Dina’s Diner August 22, 2022

| Aug 22, 2022
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The New York Times had a review of an opera version of M. Butterfly, a popular play that premiered in 1988 and turned into a film in 1993. The review appeared on August 1, 2022.

“Kimchilia Bartoli”

In case you don’t remember the premise of the M. Butterfly story, playwright David Henry Hwang took the true life story of how “for two decades, the French diplomat Bernard Boursicot (renamed Rene Gallimard in the play) carried on an affair with the Chinese opera singer and spy Shi Pei Pu (renamed Song Liling), only to discover, amid a lurid espionage case, that “she” had been a “he” all along.” The original play starred John Lithgow and B. D. Wong in the main roles and Jeremy Irons and John Lone starred in the film version. The new opera casts Mark Stone and Kangmin Justin Kim in the main roles. Playwright Hwang has returned to write the libretto for this operatic production.

The Times review posits that the main question “whether Gallimard knew that Song was a man is barely titillating at all” because our experience with gender issues has evolved to a different place. I’m not sure that the mystery still isn’t a compelling dramatic question given that it is a story based on real life events and in a 1980s context the question is still interesting. There is also a major plot point of espionage and the way Chinese authorities manipulated Shi Pei Pu/Song to betray Bouriscot/Gallimard. The film with Jeremy Irons and John Lone is still worth watching for the dramatic tension of both the gender and espionage elements of the story.

Kangmin Justin Kim

The Times praises actor Kangmin Justin Kim in the central role of Song. Kim is a classically trained opera performer with many roles in his credits. A review blurb on his website said: “His countertenor often defies belief with an elegant tone, instrumental agility and nuanced expressive colouring.” But the interesting angle in the M. Butterfly casting is that Kim had gone viral (at least in opera circles) for his drag performance as Kimchilia Bartoli, singing arias made famous by the great opera diva Cecilia Bartoli. The Times review suggests that the drag turn as Kimchilia may have helped but “the sensitivity as an actor that he shows in toying with Gallimard’s delusions and exploring Song’s own sexuality, announced an artist to watch closely.”

The Times review seemed ambivalent towards this remounting of the M. Butterfly story. But it’s interesting that a drag performance of classic arias made Kangmin Justin Kim the perfect casting for the gender blending role of Song in this drama.


I saw an item on the NextShark.com website about a new host for the Philippines version of RuPaul’s Drag Race. The new host is Paolo Ballesteros, a popular actor in the Philippines known for drag roles in a number of television shows.

Paolo as Katy Perry.

I wondered how many international versions of RuPaul’s Drag Race there were. A Wikipedia entry had a list of 16 which included most of the large European countries plus Canada and also included Australia, Thailand and Philippines. So let’s take a moment to salute RuPaul on this empire he’s built. Ru is 61 years old now and started out as a local performer in Atlanta, moved into the club scene in New York City in the 1980s, got into the music business as a backup singer and a small part in a B52’s video, then recorded Supermodel of the World (with the single You Better Work) that made him a star in 1993. And he just kept getting bigger. So you go, girl, which was a hot saying back in the day when RuPaul was getting started as the conquering queen of media.

Paolo Ballesteros is something of a one-man drag sensation in his native country. He will be 40 years old later this year so he’s been at this for a while as well. According to a Wikipedia entry, he has been in showbiz since 2001 in a combination of roles as a presenter on chat shows and an actor on sitcoms and dramas in the Philippines. According to some of the biographical material I saw, Paolo is well-known for transforming his drag look to impersonate a number of celebrity women from Arianna Grande to Angelina Jolie to Katy Perry.

Like a lot of drag performers, Paolo in guy guise looks like a thousand fellows you can see on any street in the world. His Instagram page has some of these non-drag photos, sometimes side-by-side with his transformations. The power of cosmetics is quite awesome. We have these tools at our disposal and use them frequently to make our own transformations. So why don’t we look like Katy Perry?


I came across an interesting article with the title The Do’s and Don’ts for Striking a Pose to Always Be Camera Ready. The article had a dozen or more helpful tips on taking better photos of yourself or with a friend. It was on a site called WithMyLadies.com.

Photos are such an important part of social media in our everyday lives and our crossdressing lives if you want to post on photo websites like Flickr.com or others. For those crossdressers who can’t leave the house, photos are a good way to interact with others online. Good photos — using some of the tips in the article — can boost your self-confidence and perhaps generate some new friends online.

A bad pose and a good pose.

Browsing through the examples of good and bad side by side examples you can see there are some common threads running through the advice. Contrary to the age-old encouragement to say ‘cheese,’ smiling is generally discouraged. A serious or neutral face can add some depth and power to your profile photos. Several examples suggest getting your body in a more sideways rather than straight ahead position when snapping. Putting a leg out, kicking a heel up, or even crouching can give your photos some dynamism instead of dully posed in flat footed postures.

