If glamour was the word on the pre-show red carpet, contrast was the enduring theme when Sydney’s drag community feted its leading lights at the Drag Industry Variety Awards (DIVAs) on Monday night.

The evening was one of celebrity appearances and a star no-show; victories for established drag identities and emerging talent; and one performer’s rapid transformation from impressive newcomer to the industry’s best.

Stars including Carlotta and Big Brother runner-up Tim Brunero graced the DIVA red carpet at Star City’s Showroom. But a promised appearance by another entertainment name, Kerri-Anne Kennerley, was not to be, as the daytime TV star sent her apologies in a pre-awards video.

Any prospect of fireworks from DIVA hostesses Courtney Act, Cleopatra Coup?nd Mitzi Macintosh also dissipated as the comp?s took to the stage separately after a brief introductory appearance together.

That left the business of rivalry to the evening’s nominees, vying for awards in 21 categories.

Early winners included DJ Sveta, the first woman to win Most Popular DJ in the DIVAs’ 15-year history, multiple nominee Mitzi Macintosh for Costume Design of the Year and a shocked Penny D for Bitch of the Year.

Perhaps the most unexpected early victory belonged to Stacii Gayski, who nabbed DIVA Rising Star after little more than a year in contention.

Just over 13 months ago I was just a male dancer in the show [Divastated at The Midnight Shift], Gayski told Sydney Star Observer after her win.

I was being pressured into doing it by my friends -¦ and all of a sudden a position for a drag queen opened up and next thing I knew I was hanging from the roof as Uma Thurman in Kill Bill.

I love it and I’m so thankful that my efforts have paid off.

Witty video interludes and shows such as a French-themed effort featuring The Producers star Tony Sheldon kept punters entertained, as the evening’s most coveted gongs came up for grabs.

Macintosh underlined her industry stature by winning the judges-voted ACON Queen of Hearts award and taking out Sydney’s Favourite Drag Queen after a public vote.

[Sometimes] I wake up in the morning at 8 o’clock and think, -˜I can’t be bothered fucking shaving and doing this shit,’ Macintosh told the crowd.

But I do believe in our community. It has been my life for more years than I can imagine.

It’s because of that that I constantly believe in our community and constantly fight for the organisations that raise money.

If it wasn’t for drag, half of the money they raise wouldn’t be there.

Sexy Galexy was named Sydney’s Favourite Drag King for the third year running, but forecast she would be beaten in 2006 as the drag king scene matured.

Dawn O’Donnell , who is battling cancer, was inducted into the DIVA Hall of Fame for her long-standing support of the industry. Paul Dillon’s drug education and other community efforts won him Outstanding Achievement by an Individual.

The Macintosh-led spectacle The Wizard Of Oz took out Best Show (4 and Over) and Most Popular Show, and Vanity Faire, Stacii Gayski and Maxi Shield won Best Show (3 and Under) for That’s Hot.

But the final triumph belonged to Minnie Cooper, whose show-closing win as Entertainer of the Year capped a swift ascent in drag circles.

I so didn’t expect this, Cooper, the 2004 DIVA Rising Star, told the crowd.

I know I deserve it, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to win it.

So many people work hard throughout the year. There’s a lot of people that deserve it and it was obviously my time.

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