Going coast to coast with message of pride

Dori O'Neal, Herald staff writer October 15, 2010 

Jade Esteban Estrada is a man of many faces, all of them comedic.

And he's especially funny when he decides to slide into a costume to fit those faces, portraying a diverse array of characters from Plato to Susan B. Anthony.

Estrada will bring a belly full of laughs to the Tri-Cities for two evenings of comedy that will include his shows Tortilla Heaven on Oct. 15 and his newest show, ICONS: The Lesbian and Gay History of the World, Vol. 4, on Oct. 16.

The new show chronicles the history of the gay/lesbian/transgender community through the voices of Naomi from the Bible, King James, Bessie Smith, Greg Louganis and Mary Cheney.

But there's more to Estrada than humor.

He speaks four languages and sings and dances to Latin music. That's one of the reasons NBC News critics tagged him with the handle, "America's Prince of Pride."

His Tri-City shows start at 7:30 p.m. at the Diversity Pride Center, 2425 N. Bruneau Place, Kennewick. Admission is $15, and shows are open to all ages.

"I've tried to keep my shows different," Estrada said in an interview this week.

His shows are a blend of whatever sparks his interest at the moment -- whether it's a cabaret or something from another continent.

"I pretty much create as I go," he said. "I never really have a set plan."

Sometimes his show deals with religion, politics and world leaders. In his new Vol. 4 show, Estrada portrays Plato, Virginia Wolff, Dr. Evelyn Hooker, Freddy Mercury, Dustin Lance and Alan Turing.

"I choose my characters from what's currently happening in the world," Estrada said.

He doesn't let intolerance over his homosexuality get in the way of a good performance, either. And he especially doesn't let it stop him from talking to young people about how to deal with criticism and bullying at school.

He tries to arrange his schedule so he has time to meet with high school students wherever he's performing. He will be speaking to Yakima-area high school students when he performs there later this month.

He was invited to speak to high school students there by the Gay/Straight Alliance Network, a national organization that focuses on preventing bullying and suicide among young people.

"I was very lucky because when I was young I was blessed with enough strength (of character) to deal with bullying," he said. "And I never suffered from depression because of it either. I'm discovering as I get older (he's 34) that it's important to take time to talk to kids today and hopefully help them get to that same comfortable place I was as a teenager.

"I also learned a long time ago that most people don't care whether you're gay or not, it's what kind of contribution you make to your community that's most important."

Estrada grew up in San Antonio and divides his time these days between his hometown and New York City, where he also has a home.

"I tour about half the year," he said. "But I'm very proud to be a Mexican-American, so I like to be home near the border most of the time."

He spends much of his time not on tour conducting master classes in musical theater.

He studied dance with Jennifer Lopez and was lead dancer in Madonna's Blonde Ambition tour. He also was lead dancer and choreographer for Charo.

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com

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