By Matt Mattei - [email protected]

Heat proprietor Shawn Ebert performs at Philadelphia’s Drag Wars as alter ego Estella Sweet

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Estella Sweet ponders what outfit to wear May 13, during Heat Bar & Nightclub’s drag show. Sweet competes in Philadelphia’s Drag Wars beginning May 19.
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Aida Stratton announces the next act as Vanessa Mayheim assists Maria Topcoat with her outfit May 13 in Wilkes-Barre.
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Vanessa Mayheim watches as Maria Topcat changes outfits backstage May 13 in Wilkes-Barre.
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Estella Sweet applies fake eyelashes in her dressing room/office at the Heat Bar & Nightclub. Sweet competes in Drag Wars in Philadelphia starting May 19.
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Estella Sweet separates fake eyelashes in her dressing room/office at Heat Bar & Nightclub. Sweet is the proprietor of Heat and a leader in the LGBT community.
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Estella Sweet applies lip color in her dressing room/office at the Heat Bar & Nightclub. Sweet called the upcoming Drag Wars a “beast of its own.”
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Estella Sweet applies a heavy coat of eye highlight in her dressing room/office at the Heat Bar & Nightclub. Sweet is excited to compete in Philadelphia’s Drag Wars against other queens who have made a career of performing.
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Estella Sweet performs in drag at the Heat Bar & Nightclub as an audience member raises her arms in delight.
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Vanessa Mayheim lip syncs and collects dollar bills from the audience during a drag show at the Heat Bar & Nightclub on Friday, May 13.
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Aida Stratton and Estella Sweet talk about the music in Sweet’s dressing room, before taking the stage Friday, May 13, at Heat Bar & Nightclub.
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Estella Sweet jokingly puts on a wig she uses to play Estella’s grandmother when she performs “These Boots.”
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Estella Sweet comes on stage at Heat Bar & Nightclub Friday, May 13.
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Maria Topcoat performs Friday, May 13 at Heat Bar & Nightclub.
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Aida Stratton readies for her next act at Heat Bar & Nightclub Friday, May 19.
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Estella Sweet walks on stage at Heat Bar & Nightclub Friday, May 13.
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Estella Sweet tosses dollars on the stage during a performance at Heat Bar & Nightclub Friday May 13.
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Estella Sweet performs at Heat Bar & Nightclub Friday, May 13.
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Estella Sweet readies for a show at Heat Bar & Nightclub Friday night.
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Estella Sweet applies makeup in her dressing room/office at the Heat Bar & Nightclub. Sweet competes to be Philadelphia’s Next Drag Superstar starting May 19.
Aimee Dilger|Weekender
Bobby Light watches as Estella Sweet tries on one of her wigs. Light said Sweet’s work has made the LGBT community feel comfortable, safe and catered to.
Aimee Dilger|Weekender

By day, Wilkes-Barre resident Shawn Ebert is the proprietor of Heat Bar & Nightclub. At night, Ebert takes stage as alter ego and drag queen Estella Sweet, and it’s this performance aspect of Ebert’s career that’s taking him to a competition in Philadelphia.

Drag Wars, which starts May 19 and was founded by Mimi Imfurst of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” fame, selects 20 contestants, narrows the field to 15 and eliminates one queen per week until three remain to vie for Philadelphia’s Next Drag Superstar.

“This is a beast of its own,” Ebert said. “It’s a combination of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ and ‘The Voice.’”

Contestants in Drag Wars perform on the first week and are selected by judges in a similar fashion as contestants on “The Voice.”

“They have to flip their wig and you’re on their team,” Ebert said.

The judge who chooses each queen becomes the queen’s mentor for the duration of the competition.

Ebert said a performer has to be a jack-of-all-trades to compete in and facilitate drag shows. A drag queen has to be a makeup artist and have organizational skills.

“One of the most important things is an eye for detail,” Ebert said. “You’re creating an illusion.”

Typical drag pageants have three categories: evening gown, runway and talent, but Ebert said Drag Wars occurs live on stage and contestants don’t know what to expect.

“Improvisation is a big part of this competition,” Ebert said.

Sweet’s talent is singing.

“Ninety five percent of drag queens are known for lip syncing, so I think my singing sets me apart,” Ebert said.

Ebert said he is excited for the competition because he wants to compete among queens who have made a career, not just a hobby, out of drag.

“It’s nice to finally have a challenge that puts me up against people in my field in the same head space,” Ebert said.

Although Ebert pays homage to queen Sophie Tucker, who paved the way in the ’80s for other queens locally, Sweet is a community leader in her own right.

After the closing of LGBT friendly bar Twist, Ebert held drag nights at The Woodlands and eventually moved into his role as proprietor of Heat. In addition, Ebert celebrates 10 years with Sweet in August.

He is a mentor for aspiring drag queens. Sweet is “drag mother” to West Pittston performer Bobby Light, whose alter ego is Ella Fine.

Ebert said having an apprentice reminds him of why he does what he does.

“At the same time that I’ve been teaching him the art, he’s teaching me how to foster the art,” Ebert said. “It’s a give-and-take relationship. Bobby has breathed life back into my passion for it.”

Light said Ebert’s work as an organizer and fundraiser has made people in the LGBT community feel comfortable, catered to and safe.

“She’s given me a platform to perform and make people happy, and I’m eternally grateful for that,” Light said.

Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter @TLArts

Wilkes-Barre drag queen competes in Philadelphia competition

By Matt Mattei

[email protected]

Estella Sweet ponders what outfit to wear May 13, during Heat Bar & Nightclub’s drag show. Sweet competes in Philadelphia’s Drag Wars beginning May 19.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag1.jpgEstella Sweet ponders what outfit to wear May 13, during Heat Bar & Nightclub’s drag show. Sweet competes in Philadelphia’s Drag Wars beginning May 19. Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Aida Stratton announces the next act as Vanessa Mayheim assists Maria Topcoat with her outfit May 13 in Wilkes-Barre.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag1a.jpgAida Stratton announces the next act as Vanessa Mayheim assists Maria Topcoat with her outfit May 13 in Wilkes-Barre. Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Vanessa Mayheim watches as Maria Topcat changes outfits backstage May 13 in Wilkes-Barre.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag2.jpgVanessa Mayheim watches as Maria Topcat changes outfits backstage May 13 in Wilkes-Barre. Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Estella Sweet applies fake eyelashes in her dressing room/office at the Heat Bar & Nightclub. Sweet competes in Drag Wars in Philadelphia starting May 19.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag3.jpgEstella Sweet applies fake eyelashes in her dressing room/office at the Heat Bar & Nightclub. Sweet competes in Drag Wars in Philadelphia starting May 19. Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Estella Sweet separates fake eyelashes in her dressing room/office at Heat Bar & Nightclub. Sweet is the proprietor of Heat and a leader in the LGBT community.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag4.jpgEstella Sweet separates fake eyelashes in her dressing room/office at Heat Bar & Nightclub. Sweet is the proprietor of Heat and a leader in the LGBT community. Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Estella Sweet applies lip color in her dressing room/office at the Heat Bar & Nightclub. Sweet called the upcoming Drag Wars a “beast of its own.”
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag5.jpgEstella Sweet applies lip color in her dressing room/office at the Heat Bar & Nightclub. Sweet called the upcoming Drag Wars a “beast of its own.” Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Estella Sweet applies a heavy coat of eye highlight in her dressing room/office at the Heat Bar & Nightclub. Sweet is excited to compete in Philadelphia’s Drag Wars against other queens who have made a career of performing.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag6.jpgEstella Sweet applies a heavy coat of eye highlight in her dressing room/office at the Heat Bar & Nightclub. Sweet is excited to compete in Philadelphia’s Drag Wars against other queens who have made a career of performing. Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Estella Sweet performs in drag at the Heat Bar & Nightclub as an audience member raises her arms in delight.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag7.jpgEstella Sweet performs in drag at the Heat Bar & Nightclub as an audience member raises her arms in delight. Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Vanessa Mayheim lip syncs and collects dollar bills from the audience during a drag show at the Heat Bar & Nightclub on Friday, May 13.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag8.jpgVanessa Mayheim lip syncs and collects dollar bills from the audience during a drag show at the Heat Bar & Nightclub on Friday, May 13. Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Aida Stratton and Estella Sweet talk about the music in Sweet’s dressing room, before taking the stage Friday, May 13, at Heat Bar & Nightclub.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag9.jpgAida Stratton and Estella Sweet talk about the music in Sweet’s dressing room, before taking the stage Friday, May 13, at Heat Bar & Nightclub. Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Estella Sweet jokingly puts on a wig she uses to play Estella’s grandmother when she performs “These Boots.”
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag10.jpgEstella Sweet jokingly puts on a wig she uses to play Estella’s grandmother when she performs “These Boots.” Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Estella Sweet comes on stage at Heat Bar & Nightclub Friday, May 13.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag13.jpgEstella Sweet comes on stage at Heat Bar & Nightclub Friday, May 13. Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Maria Topcoat performs Friday, May 13 at Heat Bar & Nightclub.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag14.jpgMaria Topcoat performs Friday, May 13 at Heat Bar & Nightclub. Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Aida Stratton readies for her next act at Heat Bar & Nightclub Friday, May 19.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag15.jpgAida Stratton readies for her next act at Heat Bar & Nightclub Friday, May 19. Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Estella Sweet walks on stage at Heat Bar & Nightclub Friday, May 13.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag16.jpgEstella Sweet walks on stage at Heat Bar & Nightclub Friday, May 13. Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Estella Sweet tosses dollars on the stage during a performance at Heat Bar & Nightclub Friday May 13.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag17.jpgEstella Sweet tosses dollars on the stage during a performance at Heat Bar & Nightclub Friday May 13. Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Estella Sweet performs at Heat Bar & Nightclub Friday, May 13.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag18.jpgEstella Sweet performs at Heat Bar & Nightclub Friday, May 13. Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Estella Sweet readies for a show at Heat Bar & Nightclub Friday night.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag11.jpgEstella Sweet readies for a show at Heat Bar & Nightclub Friday night. Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Estella Sweet applies makeup in her dressing room/office at the Heat Bar & Nightclub. Sweet competes to be Philadelphia’s Next Drag Superstar starting May 19.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag12.jpgEstella Sweet applies makeup in her dressing room/office at the Heat Bar & Nightclub. Sweet competes to be Philadelphia’s Next Drag Superstar starting May 19. Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Bobby Light watches as Estella Sweet tries on one of her wigs. Light said Sweet’s work has made the LGBT community feel comfortable, safe and catered to.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag19.jpgBobby Light watches as Estella Sweet tries on one of her wigs. Light said Sweet’s work has made the LGBT community feel comfortable, safe and catered to. Aimee Dilger|Weekender

Bobby Light helps Estella Sweet into her heels before her show. Sweet said Light has breathed new life into her passion for the art of drag.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_TTL0501716Drag20.jpgBobby Light helps Estella Sweet into her heels before her show. Sweet said Light has breathed new life into her passion for the art of drag. Aimee Dilger|Weekender
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Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter @TLArts