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19
Mar

Spotlight on Chris Edwards, Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient

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Spotlight on Chris Edwards, Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient

The recipient of the 2017 INSPIRE Awards’ Honourary Lifetime Achievement Award is Chris Edwards.

Chris Edwards was a bright light in the Toronto LGBTQ community that was extinguished far too soon. Edwards had just concluded a performance as Tina Turner at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre when he fell ill on August 26th. He passed away in hospital on September 6, 2016 at the age of 54.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Edwards moved from Florida to Toronto in the late 1980s, and began performing in an Evening at La Cage at La Cage Aux Folles on Yonge Street. In the early ’90s, he established two pageants — Miss Gay Toronto and Miss Gay Universe — while winning many titles including Miss Gay Canada, Miss International, and Miss Continental New York. Edwards was one of the city’s first and most iconic drag entertainers, known for performances as Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and Tina Turner. Edwards not only blazed a trail in Toronto, he set a very high bar for drag performers.

To many, Edwards was the heart and soul of the community. Known not only for his immense talent, he is remembered for his kindness and generosity. In addition to being a captivating entertainer, he raised more than a quarter of a million dollars for AIDS and HIV charities, including the AIDS Committee of Toronto and the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation, as well as charities benefitting cancer and homelessness. He also mentored many up and coming drag performers, whether helping them with wigs, dresses and makeup tips, or providing them with valuable stage time. That generous spirit was seen everywhere, from paying out of pocket for trophies and flowers for the two pageants that he founded, to making sure that struggling drag performers had what they needed to be their absolute best on stage.

As a child, Edwards lost his father to a gunshot wound. Two years prior to Edwards’s passing, he lost his lifelong partner, John Hiner. From personal tragedy came this great desire to put a smile on people’s faces. Edwards had the ability to simultaneously command your attention and warmly invite you into each performance. He may have owned the stage from the moment he set foot on it, but his humility, sense of humour, and heart are what really connected with audiences and friends alike. On the walk home following a performance, Edwards was ready with a smile, a kind word, a hug, or a helping hand.

Chris Edwards joins previous recipients Candice Kelly, Charles Roy, Barbara Hall, and Jack Layton in receiving this honour. See the complete list of this year’s Inspire Award nominees and special award recipients (as well as recipients from previous years) here.

The 2017 Inspire Awards will celebrate the life and contributions of Chris Edwards with the Honourary Lifetime Achievement Award on June 2nd at the Hart House Theatre, University of Toronto.

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