2005 flashback: Miss Sophia entertains with a twist

On October 14, 2005, at the then Vision nightclub, drag queen Miss Sophia McIntosh goof around with Nicholas Sheriff of Snellviille during V-103 morning co-host Wanda Smith's happy hour party. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

On October 14, 2005, at the then Vision nightclub, drag queen Miss Sophia McIntosh goof around with Nicholas Sheriff of Snellviille during V-103 morning co-host Wanda Smith's happy hour party. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Originally came out on November 16, 2005 in the print edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

Last month on V-103, Miss Sophia reported that former NBA star Dennis Rodman was spilling details about ex-wife Carmen Electra's kinky predilections during sex.

"That's the kind of stuff he does, " Miss Sophia purred. "Who else will walk around in a dress anyway?"

Miss Sophia was making a bit of an inside joke: She is a he, a drag queen and the latest addition to the "Frank & Wanda" morning show, which draws 377,000 weekly listeners on Atlanta's top station targeting African-Americans.

As a black gay man, Miss Sophia (whose real name is Joe Taylor) plays it loud and proud. Words flow from his mouth like confetti during his daily entertainment report, which he punctuates with his signature farewell: "When I talk, you talk, we talk, that's girrrrrl talk on the people's station, V to the 103."

He trills the "three" with gusto.

That the largely African-American radio audience has embraced Miss Sophia is something of a surprise.

"It's groundbreaking in this market because it's the Bible Belt, " says Craig Stewart, a gay black resident of Atlanta and a friend of Miss Sophia.

Miss Sophia isn't the first gay person to get a regular spot on Atlanta radio. For about four years, Q100, a Top 40 station geared to 18-to-34-year-old women, has had lesbian Melissa Carter as a regular member of the morning show. Alternative rock station 99X in the 1990s used a gay man, Bob Killough, for its weekend entertainment report. (He has since done work on rock station Dave FM.)

And Atlanta has the biggest concentration of black same-sex couples in the South, according to 2000 census figures.

But acceptance of homosexuality is lower among blacks than whites, according to various academic studies.

Miss Sophia says he has tempered homophobic comments with humor since his days in high school in Texas a quarter-century ago.

"I was known as the kid you didn't want to mess with because I always had a comeback, " Taylor said.

He said Miss Sophia is a mix of Flip Wilson's Geraldine, Martin Lawrence's Sheneneh and a brazen church lady. And he doesn't doll himself up.

"You're the ugliest drag queen I've ever seen in my whole life, " Wanda Smith teased him on-air last month.

Like many drag queens, Taylor first competed in pageants, doing lip-sync routines in fabulous dresses in Houston. But he always had his eye on comedy.

After a stint in Dallas, he moved to Atlanta in 1999 and began emceeing drag shows and pageants locally and nationally. He met Smith, who booked him on her comedy stage shows. He would also occasionally do call-ins on her morning show as Miss Sophia.

In August, Smith asked Taylor to sub for vacationing co-host Frank Ski.

"They were hilarious together, " said program director Reggie Rouse. "It takes a lot to make me laugh, and I was in stitches."

Ski said listeners loved him, too: "The audience bombarded us with e-mails."

Rouse decided to keep him as a regular fixture, reporting entertainment news around 8:40 each morning (repeated the next day at 6:18 a.m.). Taylor has taken the job seriously, coming in each day at 4:30 a.m. to compile stories he plans to use four hours later.

Of course, Miss Sophia hasn't won everyone over.

Miss Sophia strikes Tina Oglesby, a 36-year-old Keller Graduate School engineering student from Dacula, as a caricature.

"We have to be very careful not to play into stereotypes, " Oglesby said. "She's just so ignorant, and her language is terrible. I think V-103 has lost respect for their listeners. The substance is not there."

Anthony Antoine, a 35-year-old Atlanta gay black man who works on HIV prevention, says he doubts V-103 would have a serious openly gay person on the show.

But Miss Sophia will occasionally slip in a pro-gay message, as he did recently asking Louis Farrakhan to do more for gays during his Millions More March last month.

Miss Sophia "has been very supportive of the gay community, " Antoine says. "She's still representative. I've often felt I needed to call V-103 to voice my opinion. As a black gay man, my viewpoint wasn't being heard. Before I can get to it, she will respond. I don't feel I have to call as much."