Persephone as Clean air at the NAP Fashion Condom Show

Persephone as Clean AirPersephone, Ricky Sheridan during the day, is this year’s Smokeless Diva.  Eddiy Hilliard, Dustin Moorehead, and Ariss Mendoza who all co-designed her dress helped Persephone  reach the runway at this year’s Nebraska Aids Project Fashion Condom Show.
At the start of the year, University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Center for Reducing Health Disparities (UNMC CRHD) and Metro Omaha Tobacco Action Coalition (MOTAC) start looking for community volunteers and sponsorship.  By June, volunteers successfully put together a dress that assists with HIV/AIDS prevention, additionally we tie in tobacco awareness as an associated big issue.Persephone and Ariss Mendoza

As you may have read me mention in previous blogs, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the US, causing 1 out of 5 deaths each year. However, something that might be new to hear is that smoking is even more of a concern for people living with HIV, who tend to smoke more than the general population.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking rates are 2-3 times higher among adults who are HIV positive. An article in Clinical Infectious Diseases, pointed out that HIV positive smokers compared to non HIV positive smokers lost a mortality rate ratio of 5 years.
In order to fight the incidence of smoking in the LGBT community, MOTAC, UNMC CRHD, and community volunteers find value in coming together to design a symbolic piece that speaks against tobacco.
Last year’s design was about respecting mother nature. This year, we slammed our heels through the runway declaringPersephone and Alex Mendoza that “everyone has the right to breathe clean air.” Persephone appeared as the natural clean air we should all be able to breathe.
Congratulations Persephone, volunteers, and sponsors, for making the design a success. This year’s sponsor was Samantha Pagano, a long time supporter of HIV/AIDS prevention. Volunteers included: Eddiy Hilliard; Dustin Moorehead from Creating Atmosphere; Ariss Rogel Mendoza from UNMC CRHD and MOTAC; Liz Brown from the Indian Center Youth Suicide Prevention Program, Alex Mendoza, and of course Ricky Sheridan as the beautiful Smokeless Diva 2014-Persephone.
proud girlIf you missed this year’s condom show, don’t worry! You can expect Persephone in other events and performances. Next weekend, Smokeless Diva will be performing at the Heartland Pride Stonewall Stage Drag Queen Show at 2pm. So please join us on June 28ath at Stintson Park to see Persephone take the stage.

Thanks for Participating in World No Tobacco Day

Yesterday was quite a day!  Locally, our coalition, the Metro Omaha Tobacco Action Coalition (MOTAC) hosted a cigarette butt clean-up as part of the Omaha Tobacco-Free Parks Initiative in three Omaha parks: Elmwood, Mandan, and Miller.  And unfortunately, we found a lot of tobacco trash in our parks.


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We also had a lot of activity online through our blog, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts.  We thank you all for being involved in this initiative to educate and raise awareness about the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke.  Tobacco continues to be the leading cause of preventable death in this country.  Now is the time that we join together to make positive changes in our community so that everyone has the chance to be healthy.

As part of this project, the Center and MOTAC were able to reach more than 2000 people through:

We hope that this is just the beginning of a strong tobacco-free movement and that everyone will continue to be involved!  One way to stay up to date with what’s happening is to like the Facebook pages listed above or follow us on Twitter.

Thanks for commemorating World No Tobacco Day with us!  We’ll see you again next year.

Tygra Says Goodbye and Welcomes Smokeless Diva 2014

Tygra Slarii Smokeless Diva 2013

Tygra Slarii
Smokeless Diva 2013

Smokeless Diva is here to stay.  The title has made it into her second year.  We saw an amazing performer and advocate come make her mark, and now go into the abyss that is the retirement of normal non-draghood.   No, but really if you have Tygra tell it, she’ll tell you that she is welcoming the break.  But if you ask me, I would say she itches to come back whenever she is needed and that’s what she did this past week.

When our new diva had to undergo a

knee surgery (yeah, ouch), Tygra stepped in those amazing heels during the Metro Omaha Tobacco Action Coalition (MOTAC) annual luncheon.  She helped recognize other advocates doing the work against tobacco in all other pockets of the community.  Tygra demonstrated grace and appreciation for having undergone the Smokeless Diva experience; a title she worked hard to build up and have respected. If you know Tygra as well as I do, she will tell you that tobacco education is close to her heart because of the effects it has had for the people she loves. Furthermore, tobacco education has become a counter tool she utilizes to shed light on the negative things she has seen going on in her community.  Things people don’t talk about:

  • LGBT persons smoke more than any other population in the US
  • Killing at least 30,000 gay and lesbian people each year
  • Sadly, it is the #1 most preventable cause of death and disease in the nation
  • Every year tobacco kills more people in the US than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, murder, illegal drugs and fire- combined
  • Direct and indirect advertisement from tobacco companies target LGBT audiences, especially youth
  • Sponsorships from tobacco companies are received in support of LGBT issues and organizations
  • Since the 90’s BIG tobacco have made themselves ‘seem’ like a friend rather than a killer

Among all the information we have about tobacco health risks, and the manipulative tactics of tobacco companies, tobacco prevention/awareness continues to be an upward battle.

When asked what has been the most difficult challenge for Smokeless Diva during her reign, Tygra will tell you, it has been others unwillingness to look at tobacco as a problem.

Persephone Smokeless Diva 2014

Smokeless Diva 2014

Today Persephone, our princess from the REZ, Omaha tribe to be specific, has a challenge ahead of her. Thanks to Tygra she has some paved road that she can build on.

Persephone, when not in drag specializes in youth suicide prevention, something she is very passionate about.  She comes to us from a short, maybe long distance, I guess it depends who’s driving and at what type of night! Bancroft, Nebraska. While she lives and works there, Persephone has built a desire to make a difference for her people and for her friends.  As a person of color, a person whose cultural history has been severely disadvantaged, she knows that she has a mission ahead of her.  To be effective and to be real, she knows shaking it on the stage is the best and most awesome way to get people aware and motivated to make steps towards the right direction, however small or painful it may be.

American Cancer Society. Tobacco and the GLBT Community. 2003.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Annual Smoking-Attributable Mortality, Years of Potential Life Lost, and Productivity Losses-United States 2000-2004. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report; 57 (45): 1226-8
American Lung Association. The LGBT Community: A Priority Population for the Tobacco Control, 2009.