Jewels becomes first drag queen to receive key to the city

For the first time in Long Beach history a drag queen has the key to the city.

Jewels of Long Beach was presented with the key Tuesday night by Mayor Robert Garcia who lauded her for her philanthropic work for both the LGBTQ community and the city as a whole.

She is a staple at Hamburger Mary’s, where she is the entertainment director for its 19 locations nationwide. But outside of the weekly drag brunches she helps host at the Pine Avenue restaurant Jewels has also become a powerful fundraiser.

Her efforts have helped raise money for entities like the LGBTQ Center, the International Imperial Court of Long Beach and various other charities like ones that support animals and hospitals.

Garcia, the city’s first openly gay mayor, noted that drag queens helped lead the charge for the gay rights movement and helped create a feeling of safety in the gay community when people often had nowhere else to go. He credited Jewels with not only being a terrific performer and artist but also with being one of the city’s most generous residents who has helped touch countless lives, including his.

“As a young kid growing up also in Long Beach, closeted, not knowing who I was, it was great to see somebody help me and so many others reaffirm who we were and who we’d be in the future,” Garcia said. “I would like to thank Jewels for helping a young closeted guy who never knew he’d become mayor of his community.”

Jewels expressed gratitude for the award but also to the business owners that allowed her to carve out her niche in the community and also to the patrons who have been generous to the causes she’s supported over the years.

“Thanks for each and every one of you supporting the good work that’s being done and allowing us as drag queens and queer artists to live a full and fulfilled and happy life in this beautiful city by the beach,” she said.

Jewels becomes just the sixth person to receive the key to the city from Garcia during his five-plus year run as mayor. Last month, the key was awarded to Congressman Alan Lowenthal who had previously served as a Long Beach City Council member.

The list also includes former Governor George Deukmejian and his wife, and Bobbie Smith, the city’s first African American member of the Long Beach Unified School District where she served as board president for four terms.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.