At first glance, Dino’s switch in majors may seem a bit unusual, but it fully complimented his youthful and still developing personality both as an emerging gay entertainer, singer and dancer, and as a latent female impersonator. As Dino explained to Baltimore OUTloud, “I knew I was gay as a kid, but I only came out when I moved to Baltimore. I remember going into my first gay bar, Club Atlantis, at the Fallsway. I went there at 1:30 a.m. while I was visiting Baltimore over my Christmas break, and the first person I met was the drag queen Tia Chambers who looked directly at me and said, ‘My Xmas present just walked in the door.’ Well, I was so shocked I turned around and walked out.”
That brief encounter with Tia began a lifetime friendship with her and eventual employment for Dino as a male stripper at Club Atlantis. Soon Dino compiled an impressive number of titles for his multifaceted performances as a gay entertainer, singer, and dancer, becoming “Mr. Zippers” in 1991; “Mr. East Coast” in 1992; “Mr. Capitol City D.C.” in 1994; and “Mr. Maryland” in 1995.
During this time, Dino was also appearing as a female impersonator “Diamond,” having been mentored by Randy Mullins, a.k.a. Champagne Douglas, who “…taught me how to do my makeup.” Both Dino and Diamond comfortably coexisted as male and female performers until 1996. Then at the urging of Russell Marcum, a.k.a. Sabrina White, Diamond performed as Paula Abdul at the Hippo during Halloween week. That’s when Dino began his slow transition from exotic gay entertainer, dancer and singer, to the captivating and enchanting female impersonator that we know today.
Two years later, Diamond appeared in her first pageant running for “Ms. Hippo.” She did not win, but gained immeasurably from the experience, so that in 1999 she was the second runner-up in the “Ms. Maryland Pageant.” Success followed quickly, as Diamond noted, “I didn’t have to run numerous times [to win].” Following that achievement, in 2000 Diamond ran for “Ms. Headquarters” in Hagerstown, winning the preliminary contest for the “Ms. Maryland Pageant.” Later that same year, she achieved her lifetime dream being crowned “Ms. Maryland 2000.” Dino-Diamond is the only entertainer to hold both titles as “Mr. Maryland” and “Ms. Maryland.”
Over the ensuing years, Diamond reflected on how much female impersonation has changed. “I try to impersonate a female as close as possible. To actually look like a woman,” she explained to Baltimore OUTloud. “My female friends, however, ask me if drag queens are ‘making fun of us’ as females when they exaggerate their eyebrows, lips and makeup.
I assure them it isn’t about being real any more. Drag queen makeup has evolved to a different level than what female impersonation used to be, where they are creating characters. It is not good nor is it bad. It is simply where it has gone.”
Like most people, Dino has worked for a living too, pursuing a career as a florist in a variety of area flower shops and saving money for the right opportunity to have his own store. That golden opportunity appeared on April 1st, 2015 when Dino purchased “Flowers by Gina D.” On July 1st, Dino renamed the store “Dino Designs of Baltimore.”
Now Dino is busily preparing flower arrangements for weddings, birthdays and other special events. “We go out of our way to make sure that our clients are happy,” he exclaimed to Baltimore OUTloud. “We pride ourselves on our work and preparing quality arrangements. When you book a wedding with us, you get a 15% discount for your ‘special day’, as well as a 15% discount for your immediate family, bride and groom, for an entire year when they purchase a minimum of $50 worth of flowers from us, excluding taxes and delivery.”
Always thinking forward, Dino is focused on expanding his business and increasing his marketing. Already, he is already preparing for the 1840s Building Bridal Show in September and the Maryland Wedding Professionals Association Wedding Expo (MWPA) scheduled in January, 2017.
Diamond is still a classy and enchanting female impersonator, entertaining visitors to Baltimore at the Hotel Indigo’s Poets Restaurant located at 24 West Franklin Street in Baltimore. Sue Nami, her close friend, directs a show there that includes Diamond and two other female impersonators. “We do a two-and-a-half hour brunch show once a month on the second Sunday of every month,” Diamond informed Baltimore OUTloud, inviting readers to, “Come for brunch and see us perform for free.” Reservations are required if you want to see Diamond perform and lip sync her favorite song “Friends” by Michael W. Smith, a contemporary Christian musician. As a female entertainer, Diamond is a rare gem: she is flawless!
But what ties both Dino’s and Diamond’s exotic and enchanting bouquet of talent and life together is her loving and supportive partner Jeffrey Ireland, with whom she has had a 27-year relationship... after meeting him as a male stripper at Club Atlantis!