After performing for more than 50 years, there’s still only one place Dina Jacobs wants to be: in front of an audience. At 74 years old, and having grown up as a transgender woman, she has quite the story to tell. It is evident in everything she does—from her song selections to the autobiography she published last year. It takes only a short conversation with Dina to understand her gratitude for her audiences’ adoration. As the Montrose Center’s Out for Good Vision Award recipient for 2021, that love and respect couldn’t be more tangible.
Honolulu, Atlanta, and Houston. Any place I hang my hat is home.
February 14, 1965
What got you into drag?
My cousin and I found a book called Female Mimics. We didn’t know what it was. We were looking at it, and we realized it was boys in dresses. We didn’t know who these people were, but I knew I wanted to do that. Then we went to a Valentine’s Day party. I wore my mom’s red chiffon dress, and my cousin wore a white wedding gown. We walked two miles to the party dressed like that. Nowadays, that would be a viral video! I didn’t know anything about drag back then. I looked like a linebacker.
Where has drag taken you in life?
Everywhere. If it weren’t for drag, I wouldn’t have seen as much of the world as I have. I didn’t know that singing live would make me popular. Nobody was singing live when I was younger. When I came to Chicago in 1971, that’s the first time anyone sang live at The Baton. Fifty years later, I’m still working.
What prompted you to write Forever Her Mother’s Son?
My life is extraordinarily different from most others. I wanted to let people know that you can survive anything in life if you really want to. It’s a lesson for the younger queens. I wrote the book to teach and to share my life as a person. I wanted my friends to know the real me. People see this nice, innocent Dina Jacobs, but the root of where I came from made me the person I am.
How did you react when you found out you would be the Vision Award recipient at Out For Good?
This has been a stellar year for me. It’s the craziest year I’ve had in my entire life, and the award couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s inspiring. I don’t even understand what I’ve done to deserve it, but I’m ecstatic.
Describe your drag persona.
I’m old, old, old, old, old school. Two-hundred times old school. For what I do, no one can come close to who I impersonate. That’s fine, because it keeps my lane open. At this time in my life, when you still get standing ovations for what you do, that’s better than making $200 in tips.
What advice would you give new performers?
Learn your words. There are so many queens who don’t know them, and they’re getting paid. They’re taking a job away from someone else.
What’s the trick to longevity in this career?
Love what you do, and be good at it. Don’t complain about tips, because that’s a fringe benefit. If you’re concerned only about tips, then be a waiter.
What’s a must-have item in your purse?
Lately, my COVID-19 vaccination card.
Finish this sentence: “When in doubt…”
“…turn to the good times in your life that make you smile again.”
Where can fans see you perform?
Thursdays at Michael’s Outpost, and at The Legends Show every six weeks at Curtain Call, located near The Ballroom at Bayou Place.
Follow Dina Jacobs on Facebook at facebook.com/dinadadiva1
This article appears in the November 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.