She is a vivacious Latina with a colorful, feisty and dynamic personality and her laugh is out-of-this-world. Listen to her plans to bribe the old queen, how she is connected to Oaxaca, and the origins of her name: Santa Frida Elisa Refugio Babosita. With a giant posse of friends and supporters on her “court” – including her daughter, the “Princess” – she redefines the role and breathes new life into this hilarious celebration of all things Eugene.
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The Making of a Slug Queen
Transcription by Jade Rainsong
(Karen:) It’s a warm day in July and I just pulled up to Mija Andrade’s house and the house isn’t painted green. It’s actually brown. It doesn’t look very slimy as I come up the door.Mija is expecting me for an interview today about her trying out to be the Slug Queen this year of Eugene.
(Mija:) Hi, Karen. Welcome.
(Karen:) Hi, Mija. So, Mija, tell us a little bit about the Slug Queen of Eugene, this sounds really interesting. I’d like to know more about this, why a slug? And what is the history of this contest, I guess it’s a contest.
(Mija:) So yes, the Slug Queen competition takes place annually and slug actually stands for Society for the Legitimization of the Ubiquitous Gastropod. And of course the slug is, you know, a creature we find prevalent in the Pacific Northwest. So it seems very apropos. Of course, it’s you know, this is meant to be a humorous character, but she is also an ambassador of Eugene of sorts. I feel like the Slug Queen very much represents the culture of Eugene which is eccentric and unusual, unique and creative and that’s one of the things that I love about and if you meet any of the old Queens you really get a sense of that diversity.
(Karen:) So it sounds pretty unique, pretty fun. I mean I’ve heard of other competitions and other towns, but but none that quite glorifies the gastropod in quite the same way. Are there a lot of slugs in your yard? I know that sounds kind of silly but they said ubiquitous, right, in the title.
(Mija:) That’s right, yes, there are plenty of slugs in my yard and they are very well revered as well as the snails. We love snails in our family as well. But the very first Slug Queen competition and coronation took place in 1983. So it’s been around awhile used to be synonymous with Eugene celebration and Eugene celebration parade.
Which we haven’t really had in the last few years. Although the city is bringing back the parade so there will be a parade this year in July and I’m sure theSlug Queen will be a part of it. So but the competition doesn’t take place until August. So the new Queen won’t be crowned until August, so August 12.
(Karen:) So tell me what the Slug Queen actually does. I’m trying to picture this. So I’ve got a lot of questions but we’ll start with that. What is a slug Queen do? Throughout the year and then I also want to know a little more about this competition after that.
(Mija:) Well every Slug Queen is a little bit different… how involved they decide to be with their during their reign but many of the Queens usually take on a cause during their year reign where they take their opportunity with their new position to raise awareness about a cause or an organization. When I became more familiar with that was when Queen Sadie Slimy Stitches AKA Maya Becker became Queen and she chose MECCA as her organization to foster over her year reign.And I was the director at the time and so it was great to work with her and that’s actually when I became more involved and interested in the Slug Queen campaigning and coronation and that possibility for myself as running for Slug Queen.
(Karen:) So you mentioned MECCA. tell us what that is.
(Mija) So MECCA is the MaterialsExchange Center for Community Arts. It’s a non-profit arts education and reuse organization in Eugene and it serves Eugene and Springfield area. I was the director and that’s where I became familiar with Maya and queen Sadie Slimy Stitches and she was a wonderful advocate for us.
(Karen:) I would love to know more about the competition that actually happens in August. So what is… describe for me what that looks like? What could you expect going to a competition and tell us about your part in the competition this year?
(Mija:) Well, I don’t want to give too much away. So I’ll tell you a little bit. The competitions are really fun. We’ve been going for years to the competitions since Raven was young, my daughter Raven was young. She’s 15 now. And I remember when she was like, I don’t know like four, we went to one of the competitions and she just completely fell in love with one of the slug Queens Scarlett O’ Slimera. She was very enamored with Scarlett and actually itwas great because we know her as well. Her name is Joanie and she’s a mother of a good friend of ours. So. It became something that we love to come back to year after year to see the competitions and the new contestants and meet the new Queens. How it all goes down is the new contestants usually bribe the Queens either before or during the competition, bribes are actually welcomed and but the competition itself is very campy. It’s loosely based on, basically a spoof, of a beauty pageant and the new contestants are judged on three different things: their costume, their talent, and their answer for their question.
