Six big production shows, five hosts, almost one thousand frocked-up guests, an after-party that goes on way past bedtime -¦ whichever way you look at it, next month’s DIVA awards are shaping up to be one heck of a big night out.

The awards, now in their 13th year, are a famously OTT occasion when Sydney’s showgirls go all-out to impress -¦ whether they’re performing on stage, presenting an award, making an acceptance speech or simply mugging for the cameras on the red carpet.

Just as drag is an exaggeration of female performers, DIVA is an exaggeration of an awards night, says organiser Ian Jopson. It’s an event. We try to make it as Hollywood as possible.

As always, the awards (in categories such as DIVA rising star, bitch of the year and entertainer of the year) will be hotly contested, but this year three new awards have been added to the mix. For the first time, awards will be given for excellence in media and best DIVA moment, while, in another first, punters will be able to vote for Sydney’s favourite drag king.

The drag scene comes and goes in cycles, and the drag kings are another facet, another arm, Jopson says. Anything that’s fostering new creativity inspires other people. It’s great that the energy’s out there.

The night is sure to bring out all the big names of the industry, along with many other guests who step out in drag for one special night of the year.

Everyone who arrives at DIVA is going to feel like a star, Jopson promises. Last year at Sydney Town Hall we had the administrative staff hanging out of the windows, they had never seen so many limos pull up at Town Hall. We had the searchlights at the front, the red carpet, MTV and Channel V interviewing everyone who walked up, so you got the full star treatment as you arrived. It’ll be a similar thing this year. (Indeed, Fox8 will be producing a special on this year’s DIVA awards, which is scheduled for broadcast on Wednesday 20 August at 10:30pm.)

This year’s ceremony will be at Royal Randwick for the first time, while the line-up of hosts mixes new talent and -“ how to put this nicely? -“ some stalwarts of the industry. But what unites Verushka Darling, Carlotta, Hillary, Courtney Act and Candy Box, Jopson reckons, is their ability to keep the show rolling.

They’re all very different characters, and they’re all comedians, he says. Awards nights can get boring, and we go to a lot of effort to keep it flowing.

The effort he speaks of includes engaging the services of world-class professionals such as lighting guru Alan Parkinson, and experts in video production, sound and staging.

There’s no profit at DIVA. Every cent we earn on ticket sales is spent on the crowd, Jopson says. We put as much effort and as much money as we can into the entertainment on the night, just to showcase the quality and the entertainers we have.

The 2003 Drag Industry Variety Awards take place Monday 18 August from 8pm at Royal Randwick. Phone 9351 7940 for information -“ tickets cost $85. The official after-party (the bitch and boast) will be at Arq nightclub.

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