“Biuty Queen”

Iván Monalisa Ojeda (trans. Hannah Kauders)

June 17, 2021 
The following is an excerpt of a short story that appears in Iván Monalisa Ojeda's short story collection, Las Biuty Queens, translated by Hannah Kauders. Ojeda grew up on the shores of Lake Llanquihue and studied theater at the University of Chile, in Santiago, later settling in New York, where he/she currently lives. He/she published an essay collection, La Misma Nota, Forever and has written articles for magazines and plays. In addition to being a writer, he/she is a performer.

The truth is that, YES, I’m exhausted. But it was worth all the hustling, all the johns. All those fucking clients so I could afford to have my dresses made, on top of paying the choreographer and the four dancers. Obviously, it was worth it. The crown looks gorgeous on me. It might not have so many jewels, but you can tell it was expensive. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the sluttiest New York loca of them all? Go ahead, say it. Speak up, I can’t hear you. Better you say it than me. Yes, exactly. Deborah Hilton. Deborah with an H. Yours truly. José Troncoso doesn’t exist anymore. We left him thousands of kilometers behind.

Look. If you’d taken any longer to say my name, who knows what I would’ve done to you. You got lucky; I was about to get suspicious and learn the hard way that breaking a mirror brings you seven years’ bad luck. You guessed it, honey: the slut is me. Deborah Hilton. Deborah with an H. I have five crowns. And a ticket to Chicago for next year. To the most important beauty pageant for transsexuals in all the United States. I mean, no one wins that crown the first time. Jim Flint, the founder and organizer, makes sure you go at least three times before you win. And that’s just if you’re beautiful, talented, and on top of it all, you spend a fortune on the production. I think the only person who’s ever won the crown her first time is Lady Kathiria. First she won the Continental Plus title. That’s the one for chubby girls. You’ll notice I didn’t say fat. Then the loca slimmed down and went back for the Continental Regular the next year. She won first place. You have to give the queen some credit. They say she was buried with all her crowns. Hey, don’t give me that look. I was just thinking about how many crowns I’ll have before I cross over to the other side. Uy, best not to think about that. I’m going to have a drink. Oh, right, you don’t drink.  You’re a mirror. An object. I like you anyway. Cheers. And keep reflecting my gorgeousness. Just remember: I’m not like everyone else. I talk to you. I tell you all my secrets.

After Miss Continental, I’m going to Miss International Queen in Thailand. Sure, I’ll have to invest more in surgeries, because obviously the most beautiful locas in the whole world will be there. And you can’t forget that Asian girls already have the figure, the skin, and the hair going for them. Feminine perfection. But anyway, that’s two years away. Although two years is nothing here in New York.  After all, it’s been more than ten since I came here from Central America and it feels like it was just yesterday.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the sluttiest New York loca of them all? Go ahead, say it. Speak up, I can’t hear you. Better you say it than me.

So, for now, my job is to focus on next September and getting ready for Chicago. I’ll have to raise at least $20,000. Pero first things first, I need to pay off my debts ahora mismo because my landlord’s about to take me to court. I owe more than three months’ rent. By some miracle, God gave me plenty of beauty and plenty of dick. I’ll never have a shortage of clients, and with the regulars I already have from nonstop hustling, I’ll be caught up in a month. That deserves another toast. Duh, to keep my spirits up. Cheers, mirror. Thanks for listening.

Now that I think about it, maybe beginning in November I’ll start to travel and look for tricks in places outside the city. Monday to Thursday in Long Island or Jersey, and Fridays and weekends in Manhattan, obviously, because money never runs out here. But if we’re being honest, the competition gets stiffer every day. Outside the city, it’s a different story. There aren’t even bars for locas.  There might be for gays, but not for beauties like us. We can charge whatever we want out there. Of course, you have to be extra careful about the police. If they see men coming and going from your room, the hotel always calls the cops. And the loca? Straight to the slammer she goes. It’s good I have my permanent residence, but I still have to watch out. Remember what happened to the Torres family—even people with papers can get deported. And that, my dear little mirror, is simply not my cup of tea. I have crowns left to win. I want to have so many they don’t even fit in my casket. I hope I need a second coffin just for my crowns.  Don’t judge me just because I’m drunk. Look, I’ll make sure they bury you with me, too.  Will I live to be an old lady? If I do, whoever goes to my wake is going to see a photo exhibition of me posing with all my crowns. Look at that old maricón, they’ll say, who’d ever believe he was a biuty queen? Yes, mi amor, a lady must do everything she can to be respected.

But let me tell you something. All those dancers and choreographers are bloodsuckers. They charge for everything. Zero solidarity. Even knowing how we kill ourselves working. La Ángel just went to a pageant in Miami and rented a van to save on the plane tickets. She was planning to take the makeup artist and two locas who’d be her assistants, but they did squat for her in the end. Took off as soon as they got to the pageant. Didn’t even thank her. Anyway, these maricas said they weren’t about to spend that many hours sitting in a van, they’d only fly. If not, she’d have to look for some other dancers. And what could the loca do? Well, nothing. She had to suck it up and ask me to borrow some money. La Ángel ended up spending just as much on the tickets for the four dancers and the choreographer as she did on her evening gown. Of course I lent her the money. She’s my friend. Such a good friend that she still owes me half of it. I’m going to call her first thing tomorrow morning so she pays me. That’s how a girl ends up broke. Still gorgeous, though. Not just anyone can say she won crowns for beauty pageants in New York. I can. Deborah Hilton. Deborah with an H. Okay, one last toast. Uy, who’s calling at this hour? And when I’m so exhausted. Oh! It’s Anthony. The client with the deep pockets. I’ll wait five minutes and then call him back. He likes when you play hard to get. This boy sucks up drugs like a vacuum. I’ll make a whole month’s rent off him alone. Tomorrow my landlord will be happy. And if I get more out of him than I think, the extra will go straight into my piggy bank for Chicago. Okay, it’s time. I’m calling him. Pero please don’t get mad at me for moving you from your spot. You know I keep my drugs between your back and the wall. Tomorrow I’ll tell you how it went. And you know what? I’m going to leave my crown on, just like the biuty queen I am.


Excerpted from Las Biuty Queens by Iván Monalisa Ojeda (translated from the Spanish by Hannah Kauders), with permission of Astra House. Copyright © 2021 by Iván Monalisa Ojeda. Translation copyright © 2021 by Hannah Kauders.

More Story
Sarah Polley is adapting Miriam Toews’s Women Talking and the cast is perfect. Two of my favorite living artists are collaborating and I couldn’t be happier. Sarah Polley has come onboard to adapt Miriam...

Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.