So based on those three things,the old Queens will decide who the new Queen is and there are guest judges as well. So that’s kind of what happens. It’s very fun, very campy and usually very humorous. So I’m looking forward to participating.
(Karen:) Well, that’s great. So does the audience usually dress up for this too.
The audience can definitely get very involved as well. It’s usually a pretty fun raucous bunch of people who definitely like getting involved and cheering people on and it takes place downtown in Eugene at the Saturday Market site the Park Blocks. And it’s the outdoors and it’s a nice summer evening.And it’s usually a lovely time.
(Karen:) What motivated you to jump on board and try and be the Slug Queen yourself this year?
(Mija:) Well, I I guess what inspired me was definitely meeting some of the older Queens. It’s super creative, you know coming up with your persona, coming up with your costume.And also I’m very community-minded already and the thought of as this persona, inspiring others to be community-minded to become more involved was definitely something that sparked my interest as well. And you know who doesn’t like to be in the Slime light that?That was definitely part of it. Is that idea that you know, I get to be out in the community in a very fun and charismatic way.
I really love meeting people. I love encouraging creativity and that’s a lot of what my platform is about. So.
(Karen:) And what’s your nonprofit of choice that you’ll be supporting? If you become the slug Queen?
(Mija:) Well, I actually have two organizations that I’m going to be supporting one of which is the Oregon Supported living programs arts and culture program and I actually work for Oregon Supported Living Program as their Development Director.
All of our fundraising is for the arts and culture program. So that’s the program that I work work hardest for but of course raising awareness for the organization overall.The other organization that I want to spotlight and support is Central Latino Americano in part because I really want to highlight culture, cultural diversity and the arts in in Latino culture in our community.
I feel like there is obviously the culture that were born into and then there’s the culture that we create as a community.And I feel like by celebrating all the different cultures and arts in our own community we can create and celebrate each other. We can create more unity and celebrate each other more and create a more inclusive community.
(Karen:) So tell me about your persona. So you are Latina and tell us about your Slug Queen.
(Mija:) So I am Mexican-American. My mother is Mexican and my father is Italian European and but I’m very much connected to mymother’s family and that part of my heritage and the culture of the Mexican people in our Mexican family.
SoI chose the persona based on Frida Kahlo the artist… my personas name is Santa Frida Elisa Refugio Babosita, and I know it’s a long name and she is the patron slug of arts and culture. The names Elisa and Refugio are my grandmother and great grandmothers names.And Babosa means slug in Spanish, so Babosita seemed very apropos.And I chose Frida, you know very much because she embodies not only Mexican culture and Mexican Arts, but also and very much celebrates it throughout her life, but she also is a very empowered woman. She’s a strong woman.
She’s a very expressive woman and I really love that she and will throughout her art her creations were not only about celebrating everything that’s beautiful. But also the things are painful this the suffering that she experienced and the chaos that she saw around her and you know, I think that that sort of expression is incredibly important for us as people. It’s cathartic. It’s just necessary part of what I want to do is create more opportunities for creative expression during my reign. It’s something that I like to already do in my life and have done by producing several different events and projects and programs in Eugene.
But I really like that you know, she just embodies not only the Mexican culture that I felt really really connected to but also that the power of creative expression.
(Karen:) Would you mind showing me your art studio? I happen to know you have an art studio here in your home. I would love to take a little tour. Let’s see because you are an accomplished artist yourself.
Alright, so we’re heading through the kitchen down into a den like room, which is crammed full of boxes, bags rolled up things. You’ve got all kinds of stuff in here. Wow.
(Mija:) Well as a reuse artist pretty much everything is possible art materials. So that’s why you see a little bit of everything and I work in so many different mediums that I always feel the need to have a little bit of everything. It’s all part of my palate per se.
(Karen:) Show me what’s in some of these drawers over here. You have some beautifully painted bluevery flat drawers. Wow, what’s in this mysterious chest here?