Photographing from a lower angle will make you appear taller with longer legs. If you’re already too tall, maybe a downward angle will minimize that appearance.

Lighting is important and often overlooked. If you stand with the light source behind you the photo will be darker and less defined. Turn around and let the light hit your face for better definition and less flattering shadows. Many examples promote the idea of not looking directly at the camera for a more professional result. That’s an interesting idea and almost counter-intuitive when taking a selfie. There are some suggestions for taking mirror selfies and using glass panes to create artistic effects.

I saw another photo-related article about Duchess Kate and how she always looks so good in her public photos. It was headlined Here’s the Trick Kate Middleton Uses to Look Good in Photos. It was on MarieClaire.com recently. The “trick” was fairly simple according to Miranda Holder, a royal style expert: “She has simply been trained to always keep her chin parallel to the ground. She doesn’t tilt it down, she doesn’t tilt it up – and that ensures a flattering photograph every single time.” It helps if you have a kisser like Kate Middleton but maybe it can work for the rest of us, too. So keep it in mind, ladies.


The New York Times had an article about artificial intelligence and robots and I was drawn in by the photo of the robot woman. There. I said it. The robot is hot.

The article itself was, of course, much more serious than my infatuation with a mechanical woman. The headline was A.I. Is Not Sentient. Why Do People Say It Is? It appeared in the Times on August 5, 2022. Sentient means the ability to feel and perceive things. Apparently, some in the artificial intelligence community every so often propose that their A.I. creations are sentient or very close to being sentient. The Times article by technology reporter Cade Metz argues that just isn’t true. And most people in the A.I. field agree that the tech is just not there yet to claim otherwise.

Robot jazz singer Desdemona.

The hook of the story is that one such A.I. researcher, Dr. Ben Goertzel, has a jazz fusion band in Seattle WA that includes a robot lead singer named Desdemona. Really. She’s the hottie in the accompanying photo. During a performance, Desdemona shouted out “The Singularity will not be centralized! It will radiate through the cosmos like a wasp!” That was not part of the song. Dr. Goertzel thought momentarily that Desdemona and her A.I. programming had broken through to express something based on the vibe of the band’s music. That would be very sentient.

The Times article reported: “But a few minutes later, he realized this was nonsense. “When the band gelled, it felt like the robot was part of our collective intelligence – that it was sensing what we were feeling and doing,” he said. “Then I stopped playing and thought about what really happened.” What happened was that Desdemona, through some sort of technology-meets-jazz-fusion kismet, hit him with a reasonable facsimile of his own words at just the right moment.”

Alright, so Desdemona and her purple hair isn’t doing her own emoting. She cannot interpret my flirting vibes if we ever met in some brainy jazz fusion nightspot. Maybe it’s the wig but Desdemona looks like she might be gender fluid to me. Can a robot be trans? Can a cis-human be attracted to a robot? I think I answered that already.


Alejandra Quiroz

I came across an item about a Latina construction worker named Alejandra Quiroz. I saw similar reports on several news outlets in early August 2022. As you can see by the accompanying photo, Alejandra is not your average construction worker.

According to one site, “She calls herself a fitness model and usually uploads photos and videos on her networks [Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok], in which thousands of followers react to her posts, in addition to those who subscribe to her official OnlyFans channel.” Her photos on the various media sites show her as one of those busty, big booty ladies who ooze sensuality. According to one of those fractured internet biography sites, Alejandra is Ecuadorian but may be living in the U.S. She is a hairstylist and may be a “future lawyer.” So she is many things but it doesn’t appear that she is a genuine construction worker. But, who cares?

Real construction workers have always gotten a lot of flack for catcalling women passing by their job-sites. Imagine a bunch of guys hooting from the sidewalks when they get an eyeful of Alejandra in her work togs. You might say she is making buildings — and other things — rise.

Crossdressers have adopted many archetypal looks through the decades. I don’t remember ever seeing any crossdresser trying to emulate a sexy female construction worker. If anyone wants to give it a try, send the pics, sister.

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Category: Transgender Fun & Entertainment


About the Author ()

I started crossdressing and going out publicly in 1988. I joined the Renaissance group in the Philadelphia area that year and later became chapter leader for two years in the '90s. I always enjoyed writing and wrote for the Renaissance newsletter and magazine throughout my membership years. I've been writing for TGForum for several years now. I also contributed items to LadyLike magazine and other TG publications before the advent of the internet. My hobby-within-a-hobby is singing live as my alter-ego Dina Sinatra and I have had the opportunity to do that with several accommodating performers and in a number of venues over the years since the mid-1990s. In the Diner column items here, I try to relate crossdressing or transgender themes (and my own pet peeves and fetishes) to the larger world -- and vice versa.

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