All Hail The Queen of Queens Melissa St. John

Photo by Arnauld Sylvain.

While award-winning female illusionist Melissa St. John has spent more than 40 years advocating on behalf of the LGBTQ community through both her artistry and tenacity when it comes to supporting those in need, she is quick to point out that there is still much to do in the battle for equality.

Most recently, the drag community has come under fire through political grandstanding that has attempted to silence the performers who draw their very livelihoods from the art form.

St. John was the Palm Beach County Coordinator for the 2023 Drag Queen March on Tallahassee that was spearheaded by her friend, activist and fellow drag performer, Darcel Stevens

St. John is quick to praise Stevens for uniting the drag artists throughout Florida, while pointing out that, “Drag is not a crime. It’s a crime to not support drag.”

Without question, St. John reigns supreme as a drag icon in South Florida, but what audiences may not know is that she is also a civil rights activist, LGBTQ defender and ordained minister. She follows in the footsteps of her great-grandfather, Will Coleman, who was the President of the NAACP in Andalusia, Alabama, and a deacon in his church. The family’s dedication to community service and helping those less fortunate also extends to St. John’s aunt, Edith Bush, known for her leadership in establishing the Martin Luther King, Jr. Landmark Memorial in West Palm Beach, Florida’s, Currie Park.

As a community leader, St. John has championed civil rights, anti-violence initiatives, marriage equality and has also lent her talents to a multitude of other community fundraisers over the last four decades.

In 1987, St. John was a founding member of the Mother’s Cupboard charity and led its travelling troupe of drag queens across Palm Beach and Broward Counties. 

Mother’s Cupboard was instrumental in its efforts to raise funds through the gratuities given to the performers at each drag show. These donations went to support and care for individuals impacted by HIV/AIDS.

“It goes without saying that living with HIV/AIDS in the 1980s was far different than it is in 2024,” St. John says. “Like many people, I lost too many friends to AIDS. I remember watching the film ‘Longtime Companion.’ I cried so much during the movie. It was beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. I felt as though I knew the characters and, in some ways, I did in my own life.”

“I remember thinking that someday there will be a cure,” she adds. “Some day. But at least there have been medical advances and treatments. If only they could have come sooner. So many, many lives would have been saved.”

St. John excuses herself for a few minutes and then returns to the interview.

“I’m sorry for that. I just needed a moment.”

“And to be cliché, the show must go on, right? Like I always say, if you can’t let your hair down, just take it off!”

And indeed, the show has gone on for St. John. Her accolades are many and include being honored as OutSFL’s first Queen of Queens. The Court of Queens was created by OutSFL as a way to recognize the efforts of female illusionists who mentor the next generation of drag performers as both entertainers and LGBTQ community leaders. The recognition included launching the Melissa St. John LGBTQ College Student Scholarship Fund in her honor.

She’s effusive as she discusses the Queen of Queens tribute bestowed upon her. 

“It was like Christmas morning when I heard the news. I cannot thank everyone at Out South Florida Newspaper and Magazine enough for this tremendous honor. I am truly humbled,” she says. “To be able to help LGBTQ college students is a dream come true. They are our future. It is our responsibility to help them succeed. For me, drag is magic. It has been a privilege to share the stage with so many iconic performers – each deserving of this honor in their own right.”

St. John was born and raised in West Palm Beach. After flirting with a career as a flight attendant, she eventually went on to become a banker and successful business owner, but fate had more flamboyant ideas for the native Floridian.

While working by day with amortization tables, St. John was also busy building a second career as a female impersonator. Invited to her first drag show by a co-worker, St. John was amazed by what she saw.

"I was like, 'Oh my God, this is so cool!'” And a couple of months after that, an actor friend invited St. John to be in a production of “Dreamgirls.”

St. John also started entering talent contests and winning. She is a former Miss South Florida Illusion Classic and recently pulled off the hat trick of being voted Palm Beach County’s Best Drag Performer, Best Entertainer and Best Artist in OutSFL’s inaugural Reader’s Choice Awards 2023.

“It all really started at a bar called Kismet, and the first song I ever performed publicly was ‘Fame.’

St. John went from Kismet to Kevin's, then on to Club Malibu and Heartbreakers.

“That's where everybody started knowing who I was, right around '90-'91. Heartbreakers is where I built a big following.”

Long hailed as The First Lady of the Palm Beaches, a better title for St. John, however, may well be Miss Congeniality. 

St. John’s contemporaries and fans have nothing but praise and admiration for the charismatic performer. Of special note, as part of the Ruby Royale tribute show held in February honoring St. John’s 40 years of community service, Palm Beach County Commissioner Gregg Weiss recognized St. John with a proclamation that chronicled her humanitarian efforts.

With only a few days before the inaugural Mz OutSFL Pageant, where St. John will serve as co-host with Eagle Wilton Manors Owner Chuck King, she muses about presiding over the festivities as the Queen of Queens.

“Rest assured, I’ll be wearing a crown. It is going to be an amazing pageant. And what makes it even more special is that proceeds benefit the LGBTQ college student scholarship,” she says. “I am so grateful to the contestants, sponsors, and everyone who will be in attendance.”

As a pageant winner herself, St. John is asked one final question: What is the one most important thing our society needs?

St. John smiles.

“More drag queens,” she says. “And world peace.”

The Mz OUTSFL Pageant will be held on Saturday, May 18 at the Sunshine Cathedral Center for Performing Arts located at 1480 SW 9th Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are available at Doors open at 6:15 p.m. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit the Melissa St. John LGBTQ College Student Scholarship Fund.


Singing The Praises of Unsung Heroes


Phone: 954-514-7095
Hours: Monday - Friday 9AM - 2PM


2520 N. Dixie Highway,
Wilton Manors, FL 33305



Got a juicy lead or story idea? Let us know!



Out South Florida

Hello from OutSFL! We hope you'll consider donating to us. Starting a business can be a scary prospect, but with your support so far, we've had tremendous success. Thank you!

donate button