Beneva Fruitville has built a large following in Sarasota with sassy comebacks in the last four years as the host of Drag Queen Bingo shows. She is now hoping to reach a national audience with a chance to compete on Logo TV’s hit series “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
On Wednesday, Beneva was briefly in the lead of an unofficial online fan poll to choose an audience favorite for the seventh season of the talent competition.
“I was just looking at the list randomly and I saw some people I knew and then I saw my face,” said actor Berry Ayers, who created Beneva Fruitville for a benefit about six years ago. When Ayers last looked, Beneva was No. 1 among the 200 drag queens on the list.
A friend submitted Beneva’s photo to the poll, Ayers said.
“I’m not really sure how it works, but it seems like it’s based on likes versus dislikes,” Ayers said.
There are drag queens with thousands more votes, but the ratio to likes to dislikes is lower.
By mid-day Wednesday, Beneva had 1,970 likes versus 1,523 dislikes. In comparison, Hedda Lettuce, a more nationally prominent drag queen, had 9,674 likes, against 20,160 dislikes.
There is no deadline for voting on the website dragofficial.com, which covers a range of news about drag queens and RuPaul’s show.
Dragofficial.com is not affiliated with Logo in an official capacity and the “results of that poll have no bearing on casting,” a Logo spokesman said Wednesday.
The online vote comes as Beneva, Lindsay Carlton and Tamiami Trails prepare for the fourth anniversary of their Drag Queen Bingo shows on June 6 at the Players Theatre, where it has been a Friday night staple after two years at the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre.
Ayers said Beneva applied to “RuPaul’s Drag Race” about a year ago, filling out a lengthy application and submitting a 15-minute video.
“It was like writing a college essay,” he said. “I had to write about every aspect of my life, what I do, what I would do if I were on the show, what kind of creativity I would bring and what I think the effect the show has had on the world.”
Beneva has her roots in a 2008 benefit show that Ayers performed in with other cast members of a Golden Apple production of “La Cage aux Folles.”
“Her name came from when I first moved here,” he said. “We were doing a rehearsal for ‘Chicago’ at ballet studios on the corner of Beneva and Fruitville and I said that sounds like a drag name. My friends started using that as their nickname for me and then it stuck.”
Ayers hopes that his approach to Beneva helps her stand out against other potential contestants. He has always viewed Beneva as an “acting job. I approach it from an acting perspective and a theatrical perspective. It’s more than just being pretty and lip synching.”
Ayers appeared in New York and Los Angeles in the long-running hit “Naked Boys Singing.” Since moving to Sarasota a decade ago, he has performed in countless shows at the Golden Apple and Players Theatre, most recently in “Urinetown.” He also serves as director of music and production manager at the Players Theatre.
Ayers said Beneva’s ability to sing and work a crowd, as she does during Drag Queen Bingo shows, may give her an advantage if she were to make it on “Drag Race.”
“From what I’ve seen of the show in the last couple of seasons, they’re really looking for people who can represent the show and not just be a face,” he said. “They want people with a voice and something to say and with legitimate talent. I think that’s something I could bring to the show as well. I can speak in front of an audience. I have a voice and I have opinions so I can hold an audience’s attention for more than just a five-minute song.”