Drag star brings Latina divas to life Friday nights at Northside restaurant

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HOUSTON, TX- You probably wouldn't know it if you spotted her arriving in her beat up hooptie outside the restaurant where she's performing, but Melissa Clinton is a star. For nearly 20 years, she's been doing Latino drag shows around town. Clinton was born a guy, but prefers to wear women's clothes and identifies as a woman.

She's gone from performing in a small gay club in Pasadena to more mainstream audiences all around town, dressing up as Latina divas like Amanda Miguel and the late Jenni Rivera and performing to their songs as passionately (and entertainingly) as they would. She has a regular spot  at the Hacienda La Esperanza on Tidwell every Friday night at 10 with a rotating roster of "girls" doing other divas. In fact, Clinton has managed to turn her passion into a full-time job in Houston, something she never would have imagined when just starting out.

She explains Houston is "more open these days." Drag is no longer confined to gay clubs. "Now, we work everywhere," she adds, "straight places, like this place, a restaurant... everywhere."

It seems a bit risky for a family restaurant to have brought in a drag show as entertainment. Hacienda owner Guadalupe Rodriguez says it was, "We were a little afraid when first speaking with (Melissa) because patrons here weren't used to these kinds of shows. But look now. We have the answer-- everybody likes it."

And they really do! The show brings in customers after 10 just to see it. Of course, that includes a few members of the LGBT community, as you would expect, but they are far outweighed by straight couples, moms with her teenage children, and even families with small kids.

The audience may love what Clinton and her fellow performers are doing, but her familia? Not so much. "Most of my family don't accept me. Some of them (do)," Clinton says. "My mother (does), so that's the most important for me."

As hostess of her shows, Clinton is as comfortable singing as she is joking with the Spanish-speaking audience.  She and her fellow performers get handed dollar bills like strippers during their songs and sometimes have trouble carrying all of the loot backstage during costume changes.

For more on Melissa Clinton and Latino drag in Houston, check out this month's Houstonia.