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Jade Esteban Estrada

By Jack Nichols

When a gay Latino singer emerges with gusto from the closet, its a cause for celebration. Machismo, a Latino construct which is anti-gay, signals gruesome behaviors in Latin American culture. It was this macho-mania that led, I suspect, to the murder of pioneering activist Lige Clarke who was gunned down, one theory says, by Mexican state police after they'd perused his gay autobiography during a three hour search when, in 1975, he crossed the border.

Thus, when an entertainer like Jade Esteban Estrada lets everyone know he's gay—I'm impelled to salute him. He's brave. Anything done to flout the parochial Roman Catholic brainwashing that spawns anti-gay evils south of the border, deserves, I say, high praise.

And, of course, praise comes easier because Estrada has a stellar voice and, on his new CD, Angel, he's performing with outstanding instrumental backup as well.

Estrada is a native of Texas, not Mexico, and so, apparently, he learned his Spanish as a second language. In his acknowledgements—filled with Latino enthusiasms—he writes:

"To Mummy for never once leaving my side. I love you and thank you for teaching me Spanish. See, you were right I did need it in life. Every song is for you. Soy Cortez en mi alma, querida."

"Mummy," seemingly, isn't his actual mother, however. Addressing his birth mother, Aurora, he assures her: "Your greatness was destined." Yes. Yes.

Estrada masterfully evokes a kind of fun-loving humor. After winning a scholarship to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, he took home the prize for the Funniest Amateur Comic at Stand Up New York. He made his living—during the day—as a choreographer and, by night he held forth as a singer, dancer, actor, drag star, and go-go boy.

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Actress Zoe Caldwell, with whom he'd worked briefly as an assistant at the conservatory, told him: “In order to prepare for your career as an actor, you must do everything.”

Last year Estrada performed in 16 Pride celebrations. In EuroPride 2001, he will headline the Vienna celebration. December's OUT called him “the first gay Latin star” while that same month's Genre dubbed him “the diva of Latin pop”, noting that he's “energetic and sizzling.”

Estrada's pop music career got its start when he joined The Model Citizens, a hip hop group. He was not meant to play second fiddle to other lead singers, however, and soon split to pursue a successful solo career.

During his search for a niche, however, he appeared in both Europe and Asia, landing a major role in Starlight Express, a German production and the Ocean Dome in Japan. In a salute to a Manhattan favorite, he also took part in a European tribute to composer George Gershwin.

Returning to the United States, Estrada debuted in his one-man show, It's Too Late…It's Already In Me, at the 1997 Festival de Libre Enganche.

Signing up with Total Envision Records in 1998, Estrada released his single hit “Raggae Twist”. At the same time, he enjoyed a stint as a choreographer and dancer for Charo and then began extensive touring during which he performed with many of America Latina's top name entertainers.

Becoming the first performer since Selena to open the Tejano Concert at Christiansen Stadium in Texas, Estrada gained even more notice during his appearances on a global beauty pageant circuit where he was known as “The Prince of Pageantry.”

Last year, Pageantry Magazine gave him its coveted “Spirit Award” and this year he's already received the “2001 Man of Distinction Award” from the Miss Black World Organization.

In September, Estrada founded his own label, Vicarious Records. His delightful debut album, Angel, is now available.

© 1997-2002 BEI