history of the gala, several participants added their characteristic platform shoes, the unique figure of the Drag Queen emerged, and year by year these contests have been capturing attention within the city and the island and beyond. On Friday 3 March the 2023 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Carnival’s Drag Queen Gala will once again be the focus of attention of the worldwide drag phenomenon.