The Vaccine-O-Licious Mini Tour Makes Its Queens Debut!

November 21, 2023
Photo of Taraye performing

Mx. Vaccine-O-Licious 18, Taraye, performs at Hombres Lounge on Nov. 17. (Photo: Leyda Luz)

Columbia Research Unit and Project ACHIEVE’s Vaccine-O-Licious Mini Tour has entered a new phase—or a new borough, at least!

On Friday, Nov. 17, the tour made its first-ever stop in Queens. Staged at Hombres Lounge in Jackson Heights, this event was also the series’ first bilingual show. It featured performances by three drag queen advocates, informational speeches by CRU and Project ACHIEVE research workers, a buffet, and a raffle.

Stella D’oro (the Queen Mum of Vaccine) hosted the evening in English. Her co-performer, Lori Lu, assisted with Spanish translations. Stella opened and closed the show with dazzling lip sync performances, while Lori and Taraye (Mx. Vaccine-O-Licious 18) did one number each.

Photo of Lori Lu speaking on the microphone

Lori Lu speaks about her experience having COVID-19. (Photo: Leyda Luz)

As the evening’s purpose was to highlight CRU and Project ACHIEVE’s research on HIV vaccines, COVID-19, and mpox, each performer also spoke on one of those subjects.

Stella shared her experience as a participant in an HIV vaccine clinical trial in 1998, Lori described having COVID-19 before the disease was widely recognized, and Taraye discussed queer and urban communities’ disadvantaged access to information when outbreaks of COVID-19 and mpox began.

Paired with each performer was a member of the research community, each of whom spoke on disease research in both English and Spanish. CRU’s Jorge Benitez presented information on upcoming HIV vaccine clinical trials, while Henry Peralta summarized some of CRU’s COVID-19 studies. Project ACHIEVE’s Jorge Soler discussed both groups’ ongoing mpox research.

Photo of Stella D'oro, Henry Peralta, and a raffle winner holding a smart TV box

Queen Mum of Vaccine Stella D'oro (center) and CRU's Henry Peralta (right) pose with the winner of one of the raffle's two smart TVs. (Photo: Leyda Luz)

The audience and the bar staff, overwhelmingly supportive of the event, were treated to a buffet of chicken, rice, salad, and sweet plantains catered by locally beloved restaurant Pollos Mario 83. Toward the end of the evening, CRU and Project ACHIEVE held a raffle for prizes including two smart TVs.

This second stop of the Vaccine-O-Licious 18 Mini Tour was a successful night of firsts for the research partners, who intend to host more bilingual shows and reach further neighborhoods and different communities as the year progresses.

Follow CRU on social media (Instagram, Facebook, X/Twitter, TikTok) for more information on upcoming events!