MTV’s Season 16 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” isn’t skimping on any of the intrigue or drama. The colossal U.S. franchise hit the small screen Jan. 5 introducing its 14 new cast members, two of whom are from Miami!
So far, over 210 cast members have appeared on the U.S. edition, highlighting every known genre and subgenre.
It’s a huge Miami moment for the show and the community. Not one, but two cast members hail from Magic City this season, and interest in South Florida's drag community is off the charts.
It made national headlines and even television appearances on “The View” recently, with host Ana Navarro celebrating her birthday on air with a visit from the Dion family. How much more exposure can you ask for?
Mhi'ya Iman Le'Paige: The Early Days - Synergy and Alignment
If you want to know who the graceful Mhi'ya Iman Le'Paige is, then we need to dig into South Florida drag history. Her story is empowering. She’s not just another exotic pretty face from Miami, she’s a TikTok sensation with over a 1 million views and counting.
She's South Florida Drag Royalty from birth. Her career began decades ago at the once popular Coliseum. Like so many long-forgotten venues, the club once hosted the industry’s A-list floor fillers and performers. It was the quintessential “epic big room” where the LGBTQ world’s most sought-after celebrities have produced magic moments.
Le'Paige’s stage show has always been one of a kind. Her choreography and high energy performance caught the attention of Gary Santis, still the state’s biggest weekly nightclub club promoter. Later Miami rapper and music producer Jackie O, discovered her and put her to work as one of her dancers.
Le'Paige, known as the undisputed Queen of Flips, will mark her triumphant return to South Florida at The Manor April 12.
Santis promises a show you won’t forget, and Le'Paige has a special performance planned for her hometown.
Her history runs deep in the community. She’s extremely driven. Up until as recently as December 2023 had been working at the city’s beloved beachside drag mecca The Palace, another legendary venue. The landmark bar is famous for their sidewalk drag brunch that has literally stopped traffic at times.
The Palace recruited Le'Paige early on – retaining her as a cast member for 10 years.
Le'Paige is ever the consummate professional and extraordinarily graceful. Over the years, she’s been able to experiment and continue to refine her craft and performances. Each number is choreographed to tell a story and draw you into her art and expression. She explained that when presented properly, the music helps amplify and reveal a larger message. How the audience defines the performance is up to them. Most walk away seeing and hopefully feeling something they’d never expected to witness at a drag event.
Like the savviest RPDR alumni, she’s enterprising with T-shirts already available and long-term goals to one day own her own bar “Clemo” in honor of her grandma. She is thinking about creating music, which would be a natural progression considering her work with Jacki O and a makeup line for women of color. When you consider her million-dollar smile that seems like it’s just around the corner too.
Don’t Mess With The Dions!
Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations’ initial investigation, launched in 2022, proved to be a failed attempt to restrict drag shows, specifically targeting R House Wynwood with a lawsuit that in the end levied a small fine with no admission of guilt. I could hear the stress in Morphine’s voice, “He came for our bar! He came after us. For us to have won this case is the cherry on top!”
The Dion Family and owner/chef Rocco Carulli slayed DeSantis.
Morphine Love Dion comes from the well-known Dion bloodline and carries the family resemblance with perfection that makes her mama, now world-famous Athena Dion, proud. She is yet another young South Florida performer who, like Le'Paige’s family, comes from the Caribbean and Central America cultures. This Latin influence is what makes Miami unique and gives the city its tribal factor and kinetic energy. Drag like the city is always reincarnating itself into something new, fresh and entertaining.
If practice makes perfect, Dion is moving in the right direction. She’s young and confident, yet also graceful and direct. She admits she auditioned six times before landing the coveted spot. It gave her seven years to hone her techniques at R House Wynwood, known for a decadent drag brunch with a waiting list sometimes months long during high season.
It's a “must be seen” place for the city’s elite, tourists lucky enough to snag reservations and numerous local fans.
South Florida is teeming with rabid fans hungry for more than R House can actually supply on any given weekend. I asked why R House is so popular, and she told me, “It’s the atmosphere, menu, service, and then we have the nastiest Emcee’s, the top-rated performers. It’s a combination of all those things coming together, you’re not going to find anywhere but here.”
Known for face and body, she said if she wasn’t doing drag, she’d be a makeup artist, which she loves even though it pales by comparison to what pays her bills now.
Morphine told me her superpower is performing, and she absolutely thrives in live event settings where she can flex and reel guests into her world. Reading the room and enlisting the audience into her performance is the key.
“I’m searching for that one person who may not be fully present. If I can get them to participate and enjoy, then I’m doing my job,” she said. “If your audience isn’t captivated, then you’re doing something wrong.”
I asked her how she would describe her Drag Race journey, and she joked that she’s going from Hialeah to Hollywood. I love her playful stabs and generosity. She credits learning from her elders and respect “for process.”
She stressed that if young performers want to succeed they should try to learn all they can from not just their family history, more importantly the shared history of all performers who came before them.
There’s something valuable to learn from everyone. She’s intuitively inclusive and thought enough to name-drop even more local legends TP Lords, Daisy Dead Petals and Alissha Queen of the Bus, Noel Leon and other South Florida staples.
She said, “Miami is no longer underestimated. [You] know, in the past we may have been overlooked. Some of the best drag in the world is coming out of our town right now.”
The future of drag is here and now, and Dion and Le'Paige are here for it.