Just when you thought it was safe to go back in to the water...LOL.
I felt that is was appropriate to write one final brief "The Blair Essentials" to recap my week at Miss Gay America 2016. First of all, let me reiterate what an amazing year I had traveling the country and representing the Miss Gay America organization. It was indeed a life changing year, and I will forever be grateful that I was fortunate enough to join the elite list of men who have worn the Miss Gay America crown.
The week of Oct 7 - 11 was personal and celebratory. My husband, Bob, made sure of that, and I could never ever thank him enough for the love, support and effort he put into that week as well.
I cried numerous times as my emotions overwhelmed me again and again. There were so many special moments like speaking to the contestants at orientation, the unveiling of the "Whoop, Blair It Is" t-shirt (an homage to my 1994 slogan at Miss Gay America), being surprised by my Cody and Marianna during the Trevor Project presentation, taking my final walk, and crowing a new Miss Gay America. I can't imagine a better give up, and I want to thank everyone there for embracing me in such a special and meaningful way.
Moreover, it was an incredible competition, and I hope all of the contestants are proud of the packages they presented. I know I am so very proud of you all! Congratulations to a stellar Top 10 and Top 5. I want to wish our newly crowned Miss Gay America, Asia T. O'Hara, the very best. Asia is a dynamic entertainer whose heart is as big as his talent, and I have no doubt he will leave an indelible mark as one of our best Miss America's yet.
What’s next for Blair? Knee and Hip replacement… ha ha. Seriously, only time will tell, but one thing is certain: Miss Gay America will always be a part of my future. I’m looking forward to my new role as a “forever” Miss Gay America, and I sincerely hope to see all of you during our 2017 competition season. I understand firsthand the disappointment of not realizing your dream or achieving your goal. But, luckily you all have a new opportunity to continue to work to make that dream a reality. F. Scott Fitzgerald stated, “Strength shows, not only in the ability to persist, but the ability to start over.” Never abandon your dream!
Before I close, I thought it might be helpful to share some important lessons I learned (or in some cases re-learned) this year. I think are relevant to “real” life:
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” ~Seneca
All my love and respect,
Forever Miss Gay America 2015
I am finding it hard to believe that a year has passed since I heard my name announced as Miss Gay America 2015. The year has flown by, and I am as grateful today (perhaps even more so) as I was on October 12, 2014. My mind is flooded with wonderful memories, and my heart is overflowing with love, happiness, and satisfaction.
I completed all of my preliminary contests in August, but that doesn't mean I got to sit on my sofa this past month and relax LOL. September was just as busy as ever. On the home front, we decided to have all twenty-nine of the windows in our house replaced, and Bob keeps hiring handymen to tackle one project or another. At least, our home will be in tip-top shape when I'm back to enjoy it .
Over the Labor Day weekend, Bob and I traveled to Chicago to attend the Miss Continental Pageant. Due to some unforeseen travel issues, we ended up flying out of Charlotte, NC; but that afforded us the opportunity to spend the night with Kerri Nichols and Marsha McLawhorn in their new home. We stayed up way too late chatting and catching up, but we thoroughly enjoyed spending time with our chosen family.
The next morning, however, we were on our way to Chicago without incident and soon found ourselves back in a city both Bob and I love. We lived in Chicago (north side in the Andersonville community) back in the 90s, and we still have friends in that area. We settled into our hotel, met our friend Marianna for dinner, attended the Jazz Festival, and even took our photo at the famous "kidney bean" at Millennium Park. We were also back at the hotel early, and I fell asleep by 10:00 PM. I can't remember the last time that happened on a Saturday night. Life is good!
The next day we took a rather lengthy walk looking for a Wells Fargo ATM, saw the building I used to work in, and took the El train down to Boystown for breakfast and a cinnamon roll at Ann Sather's Restaurant. If you ever find yourself in Chicago, and you don't have one of these delicacies, you will surely be missing out! After spending a little time taking in the sites, we returned to the hotel and then walked over to The Baton to pick up our tickets for the pageant. We even ran into Jade Sinclair on the street. It really is a small world. That evening we had dinner with Marsha, Kerri, and another forever MGA sister, Tasha Kohl, all of whom had arrived earlier that day. Later, we walked over to the Vic Theater for the preliminary night of competition. It was great to see so many friends in attendance, including Kirby Kolby, Heath Jarrell, Brent Silvers, Brittany Moore, Alberto Arias, and so many more. I was quite impressed with how tightly the pageant was run while secretly wondering how I might score in swimsuit competition LOL. I love a good pageant, and Miss Continental was proving itself to be just that!
On Labor Day, we ventured up to our old neighborhood, met our friends Steve and Richard for lunch, and then hurried back to our hotel so that I could transform into Blair for the final night of the pageant. I was excited to be participating in the national walk, and I was looking forward to seeing Brook Lynn Hytes in action. I was also excited to see my friends Kofi and Chantel in their respective roles as Miss Continental Plus and Miss Continental Elite. Final night ran smoothly. There was a virtual who's who from our industry in attendance including Miss USofA Mokha Montrese, Miss AAG Dena Cass, Miss EOY Sunny Dee-Lite, and Mr. EOY Judas Elliot. I was in awe of the former Miss Continentals, so many legends in one place. It was particularly special for me to see Tommie Ross again. The top 12 were fantastic, and I was especially proud of my forever MGA sister, Luscious. She was stunning and really lit up the stage! Congratulations to Tiffany T. Hunter on capturing her dream. I had the pleasure of meeting Tiffany earlier this year at Miss Gay Missouri America, and I know she will do a fantastic job. On top of that, I didn't fall down or embarrass myself as I walked across the stage to introduce myself. People applauded. I'd say it was successful!
The following weekend was Pride in Savannah. I am responsible for our Miss Savannah Pride Pageant each year, and this year was no exception. My friends always give me a hard time as I run the contest much like an America prelim. But hey, it's all I know! My friend Chi Chi Bonet Sherrington had a wonderful give up, and we had a very successful evening.
Our pride festival took place on Saturday, September 12th in Forsyth Park. It seems to rain every year at Pride, but luckily the rain was over by the time The Club One Cabaret took to the main stage. I was humbled to be able to entertain our city as Miss Gay America. It was a surreal moment. Later that evening, our entire cast performed to standing room only crowds, and I was so happy to be able to celebrate pride with my friends and family here at home.
I have become fairly adept at multi-tasking this year, so while preparing for and celebrating Pride, I was also collaborating with the talented Versage Holt on the opening production for final night at Miss Gay America 2016. With the music nearly completed, I scheduled my first rehearsals with Farrah Fendi Frantz and traveled to Atlanta to begin work on making my vision of "Heroes" come to life. Farrah and her team have worked with me to present Ain't Misbehavin', The Truth About Blair, and The Mad Hatter's Tea Party over the last three years, and I am so happy to have them back to bring "Heroes" to our national stage.
After two days of rehearsals, I returned home only to pack up and get back on the road for a weekend of performances. I was soon on my way to Raleigh, NC and Legends Nightclub Complex where Emory Starr, Coti Collins, and Kirby Kolby were all excited to see me (I hope). We had a great evening both on stage and off, with lots of MGA talk in between shows. Legends is always a great time with a responsive audience, and this trip was extra special as it would be my last performance in NC as Miss Gay America. Emory Starr is also making a costume and a gown for me for my give up week, and I was thrilled with what was being constructed. I can't wait to wear Emory's creations!
The following morning, I was honored to perform at the CMF Brunch, a monthly fundraising event for The Crape Myrtle Festival. CMF is an all-volunteer nonprofit that encourages and promotes the development of services for persons living with HIV/AIDS. Additionally, the organization raises money for financial assistance, outreach and education within the LGBT community. This was the 3rd time I have been privileged to participate. It was great working with my MGA sister Tiffany Bonet, Miss NC EOY Valarie Rockwell, and the beautiful Bella Nicole Jade. We had a wonderful time, and I am so grateful for the reception I received. Thank you Vivian Vaughn and Carlos O'Neal for arranging the schedule to allow me to be there.
Well, after a day at home, I was back on the road to Atlanta for another rehearsal and then on to Memphis, TN to participate in Mid-South Pride. I have spent quite a bit of time in Memphis this year, and I am thinking of having a plaque with my name engraved on it installed on the guest room door at Larry and Chuck's beautiful home. That way, the new Miss Gay America will know he's a guest in my room when he visits there next year. After a long drive, I was happy to go to dinner with the bosses and chat about the weekend and about our upcoming national contest. The enthusiasm we share is tangible, and I know it is just going to be a phenomenal week for the contestants, promoters and patrons.
It was an early night as I needed to be up the next morning at 5:00 AM to get into drag and make my second appearance of the year on the local Memphis morning news show. As luck would have it, our segment had to be taped as the live broadcast was interrupted by the Papal visit. The rest of the day was filled with prep for both the remainder of the weekend and the upcoming MGA pageant. That night I was thrilled to be back on stage at Club Spectrum and have the chance to spend a little time with their wonderful cast.
On Saturday, I performed at the Mid-South Pride Festival twice to a really wonderful audience, and I also rode in the Pride parade. The reception I received moved me to tears, and I will remember the experience forever. It was definitely a highlight in a year filled with incredible memories. Later that evening, after taking a quick shower and grabbing a bite to eat, I was back in full attire and ready to hit the stage at Dru's Place. The bar was packed to capacity, and the crowd was as lively as any I have seen this year. I had an amazing time, and I can't wait to return.
