LGBTQ+ youth wow and “Take the Stage!” at Metro Wellness & Community Center

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG |Who run the world? Youth.

On August 5, Metro Wellness & Community Centers’ summer camp program for youth presented“Take the Stage!” – its second annual talent show featuring LGBTQ+ youth. The show gave its audience the chance to witness the many talents of Tampa Bay’s young LGBTQ+ community, with participants from middle school and up.

Friends, family members and a supportive community clapped, cheered and celebrated along with MC and community advocate Pheyonce Montrese, who doesn’t take programs such as these for granted. “When I was younger, we didn’t have anything like this,” Montrese said. “I’m very thankful that this organization provides that for this community.”

Montrese, who as Nate Taylor servesas Secretary and on the Wellness and Community Center’s board, said the “goal of the program is to provide a safe place for LGBTQ+ youth,” giving them the opportunity to “come together and be who they are without any judgment or fear.”

The program did exactly that, as participants literally took to the stage to perform monologues, sing live versions of some of their favorite songs, perform spoken word, improvise comedy in the vein of William Shakespeare and perform in drag. Some of the summer camp’s youth even worked behind the scenes, ensuring proper lighting, music and sound as the event’s stage managers.

“The youth had a great time,” Montrese said, reflecting on their creativity and talent. “The winner was a drag performer that performed Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed a Girl.’”

The drag performer in question, who at twelve years old will soon enter the seventh grade, has been “into drag since he was nine,” his bio read. “He won them over with his looks, his moves and his energy,”Montrese said proudly.

The winner of the talent show was given fifty dollars’ worth of products from 6S Boutique, the locally owned-and-operated makeup, wig and accessories store, courtesy of the MC. Montrese also noted that the shop donated the entry fee for each of the participants, allowing them to enter the contest at no cost.

“That is the great support this community offers,” Montrese affirmed, “from all across the board.”

Metro Wellness & Community Centers currently offers youth support services in both St. Petersburg and Tampa. The St. Petersburg S.A.F.E. (Supporting young Adults for Equality) group meets Mondays from 6-7:30 PM, while the S.A.F.E. program for Tampa meets on Tuesdays at the same time.

You can visit their website at metrotampabay.org/youth to learn more about HIV testing and prevention, coming out support, anti-bullying support and counseling services, or call (727) 327-7670.

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