Doors Open: A Bay Area Reopening Series – Juanita MORE!

Juanita MORE!Photos by Molly Kish & courtesy of Juanita MORE! // Written by Molly Kish //

Juanita MORE! – Activist, Philanthropist, Entrepreneur & LGBTQ+ Representative

Walking into the home of Juanita MORE! feels more like you’re entering a museum than a TenderNob residence. After being greeted by her French bulldog Jackson scampering down the hallway, you enter the gorgeous garden apartment and are immersed in a time capsule of art, photos and memorabilia spanning her entire career. In her 30-plus years as an activist, philanthropist, LGBTQ+ representative and Bay Area icon, MORE! has been a muse for countless creatives and has inspired upwards of eight public art murals currently gracing the streets of San Francisco.

Her legacy, however, is one deeply rooted in her passion to represent and serve the various communities that she and her chosen family are ingrained in. Utilizing her many talents and immense reach, MORE! has been able to raise an astonishing amount of awareness and over $900,000 in donations to help keep queer culture and art thriving within the Bay Area.

Catching up with MORE! shortly after she was elected Empress of the Imperial Council of San Francisco, we spoke with her about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the LGBTQ+ nightlife scene and what she has done to further evolve her fundraising efforts. We also discussed how California’s reopening last week will play a huge part in this year’s Pride celebrations, her annual charity party and the future of events in the Bay Area.

Juanita MORE!

Showbams: We’re finally at a point where California is coming out of the social, political and economic chaos of this past year. As someone who is directly involved with almost every community that has been affected by COVID-19, how are you feeling?

MORE!: I’m feeling super hopeful and super excited, but of course I’m a bit hesitant because I have been isolating and encouraging people to do that. We’ve gone through a year of being emotionally suppressed in a way that we normally don’t as humans. So, that’s going to take me a minute to snap out of. It’s gonna take little steps, not me just diving in. I’m not ready to do that. I’m still walking outside my house with my mask on, being super cautious and still abiding by all the rules.

Showbams: As a Bay Area artist, activist, philanthropist and entrepreneur, were you able to draw strength from any previous experiences that helped you to remain focused and diligent during this past year?

MORE!: Yes, definitely my chosen family. Right away we created a pod with my drag mother, best friend and also the Emperor to my Empress Mr. David Glamamore and one of my drag children and business partners, (who is also like one of my sons) Cole Church. We just knew we had to create this little pod because we’ve always taken care of each other. We decided that every Sunday the three of us are going to have dinner, and every now and then we would bring one other person in. They’re the ones in my life, in general that keep me grounded and focused in what I do.

You know what I do is very public and it has been until this went the other direction, but for me, as public as Juanita is, I really love when it’s not. That helps me re-energize, and it helps me become more creative. So at first I was like, “Oh, this feels OK, sort of,” because I don’t really go out. I mean when I do, it’s Juanita and it’s either work or it’s to have a really great time. When I was doing drag normally, it sometimes was like 2-3 times a week and that’s a lot of drag! I just wanna be in my apartment. I mean … you’re in my apartment now, it’s a great nesting space! I made it super comfortable. So yeah, I would definitely say my little pod helped get me through. My chosen family and I have a big chosen family, so there you go.

“As public as Juanita is, I really love when it’s not. That helps me re-energize and it helps me become more creative.”

Showbams: As someone who has been a mother and mouthpiece for queer culture in the Bay Area, what was your initial thought when the industry flatlined over night?

MORE!: Well, one big concern was that most of my friends work in nightlife, from every part of it in lighting and sound people to DJs to venue owners … like just absolutely everyone! You know, the bar managers, the bartender, the barback, then the performers and the designers who are making the dresses for some of the artists. It just kept going even further and further. I ended up hooking up with the San Francisco Bay Area Nightlife Committee because we all felt like it was a much-needed time to start digging up resources and find fundraising to help people stay afloat. That struggle is still happening. Even though we’re seeing something on the horizon and it looks better, there’s still people who have not worked one day in a whole year. My friends who run events were just like, done.

The SF Party Store that was on Post Street, right around the corner from me you know, it was part of my walk! Jackson would go in there, and I would walk through to see if there was something I needed and it’s just gone. Fantastico, gone. Places where we would go to get things, now I’m like, “Oh my God, I gotta order this online?” It was part of my everyday.

Juanita MORE!

Showbams: It seemed like almost immediately after news broke, you began to activate organizers, producers, entertainers, venue owners and more to develop the San Francisco Queer Nightlife Fund. Can you take me through the process of how you were able to get it up and running so quickly?

MORE!: Well, the team that was working on it … they’re a little more tactful at doing that kind of stuff than I am. I mean, I became the face of it and the voice of it for a lot of reasons. I have a huge reach, so it was good to put it to use for that situation. Everybody on the team was super invested. I think they’ve given out over $300,000 over the past year, which is amazing. Sometimes it just paid someone’s rent.