After a few hours of much needed sleep, I was on the road to Starkville, MS to perform at Rick's Cafe. PJ Newton, the promoter for Miss Tennessee Regional and Miss Mid America, has a monthly show at Rick's to showcase new and up-and-coming entertainment. I was honored to return as the special guest. The crowd is so receptive to the entertainers, and it was truly a pleasure to watch the growth in these young queens and kings.
Thank you PJ for arranging all of the Mid South Pride engagements and making sure I got to each venue and back. I appreciate your support of me and the MGA system. Moreover, I am so grateful to the people of Memphis for making the weekend so special. Thank you all!
I returned home on Monday, 9/28 and went right back to work preparing for Miss Gay America 2016. I have a busy week leading up to the pageant: finishing music, completing costumes and gowns, attending rehearsals and tending to last minute details. I really want this upcoming contest to be a wonderful experience for everyone in attendance, culminating in the crowning of my new little sister. I am also looking forward to my final appearance as Miss Gay America in my home bar of Club One on Saturday, October 3.
I am grateful to everyone who is helping me prepare for my step down. Words can't adequately express my heartfelt thanks. Shawn, Versage, Farrah, Scott, Erin, Mitchell, Frankie, Shane, Jeff, Emory, Monica, Layla, Chuck, Coby, Larry, and Terry, I hope you all know that I sincerely appreciate everything you are doing to make this as perfect as possible.
As I have just read the October Excellence articles of Coti, Kirby, Sally, and Jessica (some habits die hard), I am moved to tears by the similarities of our experiences, the love we share for this system, and the gratitude we have for the opportunities Miss Gay America has provided us. My year has been a spectacular and life changing one, and I will cherish every part of it forever. Thank you all for the love and support throughout the year.
I would now like to take a moment to welcome you all to Memphis, TN and the Miss Gay America 2016 pageant. I am looking forward to an amazing week of pageantry, and I'm excited to share it with all of you. As you travel to Memphis, remember to be conscious of the journey and not just the destination.
"The only impossible journey is the one you never begin." ~ Anthony Robbins
"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." ~ Ernest Hemingway
Miss Gay America 2015
And then there were none....
I have now attended 26 state and regional preliminary contests, and I have had the time of my life this year traveling the country as Miss Gay America. What an incredible journey this has been...one that I will look back on with a sense of wonder, awe, and satisfaction.
One of my favorite quotes is "Live the story you want to tell." I truly hope that the story I have told this year is one of gratitude, perseverance, determination, and hard work. This story, however, is certainly not unique to me. It is a common tale that many of us share. As you put the finishing touches on your packages for the upcoming Miss Gay America pageant, remember this quote. I want you all to live out the stories that you want to tell that week. Write your own headline! Be you! You can't ask for anything more than that from yourself.
August was another busy month. I attended the last seven pageants for this season and even had a few additional bookings as well. I don't think I have turned down a single opportunity this year to be on stage. I didn't want to look back at my year and wish I had done more or been more visible. I'm satisfied that "I Lived!"
The month started with a trip to Roanoke, VA for the Miss Gay East Coast pageant. Roanoke is the home of forever Miss Gay America 2014, Jessica Jade, and Jessica was kind enough to open her home to Bob and me for the weekend. We had our very own suite in Jessica's beautiful new home, and truly enjoyed the time we got to share with her.
Michael Lee Smith, the promoter of Miss Gay East Coast, is also the general manager for The Park. The Park holds a special place in my history. I won the Miss Gay Mideast contest there back in the dark ages when we had to turn our music in on stone tablets LOL. I will say, however, that I don't ever remember The Park looking like it does now. Michael and his staff have done a remarkable job in renovating the club into a beautiful modern space.
Michael had invited me up a day early to perform at his club, along with Jessica, Tiffany Bonet, Coti Collins, and Miss Gay East Coast Kelly Brooks. We had an amazing time cutting up back stage, and the show we put on was pretty good too. The audience was enthusiastic and really made the entertainers want to give it their all. Michael also went out of his way to help raise many for MGA © TREVOR that night. What an unexpected surprise.
After the show, we went back to Jessica's and put on some more comfortable boy drag, and decided to go back out to The Park for a night on the town. It seems like an eternity since "Bob and Todd" were actually out. We had a great time hanging out, chatting with folks, and even having a dance or two. As the night was winding down, we even played good Samaritans to a young man who had had a little too much fun that evening. We waited with him until his friends appeared to take care of him.
The next morning, Bob and I got up a little early and drove to downtown Roanoke to walk around a bit and take in some of the sights. We even got in a little shopping before it was time to get into pageant mode.
That afternoon, we were all business as we prepared for a day of pageantry. Mike and Kelly Brooks had chosen what I think was the most unusual theme of the year, "Death Becomes Her." The Park was transformed into a funeral parlor, complete with a coffin, flowers, and guest registry. Our judges' panel consisted of forever MGAs Coti Collins and Jessica Jade and 3 women affiliated with "real girl" pageantry: Amy Adams, Bootie Bell Chewning, and Melissa Webster. I nearly had to separate Coti and Bootie as they formed a fast friendship!
We had 3 contestants show up to compete for the title, and they all did an amazing job. It was such a treat to be backstage with my friend Kelly and watch him step down from a title that had meant so much to him this past year. Our emcee, MGA 1992 (or was it 87 LOL) Tiffany Bonet, kept the contest moving right along. At the end of the evening, Navaeh Symone was crowned Miss Gay East Coast America, and C'anna Stephens claimed the 1st Alternate spot. I'm excited to see what these two "newcomers" bring to the national stage. Best of luck ladies!
It was also great to see Eric Gabbard, the co-promoter for Miss Gay Eastern States, in the house along with Miss Gay West Virginia America, Chi Chi Ray Colby. It warms my heart that the MGA family always turns out to support each other.
After a few days at home, I was on a plane and headed to Albuquerque, NM and the Miss Gay Rocky Mountain America contest. Promoters Michael Estacio-Burdick and Renato Estacio-Burdick flew me out a couple of days early so I had the opportunity to perform at Sidewinder's Bar. I had a fun time working with Jacquesan and Renee. Both were talented and beautiful entertainers, and it was a pleasure sharing the dressing room and the stage with them.
Albuquerque was a great city, and I had enough down time to figure out how to use Uber and get in a little shopping, all before Sally Sparkles arrived to keep me company. Sally and I managed to take a little walk in the rain, and spent most of one afternoon looking for her phone haha.
Michael and Renato did a great job as 1st time promoters. Pageant director and stage manager, Gwen Cannova-Kinzie, kept us on track all evening, and Sabryna Williams made an awesome emcee. Thank you to our judges: Chip Hindi, Sally Sparkles, Joe Moncada, and Shar Spalding for all the work in determining who the inaugural Miss Gay Rocky Mountain would be. Congratulations to Martinique Toya-Bouvier on the win, and Miss Celebrity Starr for qualifying for nationals as well. I know both of these contestants are working hard to bring their very best to Memphis.
Well, as they say... no rest for the weary. With barely a day at home, we packed up the car and headed for Charlotte, NC and the Miss Gay North Carolina America contest. Both Bob and our best friend, Layla Foxxx, were making this trip with me. As most of you know, Layla has been my dresser at Miss Gay America the last 4 years. She is also a legendary entertainer here in Savannah, GA , and she loves more than anything else in the world to give me a hard time. I vividly recall Layla telling me last year as I was about to walk on stage for solo talent competition, "Well, just try not to embarrass yourself." I knew we were in for an interesting week with the three of us making a 4 hour drive and sharing a hotel room LOL.
On our way up to Charlotte, we stopped outside Columbia, SC at a swanky Waffle House for a bite to eat. After Layla shared with our waitress who I was and what we were doing, the young woman gave me a bottle of wine, and I was able to get a photo op with her too. Ah, the life of Miss Gay America...
I was extremely excited to be attending the Miss Gay North Carolina pageant. This was truly a homecoming moment for me. I started my career in female impersonation in Charlotte at the Scorpio where the pageant was being held. I was also Miss North Carolina 1991-1992. In addition to that, Kelly Ray, who would be giving up the title of MGNCA, was in the very first drag show I ever saw. It felt like things had come full circle.
Sixteen contestants showed up for orientation, all with hopes of being the next MGNCA. With a streamlined 3 day schedule, organization would be important to the pageant's success. Tiffany Storm, Von Entertainment, and the pageant staff did not disappoint. We started the first day of competition with all of the interviews. After the completion of that category, I knew our judges (Luscious, Kerri Nichols, Kirby Kolby, Mike Rhinehart, and Billy Burr) had their work cut out for them. That night, we saw all the contestants compete in Evening Gown and Solo Talent. North Carolina always seems so competitive, and this year was no exception.
The following night, all of the contestants competed in Talent competition, and then the audience was treated to the much anticipated Miss North Carolina Review show. I was honored to have the chance to perform with all of my NC sisters. Talk about family: these entertainers embody that sense of camaraderie.
The following day would change one young man's life. That afternoon, after the opening number rehearsal, Von Entertainment provided a wonderful luncheon, and Kelly Ray and I presented all the preliminary category awards. Later that evening, the pageant began with Kelly's opening of "I am What I Am," followed by the announcement of the Top 7. Just like at our national contest, those contestants competed again in Gown, Talent, and On-Stage Question. I was honored to perform my crown song to a packed house. I was equally honored to see Kelly's long awaited give up, followed by the crowning of my friend, Vivian Vaughn as MGNCA 2015. Congratulations to Lindsay Starr as well on being named 1st Alternate. I know how hard these two work at their craft, and I am very excited to see what they bring to the national stage. Thank you to Donald, Eric, Tiffany, Cierra, Michael, Lola and the entire team for making NC such a great experience.
