Halloween is one of America’s most popular holidays. Trick or treating, visiting haunted houses and gathering around fires are all part of the routine. But dressing up is probably the most famous tradition and the one Americans take most seriously.
October 29 was not an average Tuesday for Felicia, Beth, and La Vita Dolce. It was the last Tuesday before Halloween…meaning time for the “DC High Heel race”.
“It’s a Halloween tradition for pretty much everyone who is gay in DC. They will either come see it or they’ll run it,” Felicia said.
But this is no ordinary feat. A lot of planning goes into the evening. A professional make-up artist is hired. And one must plan one's costume carefully.
“I know someone that literally works on his costume all year around,” race participant La Dolce Vita confided.
“This is my padding. It goes right here," said Felicia, as she showed the elements of her costume. "It creates the illusion of bigger hips and a little bit of a butt. This is the dress I’ll be wearing. And this is the wig with the red top hat and feathers.”
For the male participants, dressing up as women is a creative outlet.
“Growing up through school and college there was always an avenue to express yourself…and once I entered the traditional workforce, I felt like that part of my brain was slowly atrophying," Felicia explained. "And the ability to transform yourself is a really creative venture.”
It is a venture many Washington D.C. area boyfriends, colleagues and family support whole-heartedly.
“Before, I used to be nervous about telling people but now I just figured it’s really not a terrible thing," admitted racer Beth. "Certainly for some people they might not like it but at the end of the day it’s your life and what you wanna do. “
“For us I know that we see ourselves as male," Felicia. "It’s just a fun way to interact and there’s no shame in that. It’s really rewarding.”
Participants say the race is also about mingling with familiar faces. The DC drag community is a very tightknit one.
“I wouldn’t trade the people I met through doing drag for anyone else cause I’ve met wonderful friends,” Beth said.
The high heel race has brightened Dupont Circle, one of D.C.'s most dynamic neighborhoods for 27 years.