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Ongina. Photos: Maticus Adams

Third and final Spill the Tea event nears

By Mathew Adams on April 16, 2019

As the third and final Spill the Tea event nears on Thursday, April 25 at the 27 Club, this seems like the best time to look back at the series as a whole, what has been accomplished and what possibilities the future holds. In case you missed the article this summer, these events combine drag artists with health information to help educate, end stigma, and reduce harm for the members of the Party and Play community.

As we gear up for the finale event on Thursday, April 25, MAX Ottawa, in partnership with ViiV Healthcare, Capital Pride and Somerset West Community Health Centre is hosting an event on Tuesday, April 16, filling condoms and harm reduction kits at their office at 251 Bank Street from 6-8pm. Ottawa’s own Devona Coe will join in the fun with trivia and prizes, including meet and greet tickets to the finale event with Nina Bonina Brown. The space features a gender-neutral bathroom and is wheelchair accessible. The event will take place primarily in English, but ASL and translators are available—please contact MAX Ottawa at least 48 hours in advance to make arrangements.

Here’s a recap of what’s happened so far, and what we have to look forward to.

Pride Launch with Shea Coulee

Shea Coulee

In the midst of the busiest, most extravagant Capital Pride in recent memory, MAX Ottawa launched the Spill the Tea event series in partnership with ViiV Healthcare. The series has been designed as an experience to promote harm reduction and education in the men into men community who party and play.

Otherwise known as chem sex, it is defined for the purposes of the event as a combination of sex and crystal meth, cocaine, GHB and/or other intoxicants. This particular community had been suffering due to a lack of understanding, resources and acceptance, which Spill the Tea was designed to address.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 finalist Shea Coulee was the show headliner, along with conceptual queen Mikiki from Toronto, the bearded beauty Anaconda Lasabrosa from Montreal and Ottawa’s own Devona Coe. The house was packed and the crowd was treated to some shocking, political, and highly energetic performances.

The success of the show paved the way for the mid-winter second show to follow.

World AIDS Day with Ongina

Just in time for World AIDS Day, HIV activist and RuPaul’s Drag Race season one fan favourite Ongina was in Ottawa to headline this edition of Spill the Tea. While here, Ongina was invited on Ottawa All in a Day to discuss HIV stigma and other issues facing those living with the virus. On stage, she was joined by Ottawa’s current reigning Mr. Capital Pride, the comically brilliant Charli Deville and Ms. Capital Pride, Ottawa’s dancing queen Kimmy Dymond. The whole event was hosted by the lovely Devona Coe.

Devona Coe

Partnering with MAX Ottawa, Devona Coe has embraced her role as a community leader, educator and advocate for safer partying. While hosting the event, she and Ongina went through the safe play kits on stage where she showed off her knowledge, enthusiasm and understanding. She was a fantastic, confident presence on and off stage that exemplified her passion for harm reduction. She returns again as host for the final show of the Spill the Tea series.

While The crowd for this edition may have been smaller (maybe due to the cold weather of this year’s never ending winter?), it was more diverse, including more trans, gender non-binary and female self-identifying individuals. The crowd was also a lot more engaged in the spirit of the show and its intention of discussing safer sex and safer partying.

“From the first to the second event, we noticed a lot more guys who are into guys who had questions come up to the information booths for MAX Ottawa and for Somerset West Community Health Center to ask questions around harm reduction, safer sex and safer partying in general and as well the party kits that were offered,” says Roberto Ortiz, Executive Director of MAX Ottawa.

The Finale with Nina Bonina Brown

Legendary make-up artist and RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 queen Nina Bonina Brown makes her Canadian debut at the final Spill the Tea event on Thursday, April 25 at the 27 Club. The event will be hosted by the amazing Devona Coe and will feature the hilarious Charli Deville and real-life siblings Icesis Couture and Savannah Couture from Ottawa’s Haus of Couture. Tickets are available online. General admission tickets are on a sliding scale between $10 and $20, and for $30 include admission to the show and a meet and greet with Nina.

The Future

Though Spill the Tea has come to an end, the success of the series has kept the folks at MAX Ottawa excited for new projects. They want to present the Spill the Tea format to other organizations as a blueprint they can adapt to the needs of their community. MAX Ottawa has been working with both the guys into guys and the party and play communities to see what they would like to see in the future.

“The Safer Partying Advisory Committee is interested in watching the Spill the Tea brand continue with more smaller, intimate groups to learn one particular skill or one particular task or to see something that is led by a community member who self identifies as a user and share their experience, which is also a way to connect outside of a bar setting,” says Robert Alsberry, Communications and Outreach Coordinator for MAX Ottawa.

The Safer Partying Advisory Committee is made up of self identified users who are passionate about getting resources, education and visibility for the party and play community. They have also expressed an interest seeing the Spill the Tea brand include different forms of art, with future events taking place in a gallery.

Whatever the future holds, this final show will be a spectacular way to close out the series. Get your tickets before they are gone. This is going to be something you will not want to miss.