“I literally had people come up to my booth and cry when they saw me, because I had not seen them in a year.”

Showbams: Throughout your 30-plus years of service in the Bay Area, your fundraising in the LGBTQ+ community has been nothing short of legendary. Was it hard to adjust your methods and tactics during the pandemic?

MORE!: Yes. Last year it was tough to fundraise and was challenging for sure. To get everyone focused and be a part of a fundraiser that was online and in a different way and with so many, it became oversaturated. It’s almost hard to watch now. I mean, sometimes you know, there’s three things happening at the same time! I’m here with my iPad on one, another on my phone and I’m trying to watch and support everybody. But some great stuff has come out of it. There’ve been some baby drag queens that we may never have heard of until they got on the internet.

Juanita MORE!

Showbams: Your philanthropic efforts have really included everything from virtual charity events to telethons, dance parties, art mart appearances and even bake sales! The LGBTQ+ community came up with so many creative ways to get through this past year. Were there any particular concepts you saw that were your favorites or you hope carry over into the future of fundraising?

MORE!: Oh wow, you know the Noe Art Mart was super special. I’m great friends with the organizers, Chris Hastings and the Lookout bar. When I did the first one, it was at that moment where people were just stepping out of their comfort zones to be outside. I literally had people come up to my booth and cry when they saw me because I had not seen them in a year. So that was super, super special, and also it gave young artists the opportunity to showcase their stuff, which they may have not had an audience for even pre-pandemic.

So, now I’ve got people hooked on my CBD bath salts and granola. People even start texting me in advance, like “Hold that for me, save that.” I’ve got some people who are so addicted to the bath salts … one of my friends in the East Bay, I get a photo of him every time he uses them. He’ll text me, “I had to stop and take a bath today, I was having a day.” I’m like, “That’s what they’re for!”

“If you have to bring your vaccination card and show it at the door, you gotta do that! If it’s a problem for you, then you’re not supposed to be at my party.”

Showbams: Aside from your background as a philanthropist, you’ve always had very strong political convictions which have manifested into amazing feats of activism throughout the Bay Area. Including over the past year, your call to action for the “March To Remember And Reignite Hope” as well as during 2020 Pride for “The Peoples March & Rally – Unite to Fight.” When organizing these events, did you ever feel conflicted about rallying people to activate and support when it also was during the time you were telling people to “stay the fuck home” and be cautious, especially around the immunocompromised and elderly members of the community?

MORE!: The first one was the “March to Reignite” in the Castro and that was literally, maybe just two weeks before we went into lockdown. The feeling like that was going to happen was already in the air. It was a beautiful turnout, one of my friends Ken Jones, who passed away last year, got to speak. Ken has been an activist for the longest, longest time and spoke in front of Badlands about racism and that kind of stuff. Then “The Peoples March” I felt like it was going to be safe because it was outdoors and that was already June so we had started to get a rhythm of how we were operating around each other with masks and such. That was a beautiful day. A lot of people did come up to me after and say, “That really felt like Pride to me.” When you look back at why Pride started in the 70’s, they just desperately needed to be seen and accepted, so they did it and we did something really important that day as well.

Juanita MORE!

Showbams: Having taken place during Pride weekend, the march really brought the focus back to the original protests and the reasons for them during what has now become more of a commercial celebration. Looking at this year’s theme of “All In This Together,” do you think that tone will remain?

MORE!: I believe so. I think a few things are in play for me this June. With our restrictions lifted and San Francisco doing so well, the Governor is saying that June 15th is opening. Well, to the LGBTQ+ community that means, “Oh, you’re opening in the middle of Pride.” That’s a whole new thing! Of course, there still is so much more activism that attention needs to be brought to, but there’s also room there for a celebration. So, I feel like all of those things are definitely going to happen.

“But I also can’t think about it because it makes my wig too big.”

Showbams: You’re famously quoted in saying that “once this is all over, we’re going to have a hell of a huge party.” Is the iconic Junaita MORE! Party making its return this year?

MORE!: I’m working on some form of it, and I’m also working on The Peoples March. I mean to date, I’ve helped raise over $900,000, which is absolutely insane, and it helps support non-profits, which I think are very important. I’m working on planning it, have looked at some spaces and I think I’m going to be able to do it under all the guidelines. I’m that person, and I have to be.

I was talking to a friend and they were asking, “Well, what are you going to do?” I just said, “If you have to bring your vaccination card and show it at the door, you gotta do that! If it’s a problem for you, then you’re not supposed to be at my party. That’s OK. I still love you, and I’ll see you another time.” You know I have such a big family here, and it’s going to feel good to get as many of them together as I can. Also, I really feel like the community is pushing for and the circle of everyone that’s fully vaccinated is so large now, so that’s good.

Juanita MORE!

