June 26, 2023

Discovery Green honors Dina Jacobs and all Drag Queens at Rainbow on the Green®

Dina Jacobs sings for a lucky few during the rained out Rainbow on the Green at Discovery Green on Friday, June 23.

The rained-out Rainbow on the Green started with so much promise.

Ericka Sanchez’s performance as Mary J Blige had the crowd up and dancing despite the stifling heat. Next up was Roxanne Collins – powerful legs blazing – performing a Tina Turner tribute. But the weather she kicked up turned out to be more than just a light sprinkle. Soon, golf ball sized hail was dropping as the crowd ran for shelter. What you did not get to see Friday night: Z’maji’s Discovery Green debut and JORDY’s high-energy set.

You also did not get to meet Dina Jacobs, “Houston’s Grand Dame of Drag.”

Jacobs arrived at Rainbow on the Green wearing a flowered top and pants. A white plumeria adorned her updo, a nod to her Hawaiian roots. Jacobs started her career in Honolulu at the age of 17. She then moved to Chicago, Atlanta, Florida and other places before first performing in Houston at Numbers in 1981. She calls Houston home now but performs across the nation including this month at the National AIDS Memorial in New York City as part of the Legends of Drag Show. 

She was invited to Rainbow on the Green as an honored guest to accept The Barry Mandel Rainbow Honoree for 2023 on behalf of Houston’s Drag Queens.

Drag Queens, by design, attract a lot of attention. Their performances and their activism bring joy to so many every year. Recently the artform has been under attack often by those who don’t completely understand drag, or why so many love it. 

Decades of fighting for her place in the spotlight has forged her character into steel, but Jacobs maintains a warmth and grace.

After the rain hit, Jacobs found her way to the green room, poise intact. Emcee Derrick Shore presented her the award in front of a crowd of about 20 lucky Rainbow attendees who found shelter in the green room and adjoining reading room.

She then gifted them an acapella rendition of “What a Wonderful World.” Tears were shed.

“I’m not out to change anyone’s mind. I’m just out to make sure that what I do is good enough for people to enjoy. It’s like your job. All you can do is the best you can do and everything after that… that’s life,” Jacobs said. “Enjoy it or do gooder. Enjoy life, be happy or be better and no one’s going to like a bitter person.”

A well-known civil rights adage is that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The corollary is that one’s courage to express oneself fully creates the possibility for others to do the same. Drag Queens represent new ways of looking at gender and performance. The artform opens up new possibilities for self-expression among artists of all types. They are singing, dancing, sashaying examples of self-love that invite the audience to do the same.

Jacobs said advocating for others is a part of her career that was never something she planned.

“The only way I can help is by doing benefits and making money for the organizations,” she said. “It’s just common sense that when you help someone you feel better. Even if it’s a minimal thing or a gigantic thing.”

Discovery Green is grateful to Jacobs and other queens whose presence and courage have made the 12-acre green space a welcoming space for gay and lesbian families, friends and allies.

Last year Discovery Green honored transgender activist Maya Stanton and others who have spoken out against legislation meant to deny medical treatment to transgender children.

This year, Discovery Green renamed the award to honor retiring president Barry Mandel. A lifelong Houstonian, Mandel spent his entire adult life advocating for the LGBTQ community and the performing arts. In recognition of his legacy the yearly award will now be called the Barry Mandel Rainbow Honoree.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Discovery Green’s mission is to provide an uncommonly beautiful, urban green space in the heart of Houston that serves as a village green for our city, a source of health and happiness for our citizens, and a window into the incredible diversity of arts and traditions that enrich life in Houston.

We exist to bring people together and that’s what we’re doing. You can join us!

Your support is needed now. Donate now to join the community of Houstonians providing moments of joy and happiness for the millions who visit Discovery Green every day.

Dina Jacobs poses with Barry Mandel's husband, Scott Sawyer during the rained-out Rainbow on the Green. Photo by Dalton DeHart and Crew.