After critiques, I returned to the hotel, showered, repacked, and laid down for twenty minutes before getting up and heading to the airport. Next up for me was Little Rock Arkansas and the Miss Gay Arkansas America contest.
Due to a scheduling conflict with NC, I missed the first day of competition, but Larry Tyger had made the trip down to Little Rock, and the reigning Miss Arkansas, Ambrosia Boudreaux, was taking care of the administrative tasks. After being picked up at the airport by Stan Ridge, we went right to the beautiful Argenta Theater. There I was given a tour of the facility, and got a chance to say hello to Ambrosia, who was busy setting up the stage for the opening number. Ambrosia had been very kind and invited me to participate in the opening by performing "Welcome to Burlesque." It is a moment I will definitely remember from this year.
I was humbled to have the opportunity to speak to the 12 qualified contestants. They laughed a lot during my speech. I'm not sure if I was that funny or just delirious from the lack of sleep. After another run through of the opening, I was given the opportunity to be interviewed by Buzzfeed.com. I always welcome any chance to talk about Miss Gay America and the incredible legacy of this pageant system.
Later that evening, our contestants competed in evening gown, talent, and on-stage interview. At the end of the night, Eden Alive was awarded the title of Miss Gay Arkansas America and Brittney Paige was named 1st Alternate. Good Luck to both of you at nationals. It was a pleasure watching you both compete!
I want to thank the judges' panel: Rafael Castanera, John O. Davis, Vicki Valentine, Chase Jackson and Steven Myers for all their hard work as well as the forever Miss Gay Arkansas Americas for their kindness and help throughout the evening. Last but not least, I want to give a huge thank you to the contestants for embracing me and making my evening so memorable.
Four down... three to go. The next weekend, I was off to St. Louis, MO for the return of the Miss Gay Midwest pageant, followed by Phoenix, AZ and the return of Miss Gay Western States. Both of these regional contests had been missing from our 2014-2015 season, so it was great to see them back this year.
I arrived in St. Louis a day early where I was picked up at the airport by my friend Diva Coppafeel. Diva and I have developed a good friendship over the years, and we love to share stories about our kids and our life experiences. Diva had asked if he could make a dress for me for Miss Gay America, and I was ecstatic to say yes. So I spent a good part of the afternoon getting measured and having a "mold" made of my body for Diva to use to make the garment. As we were chatting while I was unpacking, I realized that I had failed to pack the costume I had planned to wear in the opening for Miss Gay Midwest. Diva was kind enough to offer to make me something that day to wear the following evening. I was speechless but very happy to accept the offer.
Later that evening, I was picked up by Jade Sinclair who had invited me to perform in her show at The Grey Fox Pub. It was a real pleasure working with Jade, Adria Andrews, and Mikayla Monet that evening. It was also great seeing Chad Johnson, Curt Godier, Nick Anthony, Aron Aranda, and so many other friends out in the audience. I love Missouri, and I think they might like me a little too :).
The next day, Miss Midwest promoter Mike Rhinehart and I arrived at the venue for the pageant early and started to take inventory of everything we would need for that evening. R-Bar was a great choice and would make an excellent venue for our regional prelim. We were soon joined by Jade Sinclair, Vicki Valentino, Kathy Klein, Trixie LaRue and a host of other folks eager to help get the venue ready for our pageant.
Four fantastic contestants showed up to wow our judges (Luscious, Christopher Greenfield, Chad Johnson, Eric Gabbard, and PJ Newton). All were ready to show why they should be chosen the next Miss Gay Midwest America. Congratulations to Adria Andrews on capturing the crown and to Jazzelle Boyette for earning the 1st Alternate spot.
It was wonderful to see Vicki again and be a part of her stepdown. I have admired Vicki's talent and spirit for years. It was also great to see so many of the MGA family members in the house. I enjoyed seeing Kathy, Jade, Trixie, Melinda Ryder, Kirk Nelson, Bella DuBalle, Christa Collins, and Kyla Breeze on stage. Special thank you to my friend Aron Aranda for helping with the raffle for MGA © TREVOR.
The next morning I was up early and heading to the airport with my travel buddy for the weekend Eric Gabbard. We were both on our way to Phoenix for the Miss Gay Western States prelim. After a bit of a delay due to a mechanical issue, we were airborne and on our way to Phoenix. Thanks Curt for the ride to the airport.
We were picked up by promoter Nick Ray, and driven to the Phoenix Theatre for registration and orientation. A stickler for a schedule, Daniel Eckstrom had already gone through most of the pageant logistics with our 5 contestants and the judges. I was extremely excited for this contest, and I was thrilled to see our reigning MGWSA (and the current Miss Continental Elite) Chantel Reshae. Chantel and I have known each other for a few years now, and I always enjoy our conversations and "girl time."
Nick and Daniel had assembled quite the panel of judges including the first lady of Phoenix (or FLOP) Nicole Stanton, designer Oscar De Las Salas, forever MGA Charity Case, Phoenix icon Saellah V, and Eastern States promoter Eric Gabbard.
Our contestants represented both Arizona and California, and I couldn't wait to see what each would bring to the stage. After a hard fought contest, Barbra Seville walked away with top honors with Diva securing her spot as 1st alternate. Congratulations to both of these entertainers. I am big fans of both of you!!!
Phoenix always treats me so well. It was great seeing Truly Fabu, Angela Dodd, Grecia Montes D'Occa (thank you for the backstage help), Savannah Stevens, Nevaeh McKenzie, Olivia Gardens, Tempest DuJour (thank you for your support of MGA © TREVOR), Lady Ashley, China Collins, Martinique Toya-Bouvier and so many others (including Cindy, Gabe, Todd, and anyone I may have left out).
I stayed an extra day in Phoenix to work with Roberto D'Silva on a gown for Miss Gay America, and I also got to have dinner with James Carden (the promoter for Miss Gay California America), and Josh Kline and Grecia. I am always happy to be included in someone's preparations as they get ready for MGA.
I returned home and had a couple of days to get myself ready for a booking in Wilmington, NC and the final prelim of the season. I was excited to be performing at Ibiza Nightclub in Wilmington. I have known the show director, Tara Nicole Brooks, for many years, and I knew it would be a fun night. Wilmington is about a 5 hour drive for me, and I got on the road much later than I had intended. Nevertheless, I made it in plenty of time to get settled in my hotel and get ready for the show. I would be working with Tara, my forever MGNCA sister Lauren Scott, and Rashmia Biosh, so I knew I had to bring my A game.
Ibiza is located in downtown Wilmington in a busy area with trendy shops and restaurants. I got myself all dolled up and drove to the club. Street parking was out of the question, so I found parking in a garage across the street from the club. I parked on the 3rd level, grabbed my bags, and headed to the nearest elevator. Unfortunately, the elevator was out of order. So now, I was tasked with carrying a suitcase nearly as big as me, my "drag" bag, crown case, and a couple of wigs down three flights of stairs and across the street to the club. I'm sure I was quite a site trying to maneuver all of this stuff down three flight of stairs in a pair of heels. Once I literally "dragged" all of my things across the street, I remembered that I was now going to have to lug my things up 3 flights of stairs to the dressing room. I was going to be exhausted before the show ever started LOL.
Once I got into the dressing room, and caught my breath, I was able to pull myself back together for the first show. I truly enjoyed myself at Ibiza. The audience was wonderful, and I loved catching up with some old friends.
The next morning, I was up and on the road to Raleigh, NC and the Miss Gay Southeast America pageant, my last prelim of the season. I arrived in Raleigh and was met at the hotel by promoters Christopher Horton and Charles Cherry. For the eve of the pageant, they had arranged for massages for everyone and a wonderful dinner. What a great way to spend the day after a hectic month of nonstop travel, shows, and pageants. That evening, Jessica T Deveraux and I walked from the hotel to Legends Nightclub to catch the early show featuring Dana St. James, Emory Starr, Kirby Kolby, and Versage. We spent a few minutes chatting with everyone after the show, and then returned to the hotel to get some rest before the pageant day festivities.
The next morning, Jessica and I met the promoters at the Lincoln Theatre, the venue for the contest, and helped them get set up for lunch, registration, and orientation. We had 3 contestant show up to vie for the last two spots available for this year's national contest.
Charles and Christopher had assembled a very strong panel of judges and I was certain that Tiffany Bonet, Coti Collins, Jazmine Brooks, Timothy Barnes, and Willie Dorman III would do a superb job selecting the next Miss Gay Southeast.
Candis Cox did an amazing job as the pageant emcee, and it was a pleasure working with Kristianna Elite, Emory Starr, and Dana St. James as well. It was also wonderful seeing so many friends in the audience and back stage including Marsha, Bryce, Paris, Tasha, Eric, Michael, Tim, Carlos, Jeff, and so many more. It was equally wonderful to see so many of our qualified contestants in the audience including Vivian Vaughn, Lindsay Starr, and Nevaeh Symone.
Congratulations to Kelly Ray on becoming the new Miss Southeast America and Nina Fierra for earning her ticket as well.
Jessica, you did an amazing job all evening, and I am honored to call you a friend. Thank you for generous donation to The Trevor Project as well.
