Drag-show divas need a lot of time to prepare. In a manner worthy of Diana Ross, a radiant Ajia Simone breezed into a scheduled chat with the Weekly 30 minutes late, and then answered questions while powdering his face and visiting with the occasional passers-by. In addition to regular performances at gay charity functions and other venues, Simone--who gives his age as "30-something"--last year took on co-ownership duties at Ahead of Style, a salon located at 426 E. Ninth St. The Weekly sat down with him just before he co-hosted the Fourth Avenue Street Fair Divalicious Show, a biannual drag show at IBT's, 616 N. Fourth Ave.

You've said you're not a drag queen. What would you call yourself?

For me, a drag queen is just an ugly man in heels. A female impersonator--I don't go by that term, because to impersonate is to try to fool. I prefer being referred to as a female illusionist, a man giving you the illusion of a woman. Mind you, no hormones or nothing like that. ... I'm 100 percent man; I'm just blessed with my mother's good looks.

Some people use female pronouns when they talk to you, while others use male ones. Which do you prefer?

For me, I'm comfortable with them calling me "she," as long as they know I'm a man. I'm uncomfortable if they don't know me, and they refer me to me as "she." Then, you know, I've got some explaining to do. I have no problem explaining to nobody: I'm a tall black man; what you see from the neck up ain't what you're gonna get from the neck down. They're gonna go to bed with Janet Jackson and wake up with Jesse Jackson.

So do you get a lot of lip from people who don't understand you're a man?

The thing is, I don't live my life as a woman. ... I've had instances where, you know, I've gone to the men's restroom, and I'm standing at the stall, and a man's telling me, "Aren't you in the wrong bathroom?" And I say, "You ain't never seen a man urinate standing up; maybe you're in the wrong bathroom."

You're known as Tucson's Black Cat. Where did you get that nickname?

I guess Lucinda (Holiday) is the one that coined the term. She's Tucson's Queen of Comedy--our show director here. She started calling me Tucson's Black Cat, and it just kind of stuck. It kind of goes with the numbers I do--very bluesy, some of them are very XXX-rated. Like I say, if we do anything to offend anybody during the shows, they don't need to be out after dark. We have certain numbers that are appropriate for bars, and then we have certain numbers that are appropriate for performing out in the public, where people have never seen the shows.

What are some routines you do?

I do "Whitney Houston on crack." That's like a mix of, you know: "I Will Always Love You" while I'm singing to a joint, and "I Got the Stuff That You Want," one of her other songs, where I pull out some cocaine--flour that's supposed to be cocaine, you know. It's a prop. I'm working on this Diana Ross one where she's driving drunk.

You grew up in Yuma, which is a smallish town. What was that like?

Yuma--everybody thinks it's a little redneck town, but it was a blessing growing up in a town like that, because when we moved there, I think I was like 10 or something. The way the school's are set up, you have your elementary here, across the street is the junior high, a block over from that is the high school--so all the kids I grew up with, we kind of evolved together. There were two military bases there, too, so I served my country well while I lived there. But I can't go into details about that.

You didn't give your exact age. Would you be willing to part with your dress size?

I think I wear ... umm ... you know, I really don't know, because I normally just put them on, and if they fit, they fit. I really don't keep track of my size.

All right. Do you at least have some beauty tips?

Beauty tips? (Laughs.) I would say let the oil stay on your face. Because, you know, all these people have these ads about not wanting the oil on their face, and I think that's the key to preserving your beauty. Because if you think about a leather glove or something like that, you've always got to lube it down with Vaseline or something to soften it up.

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