Just as real gastropods come up from the ground after a long rain, so will Eugene’s SLUG queens emerge from their homes after the COVID-19 shutdown to host an in-person contest once again.
The annual competition, which prides itself on silly personalities and uniqueness as opposed to traditional beauty standards, is preparing for its 39th year, following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. In 2020, the competition took place on Zoom, even though the event thrives off of a live, energetic audience, says “raining” SLUG queen Jenette Kime, AKA Raining Goddess SluGoddess SlimeShine.
“There is something about going back to normalcy. We get to mingle with people and have that memory showcased, and see the contestants who are excited about participating,” she says.
This year, audiences can expect some of the staples of a SLUG queen (Society of the Legitimization of the Ubiquitous Gastropod) contest, which includes, but is not limited to, live music, performances of the wannabe queens, vibrant costumes and an overall atmosphere of Eugene originality, as well as some bribing of the judges. Kime says there will also be a memorial service for TK Landázuri, a SLUG queen crowned in 2006 who passed away recently. All these activities will take place at the downtown Park Blocks.
Leigh Anne Jasheway, AKA Old Queen Glorious Gastropause, who also goes by Glo, was crowned SLUG queen in 2007. She says the SLUG queen is an ideal representation of Eugene.
“We are the self-mockery of all of that,” she says of traditional beauty pageants. “We have three components to our competition, which sounds very much like Miss America, but everything is tongue and cheek, and our talent has ranged from knitting to hula hooping, singing as a puppet and stand-up comedy.”
Kime was first crowned in 2019 and again in 2020 due to COVID-19, making her the only SLUG queen to be crowned twice. The three contestants who performed that year, as well as the judges, agreed to crown Kime twice, since she only had half a year of her SLUG queen rain before the pandemic shut everything down.
“And it was a surprise,” Kime says. “So even though they knew, the community didn’t know that I was being crowned, and they assumed we were going to get a new queen. We tried to make it similar to what a normal coronation was, but shorter.”
The SLUG queen wanna-bes are also not bound by gender, Kime says, meaning anyone can enter the contest as long as they are 18 or older. This year, she says around five or six people have signed up to compete.
Each contestant gets three minutes to perform a talent. Often they will sing or dance. Kime says one year, a STEM scientist competed and made ice cream using dry ice on stage during the allotted time. Another year, someone rode in on a horse.
“And they only get three minutes and then they are yanked off stage,” she says. “So just a few minutes to basically present themselves.”
After performing and answering a few silly on-the-spot questions, old queens — who are never referred to as “former” or “past” queens, but instead as old queens and very old queens — and a few local “celebrities” will judge the contestants. This year, Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis, Register-Guard photographer Chris Pietsch and radio DJ and Black Business Alliance president King Silky Booker will judge alongside the old queens.
In this contest, bribery goes a long way. In the months and minutes leading up to the SLUG queen competition, wanna-be queens flood old queens with treats, crafts and other random items in order to sway their votes when the time comes. Kime says for a bribe, one contestant gave her a banana slug purse.
“That’s why the wanna-bes want to bribe the queens, because they’re the judges and will determine who the winner is,” Kime says.
Once a new Eugene SLUG queen is crowned, they are invited to events around the community in their Slug costumes as a figurehead of the SLUG queen community and Eugene in general.
“Organizations contact us to show up to say, ‘Oh, this SLUG queen will be at our event.’ I don’t know if that helps or not,” Kime laughs.
Jasheway says the intent of this Eugene tradition is to use playfulness and silliness as a way to bring the community together. And usually, all the SLUG queens have had a cause that they represent. For Jasheway, it was animal welfare and animal rights. She says raining queens and old queens appear at events and fundraise for their cause.
Though this year will be similar to other SLUG queen events, coming back from the pandemic is different, she says, because virtual events are just not the same.
“We had a great video and it was produced really well, but you didn’t have that feeling of the energy of all the people sitting in the audience and the children especially, rooting for the new queen,” Jasheway says. “And I think that is so vital for our mental health right now.”
For those planning to attend, remember to leave the salt at home and bring a chair to the Park Blocks to watch the contest. Kime says she recommends arriving a little early, as the audience can be pretty packed.
Eugene’s Annual SLUG Queen competition begins at 6:30 pm Friday, Aug. 13, at the Park Blocks on 8th Avenue and Oak Street.