We now have 52 qualified contestants, and it is my pleasure to also welcome our Miss Gay Illinois America representatives to the Class of 2016 as well. Lindsay Bryant and Britney Towers, your hard work and commitment to the Miss Gay America system are evident. You both deserve the experience of competing at the national level, and I am excited to have you be a part of this year's national contest.
We are now 5 weeks away from the commencement of Miss Gay America 2016. I haven't quite processed that yet. People are constantly asking me how I feel. The honest answer is that I have been so focused on the task(s) at hand, I haven't thought much beyond the prelims. Oh sure, I've been working on costumes, music, and the like for my give up week, but I don't think I've yet thought about how quickly this year is coming to a close. It seems like just a very short time ago that I was putting together my own package dreaming of being the very thing that I have been so fortunate actually to live this year.
Before I wrap up this month's edition of "The Blair Essentials," I want to express my gratitude for the overwhelming support you have given to MGA © TREVOR. We have now raised $11,000.00 surpassing the goal I originally set.
So many have contributed but a few have gone above and beyond in your generosity. So here are a few "Thank You's" to a few special people:
· Jeff Capell: You are one of the "best" people I have ever met. Your size of your talent is matched by the size of your heart.
· Tim Barnes: You give of yourself freely to others. You opened your heart to me the first time we met, and I thank you.
· Tempest DuJour: Thank you for your kindness, generosity, and heart - all tempered with great humor and compassion.
· The Miss Gay Arizona Americas: Your dedication to MGA and the sisterhood you possess warms my heart. Thank you for helping me to exceed my goal by raising nearly 1/10 of the total we have to date.
· Eric Brown: You helped me kick start this entire fundraising effort, and I am very grateful for your support and your friendship.
· Jessica T. Deveraux: Thank you for the unexpected gift...what a blessing.
· John Greenwell: I will never forget "The Scent of Honeysuckle." Thank you!
This year has been monumental. I have one last article to write for October, so I'll save all the "sappy" stuff swirling around in my head for that one. In the meantime know that Miss Gay America has changed my life, and not just this past year, but in all the years I have been affiliated with the system.
"The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of our dreams." ~ Oprah Winfrey
Miss Gay America 2015
It's funny, I think, that I am such a creature of habit. As I was preparing to write this month's "The Blair Essentials," I again took a bit of time to re-read some of my forever Miss Gay America sisters' August articles. I seem to do this every month. They all talk about tons of travel, lack of sleep, fierce competition, and entering the final months of their reigns.
I fear that my article will not be very original, as these topics are quite present for me right now as well. I'm also feeling a little emotional as I think about the magnitude of this year and the impact it has had on my life. I discovered very early on, that this year was not going to be about me. Rather, it was most definitely going to be about the contestants, the promoters, the pageants, and upholding the standards of excellence that we as a family hold so dear. I only hope that during this year I have been as available as I had promised and have shown my love and respect for this incredible organization we call Miss Gay America!
Before I launch into relaying my experiences and travels from this past month, I do want to say thank you to everyone for the love and respect you have shown to and for the crown this year. That beautiful crown embodies the hopes and dreams of every contestant who has competed this year (or is still planning on competing). I continue to be humbled to wear it. I hope my getting to wear it reminds everyone that anything is possible when you believe and are also willing to put in the hard work to realize a dream. Dreams don't just come true on their own. You have to prod them along and put in the effort. Make sure you are all putting that effort into the packages you will be presenting in October.
I would like to congratulate Mike Rhinehart on the return of Miss Gay Mid-West America. This standard regional preliminary will be held on Saturday, August 22 at R-Bar in St. Louis, MO. I am excited to see yet another regional contest in an area of our country that has so many talented entertainers whom I would love to see compete in the America system. So come on gentlemen; here is yet another opportunity to earn your ticket to our national pageant in Memphis, TN.
I would also like to welcome James Carden as the new promoter for Miss Gay California America. We will add this limited regional to the MGA 2017 season with the prelim currently scheduled for March 20, 2016.
Moreover, I want to recognize Tom Marston as the new promoter of Miss Gay Maryland America. Tom has been intimately involved with Maryland and the Miss Gay America family for years and will no doubt do a great job at the helm of Miss Gay Maryland. Congratulations Tom. I'm looking forward to seeing you again soon.
July started out with a trip to Harrisburg, PA for the Miss Gay Pennsylvania America pageant. I arrived a day early, where Adam Feeser, the state promoter, picked me up at the airport. We went directly to Stallion's Nightclub where I got the lay of the land and worked with Adam to make sure the judges books were in good order and all the pre-pageant prep had been completed. Adam, as expected, had done an amazing job, and we were soon ready to welcome our three contestants for a meet and greet, orientation, and dinner. I thought this was a great idea, as it gave me an unusual opportunity to bond with both Adam and the contestants.
The next morning, I had a little free time, and Ingenue (a former Miss Maryland America and former Miss Pennsylvania America) was kind enough to invite me to lunch with his family. Ingenue and I have met a few times now, so I was thrilled to have the chance to spend some time with him and get to know him better.
That afternoon, we returned to Stallion's, and got set up for Male Interview. Our panel of judges consisted of former Miss PA's Cloti Rodriguez and Georgia Versace Couture, forever MGA Sabrina White, former West Virginia promoter Coby Myers, and long time supporter James Snyder. The day and evening went off without a hitch. Victoria Robinson had put together a wonderful give up, and it was great to see so many family members in attendance. In addition to the formers, Miss Gay DC, Deva Station; Miss Gay Maryland, Sasha Renee; and Miss Gay Northeast, Truly Fabu were all on hand to entertain the masses. It was also great to see Tom Kinnier, Eric Brown, Eric Gabbard, Chi Chi Ray Colby, and Ariyanna Myst as well. Thanks to Kathy and Barb for all the great pics and for selling raffle tickets for MGA © TREVOR.
At the end of the night, the veteran Ashley Lynn was crowned Miss Gay Pennsylvania America, and Jaslene LaFelina-Dickson earned her ticket to Miss Gay America as 1st Alternate. It was a fun-filled evening, and I am excited for both competitors as they prepare for nationals.
After the contest, Deva, Truly, Ingenue, and I attached a crock pot full of brisket, potatoes, and carrots. We ate, chatted, and laughed until the wee hours of the morning. And speaking for morning, it sure did roll around quickly. Before I knew it, I was up and on the way to Martinsburg, WV for the Miss Gay West Virginia America contest. Thank you Deva Station for the ride and the Starbucks! I am forever in your debt. Miss WV was being held at The Club, and I was looking forward to the pageant. I had the opportunity to visit The Club earlier in the year, and I couldn't wait to see what promoter Dale Gish and pageant director Sean Mauck had put together. I was also very excited to see my friend Ashley Bannk's step down.
After the orientations were completed, Dale and his mother Kitty had arranged lunch for everyone, and then it was time for interview. Our judges: Catia Lee Love, Eric Brown, Brian Alexander, Marc Warren, and Roger Remsburg were up for the challenge and proved to be a very qualified panel. That evening the audience was treated to some stellar entertainment by Ashley, Deva, Truly, Sasha, Nicole James, Bridget Nickles, Viki Williams, Brooke Lane, and Ashley Lynn. I tried desperately to purchase every costume that Ashley Bannks wore to no avail LOL.
Our three contestants battled it out all night. In the end, however, Chi Chi Ray Colby took top honors with Victoria Robinson claiming her spot at 1st Alternate. Again, it was great to see so many MGA family members in the audience, and I want to say a special thank you to Chasity Vain for helping me with the raffle for the Trevor Project. Dale, Kitty, and Sean truly went out of their way to make sure that I was well taken care of, and I am extremely grateful for their kindness and thoughtfulness. Thank you Terry and Coby for being on hand to support me, and a very special thank you to Eric Gabbard for driving me to the airport the next day.
West Virginia was now in the history books, and I was excited to see our contestant numbers for nationals continue to grow.
I was a bit anxious to get back to Savannah. I knew that I wasn't going to have a lot of time at home since I was leaving for an extended period on July 9th and wouldn't return until July 20. I would be attending Miss Mid-Atlantic, Miss Ohio, Miss Texas, and Miss Southern States all before seeing my own bed again. I was excited but also a little apprehensive for this trip. It was a very long time away from home, and I wasn't even sure I had enough underwear to last that many days without doing laundry LOL.
First up was Columbus, OH for the Miss Mid-Atlantic pageant on Friday, July 10, followed by Miss Ohio on July 11 & 12. I arrived in Columbus on the 9th and was greeted at the airport by Aron Aranda and Coco Montrese. Coco would be the head judge for Miss Mid-Atlantic, and I was so happy to see him again. Coco had judged me at Miss Gulf States in 2011 when I first returned to competition, and we have had the pleasure of working together a few times over the years. We arrived at our beautiful hotel where we had just enough time to unpack, freshen up, and meet up with another weekend judge John Greenwell (aka Rachel Wells, MGA 1979).
Aron had a full weekend planned for us. We started by heading to a great restaurant called Level in the "Short North" area of Columbus. Aron had arranged for a dinner with the outgoing Miss Ohio, Alexis Stevens, the Believe Entertainment team, and several supporters and friends. It was a great evening filled with wonderful food, libations, and conversation. I could tell right away it was going to be a memorable experience, and I was looking forward to every minute of the weekend. We had a fantastic evening, and it really set the tone for the remainder of my time in Ohio.
