Queen of the Night: Parliament House’s Darcel Stevens and the importance of being current

By : Billy Manes
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When you scroll through your Facebook feed, you might find live feeds or videos of Darcel Stevens removing his makeup at the Parliament House post-drag. You really should, too, because it’s great and honest. But Stevens took on a new role, one without sequins and wigs as Orlando fell to violence over the summer. We caught up with Stevens in the dressing room of Parliament’s Footlight Theatre. The foundation was going on.

“I think that, for the most part, it’s my faith,” Stevens says about his community presence. “Most people don’t realize that I have a strong Christian background, and that’s the foundation of everything that I do.”

(L-R) Margo Miller Dixon, Jack Dixon, Patty Sheehan and Darcel Stevens at Parliament House’s Christmas Courtyard Lighting. Photo from Margo’s Facebook page.

Perhaps ironically, Stevens used to work for HCA/Columbia, Gov. Rick Scott’s noted arena of (alleged) Medicare fraud. Following that career, Stevens landed in Orlando.

“When I got here, I was put on part-time. Then I got laid off, because the corporation went through some trouble that we all know. I took the position here. My home is in Crystal River, so getting home has always been a little bit distant. And I’ve always been a people person. I gravitate toward people. I call Orlando home because of the people here, our genuine love. Unlike Gainesville: When I had friends in Gainesville, other than University of Florida, it was very different. People were more superficial there. It was very different. But here, this felt like home. People were genuine.”

Stevens has been genuine to the Orlando community, too, especially when the summer massacre at Pulse happened. Stevens was on the red phone to anyone he knew at the site, and was able to communicate, with veracity, the horrors that his friends were seeing via iPads and iPhones. He still can’t go to the memorial site, though.

“Personally, I’m still dealing with all that,” he says. “I have yet to visit that place. I posted on Facebook Live that I tried to take a couple of steps near the side, where I parked near Dunkin Donuts. I just walked and I couldn’t go any further, because those kids, I knew. It was just really tragic. I’m a veteran and I’ve seen things before. And most kids haven’t seen this. This was just too, too much.”

Darcel Stevens all dressed up to get out the vote. Photo from Darcel’s Facebook page.

There’s a reason for Stevens’ due diligence, though – the calls, the video contact.

“I learned in a crisis situation, you have to find out fast,” he says. “Speculation doesn’t do anybody any good. And even if it is a fact, there’s a time and a place for things to be said. I knew that that night was especially a young night, and I knew that while I was talking, any credibility I had in this city, people were holding to it. I was scared, and they were scared. I go into a certain mode – I don’t want to say that I’m brave – but I’m very focused. I think you can’t go wrong with going with the truth. In this superficial age, when everything is instant, everything is supposedly real, I think it’s so important to be raw. You can be assertive without being aggressive.”

Gallery photos by Jake Stevens.

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