Sequins, spangles and sweaters: The Return of Glamazon (or, Not Your Usual Thursday Night Out in Phnom Penh)
It was a night of stilettos, glitter and feathers.
There were men who looked like girls and girls who looked like men. And men who wanted to be girls.
Flesh spilled out from mini skirts and bras. One man wore a tuxedo. One wore a skirt. Ladies wore slinky gowns, pink wigs and tattoos. There were more fake eyelashes than you’ll see at a Sihanoukville karaoke bar on a Saturday night.
And that was just the audience.
Last night, Glamazon 2.0 strutted, strolled and postured into Phnom Penh’s Mecca of opulence and glitz – Naga World Casino. Billed “Too Much Is Never Enough”, everyone was all abuzz in anticipation of Round Two of last year’s inaugural hair and fashion glamarama at Pontoon, pulled together by The Dollhouse hair salon. All 600-odd tickets were sold out. NGO workers hauled out their heels. Stay-at-home mums pulled on their lycra tights and Phnom Penh’s fringe community dug deep into their stores of bangles, baubles and sequins.
Then came the men in cardigans and loafers.
After weeks of hype, Facebook posts and social chatter, Glamazon unrolled the evening with an anticlimactic parade of men in sweaters. They quietly slipped onto the catwalk under flaming red chandeliers in the center of a packed ballroom, looking as though they’d lost their way en route to the bathroom.
I’m sure they were very nice men. And that the cardigans would be quite stylish for an afternoon in Sorya Mall. But it didn’t quite fit the description of “over the top” for event that promised more haute couture than LaCoste. Unless it meant the cardigans were meant to be worn over the top. Perhaps I missed the subtlety.
Then there was Jujubee – the man/woman drag artist named after a type of candy, flown in specially for the night. Drum roll. Lights dim. Voice over the loudspeaker: “LIVE from Hollywood, California….” Hey, wait.
Jujubee (or Airline Inthyrath as she/he was named at birth) ain’t from Hollywood, Toto. She/he’s from Laos and lives in Boston, Massachusetts. But for the handful of people who’d driven in from Mondulkiri, never heard of Boston, and are no doubt impressed by anything to do with Hollywood (since they watch so many Hollywood films in Mondulkiri), Jujubee was from Hollywood tonight.
She/he bounded onto the stage at various times during the evening, his/her ample frame tightly wrapped in clingy gowns and body-hugging lace camisoles, platform heels glittering and wigs as big as giant brillo pads. Lip-synching. Hmm. Over the top? Oh yeah. Star quality entertainment? Not for my thirty bucks.
“I don’t quite get it,” whispered someone next to me. Me neither.
Neither did I get lots of things. Like, how could Naga possibly run out of wine run halfway through the evening? Why didn’t the fabulous Rhiannon Johnson get more stage time? Why did so many of the makeover models look as though they couldn’t wait to get off the stage? And, what’s with Naga World’s fascination with red chandeliers?
There was dance from the delightful Stephen Bimson of the Phnom Penh Central School of Ballet. There was a nice little film about Wildlife Alliance whose Asian Elephant Conservation Center was the charity beneficiary of the event.
Then there was the last 20 minutes, which at long last delivered on the event’s promise of something worthy of Carnivale, Castro or even Blue Chili. Over the top? You bet.
Long skinny models pouted, postured and scowled. There was big hair, pink hair and no hair. Men with shaved, tattooed chests and women with fingernails as long as Sihanouk Boulevard. Braveheart meets Marie Antoinette. Cindy Lauper meets Barbarella.
The segment began with a leggy model wearing what looked like a tree unfurling like a peacock (would that make it a treecock?). Eye-catching indeed. And a stage setter for the rest of the show. There were Michael Jordan lookalike models (the women, that is ) and war-painted gals wrapped in pieces of fur and tail feathers direct from the prop closet of Clan of the Cave Bear.
A Cruella de Vil knockoff was led onstage by a couple of bare-chested men in skeleton masks tethered to long leashes (no dalmations?). Another model strode across the stage in skintight fish-like scales, shoulders as big as Angkor Wat and enough black feathers to repopulate Phnom Tamao’s bird cages.
And everyone kept their balance on shoes that Elton John would have lusted after.
It was all jolly good fun and a great excuse for the girls (and some of the boys) to scour Central Market for sequinned shoes and trashy earrings, spend a couple of hours among slot machines and gaming tables (perfect location for a fundraiser) and observe superheroes and amazons flit across a catwalk in aid of Cambodia’s elephants.
As you’ve probably deduced, most of the audience was female. As you’ve probably also deduced, Glamazon ain’t your usual Thursday night entertainment in Phnom Penh.
And, since Wildlife Alliance was the sponsor, I’m guessing no animals were harmed in the making of the outfits.
Photos courtesy of Film Noir Studio Phnom Penh