The next morning, as I was preparing to run a few errands and get ready for Miss Mid-Atlantic, I discovered that I had lost my driver's license the evening before. I was concerned as I would obviously , need a photo ID to travel on to Dallas, TX and Monroe, LA before returning home. My husband, now known in Savannah as "the first husband of drag," came to the rescue and overnighted my passport to me so that my trip wouldn't come to a screeching halt. I could only imagine having to call L & T and try to explain why I wouldn't be able to attend Miss Texas or Miss Southern States LOL.
That afternoon, we all met up at AXIS, our pageant venue for the weekend. I had been to AXIS for the Miss Gay America 2012 and 2013 review shows, and I was excited to return as Miss Gay America and actually have the opportunity to perform on the legendary stage. We had three contestants show up from three different states, all ready to give it their best in order to become the next Miss Gay Mid-Atlantic America. Our judges, Coco, John, Sarah Ball, Carrie Glaeden, and Jay Vera were anxious to work together to select the new Miss Mid-Atlantic.
In a hard fought contest, Monica Moore from Tampa, FL emerged as the winner and Selena T. West was named 1st alternate. Neither of these entertainers are strangers to the national stage, and I know they are working hard to showcase their talents in October.
It was a pleasure to see my Miss Gay North Carolina America sister Ariel Nicole Knight Addams back on the stage for her give up as Miss Mid-Atlantic. I felt like a proud mama (or at least big sister) watching Ariel shine that evening.
With a few hours sleep, we were back at it the next morning anticipating a great two days of pageantry with Miss Gay Ohio America. Aron and the Believe Team work like a well oiled machine, and they obviously have a proven system that keeps everyone organized and on task. I was excited to meet the 10 contestants and introduce them to our judges: John Greenwell, Horatio Nieto, Coti Collins, Carrie Glaeden, and Brett Richards (aka Hellin Bedd). I truly enjoyed working with the reigning Miss Gay Ohio, Alexis Stevens. We had some great conversations and a lot of laughs too.
We conducted interviews for all 10 contestants on Saturday afternoon, and that evening we got to watch everyone compete in solo talent and evening gown. At the conclusion of the evening, we packed up and headed over to Cavan Irish Pub, where Hellin, Coti, Alexis, and I joined Akasha O'Hara Lords for a show to benefit MGA © TREVOR.
On Sunday morning, we were back to the business of pageantry making the necessary arrangements for the final night of Miss Gay Ohio. Alexis had worked very hard on the opening production, and it was so great to see her in action. That evening, all 10 contestants competed in Talent before we narrowed the field down to a Top 5 and conducted the on-stage question portion of the competition. It was a real nail biter, but in the end, Amanda Sue took top honors, and Alli Katt walked away as 1st Alternate. I was proud of all the contestants and what they presented. Ohio has a bright future with the caliber of these young men.
Ohio (minus the lost driver's license) was fantastic. We raised quite a bit of money for The Trevor Project, and I got to see some old friends and make lots of new ones. Thank you to the contestants, the formers, and the patrons for all the love you showed me. Aron, Nick Rose, Nick Anthony, Brian Menegay, Joey Dotson, Michael Bishop, and anyone whom I may have inadvertently forgotten to mention, thank you all so much for making me feel at home!
Monday, July 13 was a travel day, and that afternoon I landed in Dallas, Texas for the Miss Gay Texas America pageant. Talk about nervous. Texas was by far going to be my largest prelim with 28 contestants competing over 4 days. If there was ever going to be a test of my preparedness, this was it!
I was met at the airport by the state promoters, Big Kristian and Little Christyan . We joked and laughed and developed a friendship immediately. "KC" drove me to the hotel, where I was greeted by Miss Texas herself, Dessie Love-Blake, his husband Clay, and brother-in-law Chad. After I got settled in my hotel room, we all went out for a bite to eat, and then Dessie and her family were kind enough to drive me to the closest Wal-Mart where I picked up some things I would need for the week. I also managed to spend some money with Chad who is the owner of Wicked Drag Jewels. His jewelry is both beautiful and reasonably priced. It definitely gets my Miss Gay America stamp of approval J!
On Tuesday morning, I was excited to get to the Rose Room at S4. It had been many years since I had been in Dallas, and it brought back fond memories of my early competition days in the Miss Gay America system. Jenna Skyy, the MGTXA pageant director, was already there hard at work so I knew right away that we were in good hands. It was truly humbling to stand in front of 28 contestants , thank them for choosing the America system, and talk about my love for this family and what this year has meant to me. With this many contestants, I knew our judges (Alayna Marquez, Cassian Bernard, Sally Sparkles, Anthony Hernadez, and Juan Ramon Alfaro) were definitely going to have their work cut out for them.
Miss Texas is run just like our national contest. The contestants were divided into 3 groups based on contestant number, and we would see the groups compete in the various categories over 3 separate nights of preliminary competition. I was thoroughly entertained throughout the competition, and not just by the contestants but by the former MGTXA's who served as both the pageant emcees and entertainers. When final night rolled around, I was thrilled to witness Dessie's opening production which included all of the forever MGTXA's in attendance, and hear the Top 10 announced. It was an incredible evening of pageantry and display of such diverse talent. I was honored to be asked to facilitate the on-stage question for our Top 5 as well. Dessie's final number was memorable as it was apparent she had made quite a positive impact not only on the contestants but also on the entire state.
After 4 days of fierce competition, Asia T. O'Hara was crowned MGTXA and Violet S'Arbleu grabbed the 1st alternate spot. It was truly a personal pleasure for me to see Violet again. I had met him in Savannah, GA several years ago when he was a student at Savannah College of Art and Design. It really is a small world.
Texas was a great experience, and I want to personally thank Kristian, Christyan, the city promoters, and all the forever Miss Gay Texas Americas for your support and kindness during the week. There were so many highlights of this contest, but I have to admit meeting Sweet Savage was definitely one of the best. I immensely enjoyed bonding with the contestants as well; oh and poking fun at Sally all week with a little help from Jenna and Gizelle. I also learned that Kristian and Christyan love to eat at I-HOP too, so if they come visit me in Savannah, I will know exactly where to take them to eat LOL.
My friend Bo Myers, had driven to Dallas to assist me on final night, and the next day we were on the road to Monroe, LA and the Miss Gay Southern States America pageant. It is about a four hour drive from Dallas to Monroe, and I don't think we stopped talking the entire time. We obviously had a lot to catch up on since the last time we had seen each other at Miss Gay Louisiana America. Then again maybe it was just the 5 HR Energy Drink...
We arrived in Monroe, made an obligatory stop at a local CVS, and had a bit of time to get settled in our hotel. Later that evening we were joined by David Green and his nephew Phillip for a great dinner and a trip to Club Pink, the venue for Miss Southern States. The owners had already decorated the club for my 80's Theme, and we enjoyed some down time just being amongst friends.
Miss Gay Southern States was actually my give up, and David had done an awesome job helping to get things prepared, gift bags made for the contestants, and some super cool cassette tapes containing the contestant #'s. We had three contestants show up to compete, and I knew we were in for a great show. When the dust settled, the two local girls walked away with their tickets to Miss Gay America. Congratulations to Dextaci on the win, and Hollie Daye for securing the 1st Alternate spot (I'm already looking forward to the reaction to Hollie's talent at MGA). Thank you to our judges: Buck Stone, Beyoncea Black, Terry Parker, Chelsea Cooper, and Anthony Volk (Diva Coppafeel) on a job well done.
It was nice seeing Chad Johnson, Curt Godier, Sam Bible, Michael Salinas, Dessie Love-Blake, Clay Gore, Josalyn Royale, Delanie Valentine, Brielle Valentine, Stormi Rayne, and many of the MGLA city preliminary promoters in the audience. it was a very special evening. David Green, I don't have words to adequately thank you for all the support you have shown me this year. You have been a true gift!
I have to admit I was extremely excited to get home the next evening. I had three full days at home, and I was thrilled to see Bob, sleep in my own bed, and receive some unconditional love from our girls: Holly, Daisy, Ting, and Tang. I knew I needed to spend the time at home being productive. There was laundry to do, phone calls to make, emails to answer, letters to write, planning to do, and so much more. I met with moderate success at best.
On Friday morning, 7/24, I was up at 4:30 AM to catch my flight to Oklahoma City and the Miss Gay Oklahoma America pageant. I was looking forward to visiting Tillie Laine and experiencing all the great things I had heard about the pageant first hand. After a bit of a flight delay in Atlanta, I arrived in plenty of time to have a quick lunch with Tille, Steven Lofton, and Kelly Howell. I knew right away we were going to have a great time together. They were so much fun, and I joined in the banter without hesitation.
After lunch, I made a quick change into my more professional attire, and we joined Miss Oklahoma, Renee Hilton, and the 11 contestants at Angles for registration and orientation. I was moved to speak to the contestants and relay my journey and experiences in this system. Next up, I briefed our judges (Alysha D. Brooks, Sam Kvasnicka-Rains, Lindsey Paige, Mitchell Kern, and Bianca LeBlanc), and we were ready for a pageant. On the first day of competition, not only did we complete all of the male interviews, but we also saw each contestant compete in Evening Gown and Solo Talent.
The next day, Renee proved that she is not only beautiful and talented, but a heck of a cook to boot. After the opening number rehearsal, Renee treated everyone to a great meal he had managed to cook in his spare time (not that he had anything else going on ha ha). That night after talent competition, we narrowed the field down to a Top 5. In a very tight contest, Carmen Deveraux captured the title of Miss Gay Oklahoma America and Alanna Paige was named 1st Alternate. I know these two competitors will bring their all to Miss Gay America in October.
