Zebra head-to-toe, Adora (who's birth name is Danilo de la Torre) is not a clown but a man who was born to be in the spotlight and open people's minds. The professional dancer and drag queen grew up in communist Cuba, where homosexuality is a crime. With a supply of courage as humungous as his day-glo wigs, Adora toiled in tobacco fields when he was 11, evaded jail for being gay, and defied the army with an audacious story about smashing light bulbs. Normal has never been a part of Adora's vocabulary, and a bully would rue the day he picked on him. Today, he uses his fantastical, boundary-breaking dress up to awaken people to their passivity in the face of a corporate machine that destroys individuality and upward mobility. "I don’t blame the monster, I blame the people," explains the Miami legend whose bold political views match the boldness of his makeup. "The monster -- that’s what they do, that’s what they’re good at. But the public needs to get informed. People are eating too much processed food and they've become lazy."
After fleeing Cuba for Paris to be with his French diplomat boyfriend and dance professionally, Adora was drawn like a bee to honey to 80s South Beach. "People could come here full of talents and ideas that they couldn't express in the towns and villages where they were raised," states Adora. "You could put a watermelon on your head while singing on Washington Avenue and nobody would judge you." At a hotspot in Coconut Grove, Adora spotted his soul mate, Carlos, an old Cuban friend who, like Adora, was covered in black instead of the standard pink and lime green. "Meeting Carlos meant meeting the other side of Miami -- the new wave, the underground," remembers Adora. The two constructed elaborate outfits together, never going out in the same ensemble twice: "We called ourselves the Adora Sisters, because Carlos' friends called him Adora, and, since I was his twin brother, I was the other Adora." Their drag show caught fire -- they performed in nightclubs galore, Paris, and even for the Versace family.
However, in '91, Carlos died of AIDS: "It wasn't a shock, it was sick sick sick. All of my friends were dying like flies -- this one, the other one, and then Carlos." Having been the one who shut Carlos' eyes after he passed, Adora deals with the heartbreaking death by holding on and continuing the act in remembrance of his departed "twin." For Adora, drag isn't just a performance, it's a personal, political, and life-defining self-expression. Take his piece at Art Basel, where, dressed as Marie Antoinette on steroids, Adora, along with his group, Homo-Sapiens, shredded books in order to call out contemporary culture's disdain for substance and devotion to anything that can just be "thrown away."
Elisa & Lily
Shot, interviewed, & photographed by Elisa & Lily
Video edited by Paul O'Brochta