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Aleksa Manila

Pride ASIA, Miss Gay Seattle, Project NEON

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Born in Manila, Philippines, Aleksa Manila is a "drug counselor by day, drag diva by night" in Seattle. As a drag performer, Manila serves as an advocate for causes including HIV prevention and combatting drug addiction in the LGBTQ+ community. When "not-in-face," Manila is currently a program manager at Public Health - Seattle & King County, where she focuses on the sexual health of transgender women in King & Snohomish counties. S/he continues to focus on HIV-related work, and at the beginning of the pandemic dedicated her time as a social worker at various Covid sites.

Manila has dedicated 16+ years to the fields of behavioral health and social service working as a program coordinator for Project NEON at Seattle Counseling Service - promoting harm reduction and combatting methamphetamine addiction in the community - and as program manager of the Immigrant, Refugee & Undocumented Outreach Program, amongst other roles. She also provides professional training and consultation with an emphasis on LGBTQ+ cultural competency, harm reduction, addiction and behavioral health from a social justice perspective. Manila earned her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Washington with a concentration in Integrated Mental Health. True to form, Manila performed in drag at the graduation ceremony.

Manila is an award-winning drag performer and one of the most well-known and respected faces in Seattle’s LGBTQ+ community. As a celebrated drag personality, she has won many awards including Miss Gay Seattle and Seattle’s Miss Gay Filipino, a competition in which Aleksa proudly recalls winning every category except Miss Congeniality! She is also widely recognized and celebrated for her activism, especially with regards to the LGBQT+ and Asian Pacific Islander Communities. Manila has received many prestigious honors, including Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan's Pride Award for Outstanding Leader in 2018, the Dr. Bob Wood Award for Excellence in HIV Prevention in 2013, and the 2019 GSBA Business and Humanitarian Award for Community Leadership.

In 2012, she founded Pride ASIA whose mission is to celebrate, empower and nurture the multi-cultural diversity of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer communities through the Asian Pacific Islander lens. Manila's activism has also infused her drag career. Manila uses drag to approach difficult subjects such as issues surrounding HIV. Manila uses humor, charisma and a positive attitude to create awareness about such serious topics. As she explains in this interview “if you’re going to look at me, I’m going to make you listen to me.”

In this 2017 interview with Kevin McKenna, Manila talks about her move to Seattle as a twenty-year-old in 1995, her decision to start drag, some of the challenges she has faced as a drag artist, as well as her work and activism in the community especially with regards to HIV. To follow her journey and learn more, please visit

Work on this interview was made possible by a grant from 4Culture/King County Lodging Tax.