I had a wonderful time in Oklahoma. I am so grateful for the kindness I received and the new friendships I made. Thank you to everyone for the support and love you showed me!
After critiques, I had just enough time to pack, shower, and get to the airport. I was tired but also excited to head to New Orleans for the Miss Gay Gulf States America pageant. I was picked up by MGGSA herself Dextaci,, Robbie Howell, and Bo Myers. Dextaci is slightly directionally challenged, but we did eventually find our way to our hotel and Mags 940, the site of our contest.
After just enough time to settle in, Bo, Dex and I conducted registration and orientation for our four contestants who were ready to do battle to become the next titleholder. While the contestants got familiar with the venue, I had the opportunity to speak to the judges: JC Romero, Katie Anzalone, forever MGLA Tiffany Alexander, Markus VonLenoxxx (Mr. United States), and forever MGA Kerri Nichols. I was very excited to see Kerri, whom I have known for over 25 years.
We completed interviews, had the world's greasiest pizza, and got ready for an evening of pageantry. In a hard fought contest, Victoria Valentine was crowned MGGSA 2015, and Dessie Love-Blake captured the 1st Alternate spot. Both of these entertainers are very familiar with the MGA system and I know they well be well prepared come October.
My friend Dextaci was quite radiant (some would even say handsome) in his give up, and Nicole Dubois and Aubrey Sinclair were fantastic emcees. It was great to see so many of my Texas and Louisiana friends in the audience. Kristian, Christyan, Clay, Sam, Michael, Santana, Stormi, Alex, Delanie, Brielle, Josh, Bradley, Theo, Athena, Channing, and Mama Deb (please forgive me if I left anyone out): thank you for your continued support of MGA! And Sally Sparkles, it is always great to see you. You and I have a strong bond. I am incredibly grateful to have you as my big sister!
What a month!!! While the travel was extensive, the memories and experiences will be with me forever. I am thrilled that we have raised a total of $8100.00 for MGA © TREVOR.
We now have 38 qualified contestants for our national contest, with 7 prelims remaining. We also anticipate having 2 representative spots which will give us a grand total of 54 contestants at Miss Gay America. Now that is definitely going to be a pageant!
Before I say farewell to July, I want to make sure I thank some people who have made this month unforgettable:
· Clay and Chad Gore - Thank you both for lugging my bags around Dallas and for your constant offers to help and assist me. Your genuine kindness hasn't gone unnoticed.
· John Greenwell - Thank you for the autographed book, and for the generous donation! You have touched my heart, and I am grateful to have gotten to know you!
· Sam Bible and Michael Salinas - Thank you for going out of your way to provide me with an opportunity to raise additional money for The Trevor Project and for your support and presence at so many prelims this year.
· David Self - Thank you for your humor, your friendship, and your patience. I appreciate your random calls and texts more than you could ever know. Hey why don't we do lunch... maybe in November LOL...
· Every Forever Miss Gay _________ America : I am left speechless by the warmth and love I receive from the "forever" state or regional titleholders at every single contest I attend. We talk about family often, but our formers live and breathe the meaning of that word. I am humbled by your inclusiveness and your friendship.
August will be another busy month, and I have much left to accomplish before I can "go quietly into that good night." I know from experience you all have long "to do" lists as well. I encourage you to stay focused on your goals, to stay diligent in your approach, and above all to stay true to yourself in the process. Remember, in the end, all the judges want to see "you."
"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment" -Emerson
Miss Gay America 2015
A day late and a dollar short... That is a phrase I often heard growing up. It's pretty much how I'm feeling today as it is June 26, I'm on a plane heading to Phoenix, and my "The Blair Essentials" article was due yesterday. And I thought time management was a strong suit of mine LOL. Thank goodness L & T have given me a slight reprieve so that I can accurately document all that has happened since the June edition of my article.
I have to admit typing atop this tray in this small space is not an easy undertaking. I like to spread out a bit. Anyone who has sat next to me in a dressing room this year can attest to that. Moreover, I am slightly distracted today. I keep peering out the window watching the clouds drift by like spurts of white smoke in glorious shapes and configurations. Occasionally, I will catch glimpses of the landscape below and wonder where we are exactly and even if I'm looking at land or water. Topography was never a subject I was consumed by. I always figured: no matter where you go, there you are.
Mostly, however, I am distracted by thoughts of progress for our country and the LGBTQ community. Today, SCOTUS made marriage equality the law of the land. In a time where it still seems like prejudice, racism, and hatred are prevalent, I am moved by this monumental development; and the words, "all men are created equal" keep echoing in my head. Twenty-four years ago, I would never have thought it would be legal for me to wed my Bob, and now our four year old marriage will be recognized all across this country. I really don't have words, but I do have a full heart! Congratulations to us all!!!
June has been a very busy and a very memorable month. Before, I launch into relying all of my travels and escapades, I want to begin by saying "Thank You" to all of our promoters for the amazing work you are doing this pageant season. I realize that sometimes your job seems thankless. There are seemingly endless hours of preparation, planning, and coordination to ensure that your contests are successful and smooth. These efforts, coupled with all the money it takes to execute the pageant and then take care of your contestants, should be recognized and celebrated. Your reward is not a crown, but rather the satisfaction of helping others achieve their dreams. That is a selfless act. I want you all to know how much I appreciate the blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifices you make for this organization. If I could give you all an award at the end of the year, I would. Oh wait, I'm Miss Gay America...maybe I can LOL.
So contestants, do not take your promoters for granted. Show them a little love today!
Speaking of promoters, I do want to officially welcome Michael Burdick and Renato Estacio-Burdick of MR Productions to the Miss Gay America family. They are the new owners of Miss Gay Rocky Mountain America, a limited regional preliminary. The pageant will be held in Albuquerque, NM on August 9 at Sidewinder's Bar. Here we grow again!
So I began this month (actually I began in May) with a now familiar drive to Memphis, TN. This weekend offered a two-fer with Miss Gay Tennessee Regional being held on May 29, followed by Miss Gay Mid America on May 30. PJ Newton and Paulette Harness of PJ Paulie Productions are the promoters of both of these contests, and they certainly put their heart and soul into everything they do. I arrived at Larry and Chuck's on the evening of May 27. Their beautiful home has sort of become my home away from home as this was my 3rd stay with them this season. What can I say, the price is right and the room service is exceptional.
PJ is well versed in advertising and is well connected to the media outlets in Memphis. I was so excited to learn that PJ had booked us on a local morning TV show on May 28 to talk about the Miss Gay America organization and promote both the pageants. So I was up at 5:00 AM that morning transforming into Blair. Now there have been a few times over the years that I may have been getting out of drag at 5:00 AM, but getting in drag at that hour was an entirely new experience for me. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? I got to share this wonderful experience with PJ, Chuck Guthrie, and Iris Lefluer, The hosts were gracious, and many of the news room employees asked to have their pictures taken with Iris (the "outgoing" MGTNA) and me. I could now see a future beyond pageantry for Blair as the host of a morning show. The day was off to a great start.
I spent a good part of the rest of the day hanging out with Chuck who had some really fun things planned like taking me to the local Kroger LOL. Seriously, we toured Memphis, enjoyed lunch, visited a great costume store to look at superhero costumes, and even milled around the world's largest Bass Pro Shop. Memphis is full of surprises. That evening we met up with Coby and Terry for a great dinner and then hurried back to Larry's house to "welcome home" Charity Case and her hubby, Jimmy Bogle. Charity and I have "known" each other for years, but this year, we have really gotten the chance to "know" one another. Without a doubt, the friendship we have established has been one of the highlights of this year.
The next morning was pageant day. It started off by picking up my roommate for the weekend, Jessica Jade, at the airport. Jessica and I had a wonderful time all weekend, even if I did make her sleep on the floor :). The pageant was held at the historic Evergreen Theater, and I was so happy with the Studio 54 theme. If there is one thing I know, it's disco. The stage was beautifully decorated and it was a pleasure working with Iris, and so many former Miss Tennessee America's. We had 4 well qualified contestants show up to vie for the crown and title. I have to admit, sitting in on Male Interview this year has been one of my favorite things. I am so interested in hearing everyone's stories. I am moved by their histories and humanness, and I cry at every contest. I am grateful for the tears and the experiences.
After interview, I knew our judges (Larry Tyger, Larry West, Jessica Jade, Marsha McLawhorn, and Mike Rhinehart) had a difficult job ahead of them. At the end of the evening, however, the local girl, Bella DuBalle, was crowned MGTNA, and Venus Knight was awarded first alternate. Both of these competitors are no strangers to the national stage, and I cannot wait to see what they bring back to Memphis in October.
No rest for the weary, we were back at it the next morning preparing for Miss Mid America. PJ and company must have stayed up all night to transform the stage at The Evergreen Theater into Sasha Leigh Chamber's vision for a Night At The Oscars.
Just an aside... the intoxicated lady next to me has finally passed out and is no longer reading over my shoulder LOL. I hope I kept her entertained.
We had 6 contestants show up for Miss Mid America, a true testament to the efforts that PJ has put into ensuring a successful season. The judges panel was comprised of Larry Tyger, Jessica Jade, Coby Myers, Chyna Charles, and Bill Zachary (Gina Lola Jupiter), and it was obvious that they took their jobs seriously. I knew we were in expert hands with this group. SLC had put a great deal of effort into her step down, and the passion she has for MGA and respect she has for Mid America was evident. it was a great night made even better when my husband surprised me on stage with a tip during my first number. I had no idea he had flown into Memphis to see me and our MGA family.