Showbams: One more reason to celebrate is your coronation as the Empress of The Imperial Council of San Francisco. With its legacy as a non-profit fundraising organization benefitting diverse communities and charitable initiative projects, you truly are the perfect fit. However, you’ve mentioned that you and The Court work in different ways and that you wanted to bring some fresh energy into the system, to push them into new and exciting directions. Can you elaborate on what you mean by that?

MORE!: The founder of The Imperial Council, José Sarria, was a civil rights activist and a community leader, and I sort of am that as well. In some ways, I feel parallel — we’re doing the same things in different decades. I’ve been asked to be Empress before and I’ve always looked at their schedules and been like, “Oh my God! You guys are so busy, I can’t fit that into my schedule!” But then last summer, I watched the documentary “50 Years of Fabulous” and it really inspired me. It spoke to me and said, “You need to help them now, and you need to shine a brighter light on the organization.”

So, of course I’m going to raise money for them, that’s definitely going to be a thing. They’re a vehicle to spread that money back out into the community in a different kind of way than I do. It’s totally fine, as Empress I still will have influence on where the money goes, which is great. As far as social media, I want to make them more relevant. We’re living in a time of social media, it’s happening! The organization is a huge part of the city and has been forever. “50 Years of Fabulous” shows when it’s heyday really was, but I still feel like there are so many important things that we can focus on.

“At this point, it’s almost like Audrey Hepburn and Givenchy. They have a thing, right?”

Showbams: The Council is currently involved in an initiative that you’ve expressed excitement about. Can you further explain or offer any more details on what the LGBT Asylum Project is?

MORE!: I’ve worked with the LGBT Asylum Project since their conception, and I was one of the first persons to jump on board to champion and support them because I knew it was the right thing. Something that the director said to me was, “You really just came out and supported us when we were just a baby organization and that made such a bigger group of San Francisco look at us and see what we were doing, that we take it seriously and you really helped us get off the ground.” I love when that happens, and I don’t know that I sometimes intentionally do it, but I’m so happy when it does. I can’t remember how many years now that they have been running, but the director just recently said that to me and I never thought about it. I’m sure that’s happened in other places as well, and I’m super proud of it. But I also can’t think about it because it makes my wig too big.

Juanita MORE!

Showbams: Emperors didn’t start getting elected to the court until 1972 and existed separate from the Empresses until 1983. But currently elected alongside you as the reigning Emperor is your longtime collaborator David Glamamore, officially making the current empire “The Court of More is MORE!” Was this an intentional joint campaign?

MORE!: No, and we couldn’t run it as one. I mean, the story of me meeting David is just so special and we have been truly best friends, mother, father, brother, sister and he’s my drag mother and I’m his drag daughter. When I met him in New York, he was doing drag before me so he considered me the very first MORE! boy. It’s so crazy! Now after 35-plus years of knowing each other, we finish each other’s sentences.

We’re best friends, but also on artistic projects, we feed off each other and make things just so beautiful together. I also own the most amount of clothes that David has ever made. The biggest collection, I have over 3,000 pieces! It’s gotten to the point where other designers have said they want to make me something, but at this point, it’s almost like Audrey Hepburn and Givenchy. They have a thing, right?

We’ve collaborated on so many things together that our minds just are the same and we end up seeing the same beauty in things. I mean, I can call David on the phone and say, “Oh, I bought four yards of this fabric and how should I move my pattern on it?” He lights his cigarette and says, “Hmm, just move your pattern down 15 inches and swing the arm over to the left 30 inches.” Or sometimes, he’ll just take a snapshot of a drawing he did that’s just a scribble and numbers, and I get it. That’s the part that other people are like, “Are you freaking kidding me? You just got off the phone and you’re going to cut that,” and I totally get it. I’ve done this with him for 30 years. I’m glad we’re doing this together. We’re also just great support for each other, like emotionally.

“When we come out of this, it’ll happen and it’s going to be good.”

Showbams: Going forward, can you think of one positive thing about this last year that you hope will carry over into the reopening of the Bay Area music and entertainment scene?

MORE!: For me, I think that I got a moment to kind of look at my life from another kind of way. Like I was saying earlier, I don’t really go out and I only really am ever doing so as Juanita. Well, all of the sudden I had to deal with that. That person who doesn’t go out. So, I think I learned a little bit more about myself as I’m adulting even more and knowing that when we come out of this, it’ll happen and it’s going to be good.

Editor’s Note: Since this interview, Juanita MORE! has scheduled her 18th annual Pride party at 620 Jones for this Sunday, June 27th. The 2021 celebration’s main focus will be on reigniting the LGBTQ+ nightlife scene in SF and will feature DJ sets from Bay Area talent as well as a live performance by singer Kaleena Zanders. All advanced tickets have been sold, but both cash and evening tickets (from 6-10:30 p.m. PT) will be available at the door. For more information on the beneficiaries of this year’s ticket sales, please visit and


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