She sings, she dances, she’s been on TV, she’s a favorite rising star of New York’s drag competition circuit, and so much more besides… spend your Pride with bellydancing beauty Diamante Habibi!
Thotyssey: Hello Ms. Habibi, happy Pride! I see you turned it at Playhouse’s “Polish the Queen” competition the other night. How did it go?
Diamante Habibi: It was beautiful experience. [Producer] Phil Chanel has truly developed a platform for the upcoming queens to refine their craft. I’m lucky to say I was the runner up queen of Season 8 of Polish The Queen!
Congrats! In general, how do you enjoy the whole weekly competition scene? Is there a pressure to win each time, or are you happy just to be there doing your thing?
Well, I have been competing in and out of drag for 20 years; competition is in my nature. I enjoy performing in the competitive state — it pushes you to be the best version of yourself, and to also introduce yourself to things you wouldn’t do regularly. In Polish the Queen I have done burlesque, “club kid realness,” Broadway, Disney, camp, storytelling and many more categories that make you sit and think of the plethora of ideas that run through your head.
Before drag, what sort of competing were you doing?
I am a professional dancer. I’ve performed with Alvin Ailey alumni, Martha Graham alumni and Dance Theater of Harlem alumni. I was a principal dancer for a company known as Skin. [I took part in] top contemporary dance in America for America’s Got Talent Season 6, and I’m a master instructor for fusion bellydance. I’ve competed in live television with dance companies, and also as a soloist. I’ve also judged national competitions such as Beyond the Stars and KAR.
Incredible! Where is your hometown, by the way… and what can you tell us about your heritage and upbringing? Were you dancing and performing your whole life?
My hometown is Dorado, Puerto Rico but I was born in Queens, New York. I am Puerto Rican; I was raised to know my heritage, language and culture. I started dancing professionally at the age of 8. Every dance school, company and opportunity has been accompanied with a scholarship, including college. I learned West African flamenco and salsa on my island! When coming to New York, I performed in DeVore Dance Center where they re-cultivated me with my West African roots.
And you also sing, right?
Yes I do. I was part of an Off-Broadway show known Josephine’s Cotton where I played Cab Calloway. I also play the tenor saxophone.
A Renaissance Woman! How and when did you discover drag and become Diamante?
My first time competing in drag was in a competition in Queens; I originally performed in my male form as a bellydancer, and I was competing to be the drag king of the bar. All of the men dropped out, and they didn’t want to just give me a crown. They said I had to get in drag [to compete with the queens] and fight for the win; I was runner up.
And the rest is HERstory! Have you had a favorite moment or performance as Diamante?
Yes… my favorite moment was performing for a production called “Living in the Pandemic.” I shared the stage with Jahlove and Sundari; it was a showcase with a discussion panel. We spoke personal testimonies about how we overcame during the pandemic, and we encouraged the audience of color to support all art forms and to appreciate the person, respecting their struggle and adversities. Lastly, we spoke about how they could see their strength and perseverance through the storm and not take no for an answer.
I love that! You’ve been quite busy post-pandemic. Besides all the competitions and guest spots, you’ve been hosting shows at a restaurant called Alef.
During when the pandemic was heavy and we were virtual, I had a virtual show called “Dazzling Diamonds.” When the world was receptive to shows again, I was hosting at Starr Bar and Ikonic with my sister Sitanya Face; after that I was hosting at The Buren. Then I was guest spotting with Kia Karr in places such as Boxers and Six 26, and “Screwball” at Rockbar with Lucie Screws and Ronda Vu… and many more.
Alef was a blessing; I got referred to be a part of their new endeavors cultivating Middle Eastern culture with the drag art form, and building a bridge between the two communities whom are fond of each other. At Alef, Diamante is the bellydancing queen of New York City, where I bellydance with a live band. A professional bellydancer colleague and friend [is often my guest], and of course drag queens assist me in the cultivation process.
You’re also going to be party of Rockbar’s annual “Big Gay Pride Drag Show” on Monday! What a fierce lineup of queens you’re sharing the stage with!
Yes, with some of my good Judies Harriet Tugsmen, Chara Confusion, Sheneeda Dickson, Taina La Fina and many more!
Anything else coming up for you?
I recently did a few TV promos for Pride for EsTuTV, educating the Latino community on how the rainbow flag came about and who made it, and how we evolved since then. I will be a part of the Diamante Show, showing talents and speaking on supporting local gay bars and businesses that support queer people and art. There’s so much more I have to offer and I’m at a beautiful place; I’m so excited by the prospects of where I’m going to go… because Diamante isn’t stopping.
We’re glad to hear it! Thanks, Diamante, and once again Happy Pride!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Diamante Habibi’s upcoming appearances, and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.