In an extremely tight contest, Christa Collins from Kansas City, MO emerged as the new Miss Mid America and Renee Hilton from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma secured her spot to nationals as the first alternate. I was so proud of what all of the contestants put on stage, and it was my pleasure to watch them truly give their all.
I want to thank PJ and Paulette for a memorable weekend and for allowing me to climb that ladder...ha ha. Not many people have that kind of faith in me. I also sincerely appreciate the time you took to collect donations to my MGA © Trevor campaign as well. The work and the heart you put into these pageants was tangible. Thank you for all that you have done for me personally and for all that you do for the America system on a larger scale. Your contestants are in good hands!
After Miss Mid America, I was treated to a small break from pageantry but not from Blair. After a few days at home, I drove to Charleston, SC to perform in The Patti O'Furniture show at Dudley's on Ann. We had a great time and were able to raise money and accept donations of jars of peanut butter for the Low Country Food Bank. Daniel Brinker, the owner of Dudley's, Patti, and the entire Charleston community have always been there to support me, and I was happy to be able to help them in some small way.
That weekend, I was able to re-join my cast at ClubOne in Savannah, GA and even had the opportunity to work alongside the infamous Lady Chablis. I love performing in her monthly shows. Chablis has always been incredibly kind to me, and I love her wit and candor. Her audiences truly enjoy the art of female impersonation, and it is always a treat to have the opportunity to talk to the patrons at the end of the shows and take photos with them.
Next up for me was a much anticipated four day booking at Hamburger Mary's in Jacksonville, FL. Brittany Moore, former Miss All American Goddess, had been gracious enough to arrange the dates, and I had an amazing time performing with her and the talented entertainers on cast there. Thank you Alexis Gabrielle Sherrington, Faith Taylor, Jayla Roxx, KyKy Roxx (Forte Kyle), Cinnamon LaRoche, and Dorae Saunders for a fun time back stage as well.
While there, I was even invited to judge a prelim for the National Miss Comedy Queen Pageant. I was nervous since all of my judging experience was in the MGA system, but I found a lot of similarities in the scoring and truly enjoyed myself. My favorite category was "Spokesperson." It is this pageant's version of on -stage question. Each contestant must blindly choose an item from a bag, then they have 60 seconds to deliver a funny pitch to "sell" the item to the judges and audience. Talk about thinking on your feet.
My husband and neighbors drove down to attend the Saturday night dinner show. Bob apparently has developed a knack for surprising me. One of our neighbors who writes for our local paper, Jane Fishman, even wrote about the experience in her weekly article. Thank you again to owner Gary Motes for having me down!
Well, I'm being directed to put my lap top away in preparation for landing. I guess I'll have to finish this a little later.
After a day at home, I was repacked and on a plane heading to Baton Rouge, LA for the 25th anniversary of Miss Gay Louisiana America. David Green and I have quite a history by now LOL, and I was so excited to see what he, pageant director Josh Richardson, and their hard working team had put together. Josh picked me up at the airport and took me to the beautiful Crowne Plaza Hotel where I settled in quickly. The reigning MGLA, Santana Pilar Andrews, and I bonded that evening putting together the judges books and waiting for Mr. Green to arrive. It is always great to get to spend time with your peers in this business and learn more about each other on a personal level.
The next morning, I was thrilled to conduct orientation for 12 well qualified contestants, all of whom hoped to be the next Miss Gay Louisiana America. I was equally excited to see the contestants' reactions as our judges panel (Lucinda Holiday, Terry Parker, Nicole Dubois, Joe Hoselton/Jenna Skyy, and Rusty Croy) was announced. We were definitely in for a memorable pageant.
David's organization had paid off and the whole contest ran very smoothly (well, except when the hotel decided to test the fire alarms in the middle of male interview LOL). I want to acknowledge the staff of Splash Nightclub and all of the forever Miss Gay Louisiana America's for all the hard work they put into this contest as well. The dedication and team effort were prevalent throughout the contest. After two days of preliminary competition, we took a little break to give the "forevers" a chance to wow the contestants and Splash patrons with a stellar review show that also included Jenna Skyy and Nicole Dubois. Thank you all for including me in your sisterhood.
Final night was held in the impressive Executive Ballroom at the Crowne Plaza hotel. The venue was amazing, and we performed to a full house that night. Santana Pilar Andrews had put together a high energy opening number, and all of the costuming of both the contestants and forever MGLA's was unbelievable. Santana's entire week was moving and memorable, proof that maturity and talent and excellence are not dependent on age but on the person. Our top six really put on an amazing show that had the judges and the audience on the edge of their seats. Congratulations to the newly crowned MGLA, Delanie Valentine, and 1st Alternate, Arilyn Roberts. Both of these young men were fantastic and will represent Louisiana and Team Green well.
Before I leave Louisiana, I do want to recognize the city promoters for all of your hard work and support to put on a first class state pageant. Thank you to the Forever MGLA's for the kind words and assistance throughout the week as well. Thelonius Dennis, thank you for driving me around and for selling raffle tickets for MGA © TREVOR every night! And finally, I also want to say a special thank you to my new friend and sister Bo Myers for the assistance and the laughs (never go buy balloons with Bo).
My next stop was Phoenix, Arizona for the 30th Anniversary Miss Gay Arizona America pageant. I was excited to return to Arizona. Phoenix was my first "big" trip after winning MGA, and I was looking forward to coming back to renew friendships and experience firsthand all the great things I had heard about Daniel Eckstrom and his pageant. Let me say, that MGAA lived up to all the hype. Daniel was super-organized (except when he misplaced the final night schedules which mysteriously were found in my notebook LOL), and the pageant was absolutely wonderful.
Daniel had arranged for me to stay in a great two bedroom apartment, and I was fully expecting to have a roommate. When I found out it was just for me, I took full advantage of the space! Daniel and his hubby Nick went out of their way to make sure I had everything I needed and treated me to some great food and a festive time on the evening of my arrival. I was also able to spend some quality time with Grecia Montes Docca and her husband Josh that night before the pageant got underway.
I met all nine contestants the next morning and was so moved when they presented me with a donation to my MGA ©TREVOR campaign. Pageantry can be awfully expensive, yet these contestants were willing to assist me with my fundraising efforts. I am moved and grateful for their generosity. The orientation went well , and we were soon ready to begin Male Interview. Our judges: Katy June, Gina Cramp, Gary Olson, Naomi St. James, and Rodd Gray (Patti LePlaeSafe) were briefed and ready to start the process of choosing the next Miss Gay Arizona. This was my first time meeting Patti, and we bonded like sisters right away. It was truly a pleasure spending time with Patti and all the judges throughout the competition.
That evening, we watched as all the contestants competed in Solo Talent followed by the MGAA review show at The Rock. The talent displayed both during competition and during the show that followed was astounding. I was honored to be in the dressing room with the forever MGAA's, and I was truly left speechless by the kindness and support they showed to me, Daniel, and the contestants. They are a real family of wonderful entertainers, and I am thankful to have them as friends and sisters. All of them went out of their way to be sure I felt included and was having a great time. Thank you all so much!
Final night was held at the impressive Phoenix Theatre. The venue was incredible, and Grecia's "Once Upon a Time" opening was breathtaking. Being on the stage in that theatre was truly a memorable experience. After all of our contestants competed in Talent and Evening Gown, the field was narrowed to a Top 5, with On-Stage Question being the only remaining category. It was a hard fought contest, and I was not sure who was going to win until the final scores were tabulated. Nevaeh McKenzie walked away as the new MGAA, and Savannah Stevens took home the 1st Alternate prize. All of the contestants really did an awesome job, and I feel confident that both Nevaeh and Savannah will be forces at MGA in October.
Phoenix was a great experience. Grecia had a beautiful step down, two well deserving young men grabbed spots to compete at nationals, and I walked away with wonderful memories. Thank you to the city promoters for being so engaged and supportive. Thank you to the forever MGAA's and to the Imperial Court of Arizona for all the efforts you put into helping to raise money for MGA © TREVOR. I am humbled by all of you and the excellence you exude and project.
Well, that was quite a month, and I'm looking forward to a busy rest of the season. We still have many prelims ahead and many chances for contestants to qualify for our national pageant in October (yep, that's October 7 - 11 in Memphis, TN).
I can't even begin to articulate my gratitude for this system and everyone involved. Thanks to the kindness of the promoters, contestants, and audiences at our pageants, we now have over $5700.00 towards our $10,000.00 MGA © TREVOR goal. That's truly unbelievable!
But as humbled as I am by the overwhelming generosity, what I am most grateful for is the opportunity to see our contestants compete, grow, dust themselves off in some cases, and try again. Everyone wants to win, but sometimes winning doesn't involve a crown. It can be overcoming an obstacle, improving in a category, having your best interview ever, or even hearing someone say how much they enjoyed what you presented. I have lost many more times than I have won, but I didn't quit. I never felt defeated - disappointed yes, upset sometimes, but never defeated. The hardest part of this job isn't validating the scores or performing or running around checking on people. It is seeing the disappointment on the faces of those who don't succeed in a manner in which they had hoped. My heart breaks each time a friend (and yes I consider all of the contestants I have met friends) doesn't win. I have been there. I have lost, but I always believed that I would be Miss Gay America. So I urge each of you to take those critiques, talk to judges and promoters (or even me), dissect your packages, fine tune where needed, and rebuild where necessary. Don't feel defeated; rather, feel motivated.
