Kataluna Enriquez is a resident performer at AsiaSF in Palm Springs.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TIFFANY L. CLARK
Kataluna Enriquez, who became the first openly trans woman to compete at the Miss USA pageant last year, is back on stage as a resident performer at AsiaSF Palm Springs, the recently reopened desert outpost of the storied San Francisco dinner theater. Kataluna, who was crowned Miss Nevada USA in 2021, also has her own clothing line, Kataluna Kouture.
How did you become part of the AsiaSF family?
I grew up in the Bay Area. I knew about their original establishment in San Francisco, so when an opportunity came up in Palm Springs, I joined them. I was here before the pandemic, and then we had to stop performing, but I’m so happy we’ve come back.
How would you describe an AsiaSF show to newcomers?
This is beyond a show. It’s representation — a way for us to tell our stories and for people to get to know us and change the definition of what trans means, especially when it comes to employment. Initially, I think some people might think this is just another drag show, but once they see the production and meet us, those attitudes change. The wonderful thing about AsiaSF is we’re not just on stage. There’s a personal interaction with the audience. It’s magical.
How is the Palm Springs setting different from San Francisco?
It’s grand. With the Palm Springs location, we have more room to perform and be more extravagant. I’m really excited about the production and what we’re bringing to audiences. I know everyone out there is ready for a show — and we want to give it to them. We could all use a moment to forget about the pandemic.
What’s your favorite ensemble to wear?
I love my “Vogue” number by Madonna. If you remember, Madonna famously performed it dressed in the style of Marie Antoinette on MTV — very Rococo, very Baroque — but I take to another level and bring in an Asian influence to honor AsiaSF and my personal heritage as a Filipino American.
What was the experience like being crowned Miss Nevada then competing as the first openly trans woman at the Miss USA pageant?
It was incredible. I’m actually still working with the Miss USA organization and my community in Las Vegas. I’m so thankful we were able to make history, but it doesn’t stop there. My purpose with pageantry has always been about representation, inclusivity, and diversity. I’m bringing those ideals to the stage when I perform at AsiaSF, too.
With your title and crown, are you now entitled to a bigger dressing room at AsiaSF?
Oh, no. I wish! When it comes to me, it’s always about equality. I grew up invisible. I know what it’s like to be treated unlike everyone else in the room, so I’m not about to start acting like that to anyone else.
What’s your favorite part about living in Palm Springs?
I love the community here. It’s actually very similar to Vegas, just a bit smaller. I was here throughout the pandemic, and it was incredible how the community came together and was helping each other. I’m also a fashion designer, and I was actually inspired by everyone here to start making and sending out face masks.
I love Monster Shakes [in Palm Springs]. I always share! I bring someone with me when I go there, so I don’t feel guilty if I can’t finish one of their big shakes. My favorite flavor is probably The Unicorn. It’s totally colorful and absolutely delightful.