Most readers in the area and beyond know the name Dorae Saunders — whether for being a fantastic illusionist, formidable pageant competitor and energetic entertainer or for being a good friend and professional co-worker.
Dorae Saunders is one of the hardest-working female impersonators in the country today.
Many of you also might have seen her at Pride Charlotte 2007, where she performed as Miss Charlotte Gay Pride. She claimed the title at Scorpio nightclub the night before the festival. As part of its Presenting sponsorship, Scorpio hosted the pageant for 10 contestants.
Recently, I got the chance to chat with Saunders by phone and to get to know more about the creator of the persona we see frequently and admire on-stage in the Carolinas.
She calls Columbia, S.C., home, and is one of the hardest-working female impersonators in the country today, routinely making trips through North and South Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Georgia. A typical work-week for her is hitting it hard Wednesday through Sunday, then trying to wind it all down on Monday and Tuesday, preparing for the road again.
When she’s not packing a bag with her usual wares to go do her thing, she’s a freelance make-up artist with MAC cosmetics.
The bag she’s about to pack will carry her illusions of Tina Turner and Patti LaBelle all the way to the West Coast — Palm Springs, Calif., to be exact — for a La Cage-type show called Copycats. She got the inside scoop on the show from her good friend LaWanda Jackson of Houston, Texas, who is also known for her celebrity impersonations and who works regularly in N.C.
Saunders and other illusionists will be doing shows six nights a week for three weeks. Maybe she’ll be offered a permanent spot — one never knows. However, what she has on her mind right now is winning Miss Gay U.S.ofA. at Large in San Antonio, Texas, this Fall.
By her own admission, she’s the bridesmaid to all the “big girl” pageants in the country. She’s been first runner-up to Miss Continental PLUS, Miss U.S.ofA. at Large, the now-defunct Miss National at Large, and Miss Black America PLUS.
She plans on doing one of the last prelims to qualify for Miss U.S.ofA. at Large this year, and has no doubt she’ll get the needed spot. In fact, she plans to compete at the prelim with what she’ll do for preliminary night at the national contest. And there you have it!
Despite the times when she didn’t win, Saunders has claimed her fair share of crowns, currently holding the titles of Miss Tampa Bay Plus International, Miss Godfrey’s (out of Richmond, Va., and famous for its drag brunch), Miss Galaxy Plus International, and as mentioned Miss Charlotte Gay Pride.
As for not winning those “bigger” national contests, she says she was bitter in the beginning, but soon came to realize that if she got that close, maybe it wasn’t her time, but at least she knew she had what it took.
Saunders instead put her faith in God, and is thankful that she came to know that a title doesn’t make an entertainer, but an entertainer can add more luster to a title, or, as she says, tarnish it, depending on the wearer. “They become feathers in your ‘cap of accomplishments’ and they say, ‘job well done!,’” she commented.
When asked if she could sum up the highlight of her career, she quickly responded that she’d have to say the smiles she’s brought to faces in the crowds while performing over the years, and the joy she might have brought to people she never got the chance to meet. She loves to mingle when she goes to work at a bar and thinks it’s been fascinating to meet people from all walks of life in her travels.
Now if she can just win that one national title to put the icing on the cake!