|by Eric Morrison|
|Miss Gay America 2009: Five Fabulous Nights!
My partner Scott and I recently attended the Miss Gay America 2009 Pageant in St. Louis. What a week! We attended the pageant to support our friend Harry, a/k/a Karyn Thomas, who beautifully represented The First State as Miss Gay Delaware America, and our friend Mike, a/k/a Jade Sinclair, who proudly represented the Miss Heart of America title. It was Karyn's first time at Miss Gay America, and Jade's second time at the pageant. Karyn wowed the judges with her elegance and class. Jade cracked the Top Ten to place seventh overall, quite an accomplishment considering that 48 of the nation's foremost female impersonators competed for the national title. When all was said and done, Miss Gay D.C. America Victoria DePaula captured the coveted title of Miss Gay America 2009. Rounding out the Top Five were Chantel Reshae, Coti Collins, Alyssa Edwards, and China Collins.
In case you're unfamiliar with the regal history of the Miss Gay America Pageant, the first national title holder, Norma Kristie, was crowned in 1973, and a titleholder has been chosen every year since. Competitors must qualify for a preliminary title before competing at the national pageant. In fact, in some areas, competitors must qualify at a preliminary to the preliminary! Pageants may be statewide or regional, and each preliminary pageant sends two competitors to the national competitionthe winner and first alternate. Each year, approximately 40 to 60 preliminary winners compete at the national level. Most Miss Gay
America winners compete at the national pageant many times before they win the coveted title. For these competitors, it's a long-term, very serious, financially-strapping commitment to excellence, with many rewards. Arguably, the Miss Gay America title is the most prestigious among female impersonation titles, and this year, the winner's prize package was estimated at over $60,000including guaranteed bookings (all expenses paid, of course), a large cash prize, and a gorgeous jewelry set valued at about $2,000. Representing the title is literally a full-time job. Miss Gay America must appear at every preliminary pageant throughout the coming year, usually between 40 and 60 events, overseeing the contests and providing entertainment. It's also a great way to rack up frequent flyer miles!
Scott and I attended all five nights of the Miss Gay America 2009 Pageant, for a total of over 30 hours and over 1,500 pictures taken by Scott. Yes, that's 30 hours and 1,500 pictures of luscious lashes and lipstick. During the first three nights of the pageant, the contestants competed in the preliminary categories of evening gown, solo talent, and talent. During solo talent competition, limited to three minutes, contestants must be alone on stage and are not allowed to use props or sets. During talent competition, limited to seven minutes, contestants can pull out all the stops, including back-up dancers, elaborate props, and Broadway-worthy stage sets. During the day, contestants compete in male interview closed to the public answering judges' pointed questions and explaining why they should be chosen as the next Miss Gay America. Contestants could breathe easier during the fourth night of the pageant, since this was a revue show of former Miss Gay America titleholders. On the final night, after a parade of all the contestants dressed in gorgeous black ball gowns, the Top Ten was announced. Competition continued with only the lucky Top Ten contestants, who competed once more in evening gown and talent, and they also answered tough questions. Then, at long last, the winner was crowned.
I could not have been more impressed with the talent and dedication of the contestants, not to mention their serious financial and time commitments. Many of the evening gowns cost thousands of dollars, and fully beaded gowns can weigh more than twenty pounds. Not to mention the fact that you've got to have nerves of steel to strut in front of five eagle-eyed judges and hundreds of audience members, all the while balancing yourself in high heels; tolerating the bright, hot stage lights; being careful not to step on your gown's three-foot train; portraying grace and style while swimming in a sea of body padding, make-up, hair, and jewelry; and, of course, remembering to flash those pearly whites. For the talent portion of the competition, you're depending not only on yourself, but upon your back-up dancers and your stage crew. And some of the greatest unsung heroes of the annual pageant are the contestant's dressers. All week, they assist their contestants in any and every way possiblezipping gowns, buckling shoes, cutting stray threads and hairs, running to get a glass of water, even sewing contestants into their gowns, literally. Other heroes of the week's competition include preliminary pageant promoters, who do everything possible to support their contestantsphysically, emotionally, and financially.
I must confess that after the final night endedand I'd put nearly a full 40-hour work week into watching 48 female impersonators strut their stuffI turned to Scott and said, "I never want to see another drag queen as long as I live." But sure enough, by the time I was back in the hotel room, my mind was racing with ideas about which gown I would have worn, how I would have answered the question, which friends I might beg to assist me. They say that once bitten by the "drag bug," it never leaves your system. My alter ego, Anita Mann, has performed for over a decade now, and nothing would honor me more than to serve as a representative to the Miss Gay America Pageant. Of course, nothing was impressed upon me more than the incredible amount of assistance and encouragement you must have from friends and supporters, so I guess I'd better start buying some bang-up Christmas gifts!Now that the election is finally over, if you'd like to contribute to the Anita Mann for Miss Gay America campaign, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The only thing she promises is sparkling sequins and higher-than-heaven hairpromises she's sure to keep.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 15 November 21, 2008