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  • Writer's pictureDavid Reuben

Jade Esteban Estrada

"A Master Entertainer"

In October 2006, Kentucky governor Ernie Fletcher paid tribute to Mr. Jade Esteban Estrada by commissioning him the title of Kentucky Colonel, the highest honor awarded by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which acknowledges outstanding ambassadors of goodwill and fellowship around the world. Estrada joined other honorary colonels such as Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope, Joan Crawford, Mae West, Johnny Depp, Muhammad Ali and Pope John Paul II.

How did a young man born at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas become a Kentucky Colonel? Along the way he excelled at every aspect of show business including singing, dancing, acting, and comedy. According to Jade; "I consider myself to be more of a performer than I am a person. I don't care for much outside the show environment."

It all started in Clarksville, Tennessee during high school, for the first time being off the Air Force Base; Estrada discovered a state-wide acting competition. This was like a combined episode of "Fame" and "Glee" and before he knew it Jade's classmates were pushing him on stage to accept his awards & recognition. Jade says; "I went to a civilian high school in the border city of Clarksville, Tennessee.

There, I discovered acting competitions which were the most extreme, cut-throat contests I'd ever seen. And even by my standards today - these state-wide champs who foamed at the mouth for acting trophies were insanely talented. I mention Tennessee because I think that's where the awareness that I was a performer began."

Young Estrada won a scholarship to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and also studied at the Broadway Dance Center. One of his classmates at Broadway Dance Center was Jennifer Lopez before her "Fly Girl" days. Estrada's talents in singing, dancing and acting took him all over the world, from Germany to Broadway, including a stint working as Charo's head choreographer and lead dancer.

Estrada gained international recognition in 1998 when he released his first Latin pop single, "Reggae Twist" on the Brooklyn-based Total Envision Records label. While living in New York City in the mid-1990s, Estrada tried his hand at stand-up comedy and won his first competition at Stand-Up New York. Estrada's funny side was always there and it just took awhile to bubble to the surface as he describes in his initial connection to comedy. "I would meet touring comedians and I really connected with their craft. Especially on the cruise ships; I would watch their shows every night. I think I bounced like a pinball around the areas of dance, music and theatre so much that eventually I had to take the mic. When I did, it felt right because my super-objective was always to get the laugh."

Funny was always in the family according to Estrada. "Well, during my childhood, my great influences on my comedy were certainly my uncles who I think could have been great professional comedians if they'd been encouraged." As a youngster, Estrada spent a lot of time in his backyard putting on shows for his stuffed animals, toys and imaginary friends. Years later his mother expressed to him her admiration for his creativity and ability to be alone and be happy performing. Unsurprisingly, his childhood experiences had a great influence on his career choices later in life. "Being alone as a child is what pretty much prepared me for a life on the stage in the company of my personal demons. And, being taunted as a kid because I was naturally effeminate made me totally unpopular. So, as the years passed, being liked or getting approval from people became a take it or leave it situation. Of course, we all would like approval but it's never a guarantee."

Today, Estrada is an award-winning comic, singer, dancer, actor and choreographer. But comedy is his passion and he'll do anything to get a laugh. This was proven on The Jerry Springer Show where he became one of the year's most popular guests appearing as Miss Candy Box, a transgendered singer/dancer performing the song "It's Raining Men."

Estrada earned his stripes on cruise ships and Broadway always trying to be funny. "When I released my Latin pop CD "Angel" and started touring worldwide, my patter became increasingly longer. I missed telling jokes. I took advantage of this self-created open mic...singers are rarely expected to sing well AND be funny." Estrada is a fearless performer who went from open mic shows in the New York area to being a comedy headliner. It was a fast rise especially when Out Magazine called him "the first gay Latin star".

But there is a price to pay when you're a gay icon. "When my era of one-person shows happened, I would get booked as a "gay icon/comedian" quite easily. When I was doing any one of my one-man shows it was fine. But when they wanted stand-up comedy it was sometimes...rough. I was getting booked as a headliner long before I'd earned it. It turns out gay icons ARE expected to be funny for 45 minutes straight". Although a performer to the bone, sometimes Estrada took the joke a little far. "Once, while I was performing in a multi-million dollar show, I performed my character as Cher just because I thought it would make everyone laugh. I was always singing funny versions of songs while onstage to my fellow cast members. The audiences loved it. The producers - not so much! That was a fork in the road for me".

On his mother's side, entertainment runs deep in the Estrada family. Jade's uncles were part of a mariachi band and to this day they remain important comic influences on him. "In my family, being funny is the only way to get any stage time at the dinner table. My uncles continue to be hilarious much to my dismay," he states.

His younger brother David Miguel Estrada is a playwright/actor/director who Showbusiness Weekly calls a "maverick writer-actor-director." His sister Celeste Angela Estrada is a playwright who won the 2004 Gertrude Stein Literary Award for her play "Tortilla Heaven". According to The San Antonio Current the three Estrada siblings are "extravagantly talented" while Joey Reynolds of the nationally-syndicated WOR Radio raves, "Don't mess with that family!" The three amigos have worked together on "Tortilla Heaven" starring Jade, written by Celeste and directed by David. And it was a huge success. "Celeste Angela Estrada brings Tejano fever for New York City," raved Gloria Ramirez of Noticias del Mundo. "Tortilla Heaven is my big fat Latino wedding!" praised Joey Reynolds of WOR Radio in New York. In 2005, Estrada won the Performance Artist of the Year Award at the Performance in Arts Awards in New York. The Dallas Morning News calls him "funny and irreverent." The New York Times calls him "hilarious." "Jade's act "defies categorization," stated the Tallahassee Democrat. "Estrada uses specific filters to tell his stories but his message is universal," revealed the Chicago Tribune. Q Television called him "an icon in the art of high drama." And the Richmond Times-Dispatch called him "a master entertainer".

These days, Estrada incorporates his background of dance and musical theatre to indulge in his unique brand of comedy. Through the years of touring his one-man shows and headlining comedy club performances, one thing has remained a constant - his personal goal of making you laugh.

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