(Mija:) So many different things so many treasures… gorgeous. I have in this one… I have a lot of tin art from Mexico. All for making a nichos and little altars even small for jewelry size. Wow, lots of different images as you can see. I have a lot of Mexican imagery loteria cards,santos…..
(Karen:) It’s quite a collection. So do you travel to Mexico often?
(Mija:) I do I as much as I can. I was there last year. I went to or this year actually earlier this year in Spring. I went to Oaxaca year before that. I went to Chiapas and I’ve been to Oaxaca before that as well. I really love Oaxaca.
That’s where I tend to go back to. And I’ve been there for Dia de los Muertos and I plan to go again this year for a Dia De Los Muertos. It’s a really amazing holiday there. Of course, you know in my eyes, I feel like in Mexican culture there are celebrations every single day for everything, you know, you can just be walking down the street and there’s parades and there’s processions and there’s you know, big puppets and there’s people dancing and music and it’s just you’ll find it pretty much everywhere, and that’s one of the things I love about my culture. It’s very vibrant. Very active, very celebratory.
(Karen:) Definitely colorful like you and like your studio. I’m seeing… up on top of a bookshelf full of all kinds of drawers and snap cases and spray-paint. There are a bunch of mannequin arms coming out from over the top of some old suitcases. It’s really quite interesting in here.
(Mija:) I mostly have art on the side so you can see some of my art. Even see like three different Frida pieces.
(Karen:) So beautiful artwork all about Frida Kahlo.And how long have you been interested in Frida Kahlo?
(Mija:) Well, let’s see, I learned about her in high school. What I remember is specifically learning about her in high school in one of my art classes. And about her style and I remember actually as a teenager, at that age,it definitely kind of freaked me out. Her work was pretty intense and you know a lot of her a lot of her artwork were about things that I didn’t understand at that time.
(Karen: ) It can be a little scary, even, some of the work…nightmares…
(Mija:) Yeah. And so but I’d only was interested in her. I loved her imagery and I loved her color and I loved all her self-portraits, you know and how they represented different aspects of her and different times of her life.I found that really fascinating.
(Karen:) And I don’t know that much about Frida Kahlo, but from just looking at her work a little bit and learning a little bit about her life, I actually looked through one of your coffee table books the last time I was here about Freda, it occurred to me that she just she didn’t have a lot of fear about what she put out on the canvas and what kind of art she made she just made whatever the heck she wanted to. What moved her, what inspired her, and what helped her maybe through catharsis and processing and so it wasn’t so much about you know, creating art that would sell or anything like that knows about her personal process and yeah moving through it.
(Mija:) And like I said, I think that art is just so powerful art is a powerful tool for that it powerful tool for processing and for expression and she she got it. She knew that and she used it, you know throughout her life to help her through so, you knowimmense suffering but alsoto very much represent her love and her joy in her life as well.
(Karen:) Thank you for that. And can we look at some of your slug queen costumes? I know you have a costume closet. Let’s take a tour.
(Mija:) Well, my Slug Queen costumes actually in the other room.
(Karen:) All right, let’s let’s get a little tour. Alright, so we’re walking over here into the costume closet. Wow, so tell us about how you’re connected to Country Fair,Mija.
(Mija:) I started attending Country Fair about 17 years ago with a massage booth and that’s the booth I’ve been connected with every year.But the last few years I’ve really enjoyed just adding to the ambience of fair by dressing up in costume and I’ve been specifically I have a costume, my Queen of Hearts costume that I created, that has been really fun. It’s gotten a lot ofgood response from fairgoers, which is super fun. I love that interaction between crowd and you know as a kind of a character or you know, someone who’s adding to that magical aspect of fair, so it’s been super fun, to do that more and I’d love to do even more of that and I hope to this year as you know, Slug Queen.
(Karen:) Oh, that’s gorgeous. Is that black velvet?
(Mija:) That is black velvet, So yes this I actually I thought I was going to make my own costume. Which I love costume making so I was excited to make my own Slug Queen costume. But when I was in Oaxaca this last time in the spring, I found this piece and I just fell in love with it.
