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Former NFLer Esera Tuaolo is Polly Lava in Provincetown this summer

Beaten up as a boy for dressing in girls’ clothes, Tuaolo is proudly reclaiming his once-tortured childhood.

Esera Tuaolo introduces Polly Lava in his new show at the Pilgrim House in Provincetown this summer.
Steven Alberts

For former NFL player Esera Tuaolo, donning drag isn’t just a summer fling.

The former contestant on The Voice enjoyed dressing in women’s clothes as a kid growing up in a Pentecostal family. It’s something he talked about in his memoir but has otherwise buried for his entire adult life. This summer he’s bringing his inner child out of the closet for audiences in his new one-man show at the Pilgrim House in Provincetown, with laughs and vulnerability in tow.

“It was one of those closets I shut a long time ago, trying on my sisters’ clothes and trying on their makeup and then getting beaten by my brothers and cousins for doing it. Last year coming here to Provincetown and seeing the culture, it was so incredible that I had an idea to bring that character back out.”

The character that’s emerged is Polly Lava, who harkens back to his roots in Hawaii. In addition to introducing the audience to Polly Lava and giving a tour of his life, Tuaolo also shares in his show a fun football 101 tutorial with pictures of athletes he played with and others who just might be on the audience’s “wish list.” There’s comedy, music and even some sing-alongs.

Yet for this big, strong former defensive lineman – he played nine NFL seasons including a Super Bowl with the Atlanta Falcons – it’s Polly who brings his own cathartic connection to his show.

“We all have something where we wish we could be somebody else or try something,” he said. “For me it’s letting go of that masculinity and being vulnerable to the sensitive side of me. It doesn’t make me less of a man, it doesn’t make me more of a man, it just opens me up to be free and be happy.”

To check out Esera Tuaolo and Polly Lava in “The Return of Mr. Aloha,” track him down in the entertainment listings on the Pilgrim House website.

Esera Tuaolo talks about his nine seasons in the NFL in “The Return of Mr. Aloha.”
Steven Alberts