And I knew that it had to be my Slug Queen costume. So this particular piece, it’s black velvet embroidered with flowers and the skirt the long white lace at the bottom. The top is also black velvet. And it’s very square also with the embroidered flowers that are in yellows and greens and dark greens.
(Karen:) It’s very bright against the black background. Do you know what kind of flowers those are?
(Mija:) So these are definitely calla lilies, roses, couple flowers I don’t really know… but it looks like a dianthus. So this particular style of clothing, which is actually very a very common style that Frida Kahlo wore is from Tehuantepec. It’s calledTehuana style clothing or to one a culture is what is referred to and the Tehuanawomen are very strong empowered women and one of the reasons that Frida Kahlo wore this style was because of the long skirts.
And the long skirts because she had had polio as a child. So one of her legs was a little bit smaller or would be considered deformed and so she was trying to hide it a lot of the time so she wore this style of clothing and you can see this kind of square top and the long skirts long full skirts, especially the ones with the lace on the bottom.
Those are this Tehuanastyle and so I just felt soexcited that I found this particular piece for my costume and also to represent this beautiful Oaxacan culture.
(Karen:) It is gorgeous. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
Yeah, and so I’ve been doing more research about to want to pack in the Tehuanapeople because I want to represent them well during my reign.
(Karen:) that’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing that that’s great. Yeah. What a find.That’s a treasure.
(Mija:) Such a treasure, such a treasure. It’s just I mean, it’s a piece of amazing artwork all on its own.
(Karen:) What are you gonna wear on your head?
(Mija:) Oh, I’m going to be making my own floral headpiece that’s as you know, very Frida’s style, but I did something really fun.
I had I worked with a friend of mine RogeneManas who is a paper clay artist, and she helped me to create my unibrow. (Laughs)
(Karen:) Of course, it wouldn’t be Frida without one!
(Mija:) So, she helped me to create my unibrow and it’s very special. I can’t waittil I can reveal it to the rest of the world because I am excited about it.
I think it’s going to be super fun part of my costume.
(Karen:) I know you can’t give it away right until they see you on stage at the competition
(Mija:) Exactly, exactly.
(Karen:) So it sounds like you’re pretty confident that you’re going to win.
(Mija) (Laughs) Well, I’m very hopeful. I have been actually been wanting to run for years and I thought a few years ago was the first time I had talked to some of the old Queens about running.And luckily I know a lot of the old queens and have worked with them in different capacities while I was at MECCA through different art events and different projects and whatnot. And so luckily I feel like I have a good idea of what is wanted of a good Slug Queen and so I hope that you know, they can see that that is the my commitment is there and my commitment to community which is a big part of what this Slug Queen is about and representing Eugene well in all her uniqueness.
(Karen:) Oh, yes. I love it. It’s great. It’s definitely representing diversity in our culture. I love that having diversity here in Eugene. So why old Queens?What’s that about? I mean do they take offense at old Queen? I mean, I would think you know in this day and ageit would be something else like former queen or something, of course.
(Mija:) No, actually they completely want to be called old Queens. It’s my understanding. They refer to themselves as the old Queens I think that it’s interesting as well. But I kind of like that they embrace this whole old aspect of their reign.
(Karen:) Aging is beautiful..
(Mija:) So, so yes, no shame in being called an old Queen by any means.
(Karen:) And I heard you mention earlier something about a bribe. So what kind of bribes are we talking about here? I’m picturing all kinds of strange green things.
(Mija:) Yes. Well, I definitely have some fun things in mind for all the old Queens. I’m looking forward to all the bribing opportunities… because of course, it’s just one more creative way to be part of this competition is to find fun bribes for the old Queens and come up with some fun unique ideas to gather their favor.
(Karen:) To curry their favor, right? Lots of green things…
(Karen:) Well, I’m sure you’ll have no trouble at all and that you will win hands down you are so sparkly and so beautiful. Yes, and when I caught you at home, you’re even wearing a green shirt today, in costume all the time.
(Mija:) So one of the things I love about where we live is all the green.
(Karen:) Do you have a website or Facebook page or something?
(Mija:) Well I’m developing it as we speak,actually.But definitely if you just do a search on Facebook for Santa Frida Babosita, you will find me. I’ll be there.
(Karen:) Thanks, Mija.