Before I close, I wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge some people who have kept me prime time ready and continue to motivate me:
· Roberto D'Silva - Thank you for the beautiful gown, and thank you for the love and support. You motivate me to attempt to be more elegant and graceful.
· Shane McCarty - You have really come through for me. Thank you for the great costumes. You motivate me to perform harder and better in order to showcase your work.
· Layla Foxxx - Thank you for your continued love and hard work and your ability to do good hair. More than all else, thank you for all you give to Bob and me. Always with all our love my friend!!!
· Jeff Coble - Thank you for the packages full of goodies. You always come through when I need you most.
· Josh Richardson and Truly Fabu - You have both been kind and gracious to lend me a little hair when I needed it most. Thank you both.
As the pageant season progresses, whether you have yet obtained your ticket or not, I hope you all will find a little extra motivation to chase your dreams and reach for the stars. Trust me, they are closer than you think.
"Don't stop when you are tired. Stop when you are done." ~Marilyn Monroe
Miss Gay America 2015
Being Miss Gay America has been such a rewarding experience for me. As you know, my journey to the crown was long, but I have to say it definitely was worth the wait. It was also worth the hard work, money, sweat equity, and time that I invested. Working towards a goal and finally achieving that goal...well it leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. But winning is really just the beginning. The real work starts after "your" moment. I want all of our contestants and potential contestants to keep that it mind as you work towards becoming the next Miss Gay America. Wearing the crown brings with it a multitude of responsibilities and obligations. Be sure you are prepared, and know what you are signing up for. The effort will be great, but the experience of traveling the country representing this organization will be monumental!
The month of May marked a milestone birthday for me. I won't give you the exact number LOL (although I think most of you know by now), but it has given me a nudge to reflect and be slightly nostalgic. I have been so fortunate, some would say blessed, to have had a wonderful life and memorable experiences. And being Miss Gay America at this point in my life is even more meaningful I think. For so many years, my focus was on myself and achieving my own goal. And now I am honored to have a small hand in helping so many others work towards their goals this year. I have been so incredibly impressed with the contestants and their commitment to Miss Gay America and the art form of female impersonation, and I am excited to see what the rest of the competition season will bring.
May 22, my actual birthday, was pretty low key this year. I was happy to be able to spend the entire weekend at home. Bob and I went shopping, puttered around the house, had some amazing cupcakes and went to the movies. My sister's kindergarten class also called me to sing "Happy Birthday." Being serenaded by 25 five year olds at 9:00 AM sure does bring a smile to your face. My sister later told me she had told her class that it was her baby brother's birthday. They wanted to know if I had my own phone and if I could drive. Gotta love kids!!! It was a great few days, and just what I needed coming off a hectic travel schedule and looking at the full calendar I have leading up to October. Taking a moment for yourself can rejuvenate the spirit and give you fresh perspective. I would encourage you all to carve out a little "me" time in your own schedules as you prepare for your preliminaries and, ultimately, the national contest. I also want to thank everyone for the overwhelming number of birthday well wishes. I am touched by the kind words and sentiments! Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!
I began my travels this month with a trip to Washington, DC where I had been invited to attend "Sweet Sixteen: A Night Out for Trevor." This event was a fundraiser put on by the The Trevor Project's Washington, DC Ambassadors Committee. I got to meet Abbe Land, the executive director of Trevor, and speak to her about my MGA © TREVOR campaign. I also got to meet and chat with Alex Newell of the TV Show Glee, who wowed the nearly 300 attendees with his powerful vocals. Thank you to Robert York for being my escort for the evening, I was surprised that so many people asked to have their picture made with me, and I was so excited to talk with them about the Miss Gay America organization.
I was also invited to do a performance later that evening at Town Danceboutique. It is always a pleasure to perform at Town with their talented cast. I chose to do a crown song and donate those tips to MGA © TREVOR. The audience was so generous, and I was able to raise $180.00 on that number to add to my fundraising efforts.
The next morning, I was up early and on the road to Richmond, VA. I had been booked at Godfreys for their Saturday brunch and dinner shows. Godfreys had long been a venue that was on my bucket list of places I wanted to perform, and I was so grateful to have the opportunity to work there. The staff and management were incredible, and I had a blast with the ladies backstage. Natasha Carrington, Alvion Davenport, and Sandra Onassis made me feel right at home. We laughed and joked the entire day, and I walked away with three new friends! The shows were fantastic...my favorite type of venue to perform in, and I was grateful for the response I received. I also had an opportunity to address the audience and speak about Miss Gay America as well as MGA © TREVOR. I was shocked when one of the patrons handed me $100.00 towards the charity. Thank you Austin Payne, the promoter of Miss Gay Virginia America, and company for making the drive down to Richmond to support me as well. And Natasha, thank you again for the generous donation to MGA © TREVOR. Oh, and Jeff Willis, I was so happy to get a moment to say hello to you too!!!
After the dinner show, I de-dragged, packed up, and headed to Charlottesville, VA to get a little rest before pageant day and the Miss Gay Virginia America prelim. Austin had booked a beautiful hotel, and I had lots of goodies waiting on me when I got into the room. Austin, who also designs and makes jewelry, gave me two beautiful sets that I have already been able to wear a few times now. Thank you Austin for your kindness and generosity.
The next morning, I organized Blair for the day, and headed to The Jefferson Theater in downtown Charlottesville for a great day of pageantry. For those of you who know me, you know that I have no sense of direction whatsoever. What should have been a 10 minute drive to the venue turned into 30 even with the aid of a navigation system. Good thing I left the hotel early!
The Jefferson Theater was a beautiful venue, and the stage was perfect for showcasing the talent numbers. The stage set for our Burlesque theme was equally impressive. it was obvious Austin and his team had put a great deal of effort into the pageant. Austin (Sheer Illusions, LLC) is new to the MGA organization, but you would never have known this was his first time promoting an America contest. He was well prepared, and the pageant was great. Our extremely qualified judges panel consisted of forever MGA's Coti Collins, Kirby Kolby, and Jessica Jade. They were joined by DC promoter Robert York and the beautiful Kayla Bacall Kelly.
We all indulged ourselves with some down home cooking (fried chicken, mac and cheese, green beans, and sweet tea), before getting down to business and the orientations and interview. That evening our two talented contestants gave the audience and judges their very best. After an extremely close contest, Bianca B. Starr was named Miss Gay Virginia America and Stephanie Micheals was 1st Alternate.
I enjoyed myself immensely at MGVA, and I am excited to see what Bianca and Stephanie bring to the national stage. Both contestants are motivated to leave their mark in October! I also wanted to say a special thank you to Andrew Jones for selling raffle tickets in support of MGA © TREVOR. The pot keeps growing!!!
I got to spend the next week at home and even had the chance to perform with the Club One Cabaret that next weekend. It was good to be back in my home bar and see some familiar faces. I also got a chance to try out a new costume and song before hitting the road again.
Next up was a two-fer as I traveled to Maryland for the Miss Gay Eastern States America prelim on May 15 and the Miss Gay Maryland prelim on May 16. Bob joined me on this trip. Our niece was getting married in Frederick, MD so Bob would have the opportunity to go to the wedding, see our own kids, and still attend Miss Eastern States and a little of Miss Maryland.
We flew up on Thursday, May 14, where we were greeted by promoter Eric Gabbard at the airport. We also met Miss Arizona, Grecia Montes D'occa, and Roberto D'silva there while we awaited the arrival of my forever MGA sister, Luscious. The drive to the hotel was about an hour and a half but partly because Bob and I took a little detour trying to sniff out a Dunkin Donuts and a couple of cups of coffee. Once we arrived in Boonsboro, we got settled at the hotel and took a brief nap. Thank you Eric for the chips, queso dip, and peanut butter. I was set for the weekend! That evening we ventured out to The Club in Martinsburg, WV, where we met up with Eric and his co-promoter, Michael Serio. The staff at The Club was very friendly, and I was even given a tour of the facility. Miss Gay West Virginia America will be held here on July 4, and it was nice to be able to get the lay of the land. I'm already looking forward to this prelim!
The next day was pageant day, and we had two well qualified contestants show up to compete for the title of Miss Gay Eastern States. The contest was held at The Lodge in Boonsboro, MD. The Lodge is a quaint place and looks much like an old log cabin from the outside. But inside The Lodge was spacious and bright: a perfect place to hold an America prelim. Our diverse judges panel consisted of Kristy Smith, Michael Wynn, Luscious, Alyssa Matthews, and Keith Johnson. I was excited to work with the judges to find our next MGESA. It was also a pleasure working with Araya Sparxx, Ashley Bannks, Brooke Lane, and Chi Chi Ray Colby. I have enormous respect for these entertainers, and I am always inspired by their dedication to the art form and to Miss Gay America.
It was great to see Araya in action, and it was obvious she had put a great deal of effort into her opening production and her give up. At the end of the evening, our judges chose Patti Lovelace as the new MGESA with Jada Bee as first alternate. I know both of these contestants personally, and I am very excited about their return to Miss Gay America. I know both will bring their very best!
It was nice to see Miss Gay Northeast promoters Tom and Eric in the house as well as DC promoter Robert York. Family supporting family is what our system is all about, and we have shown that over and over this season. Thank you to BJKJ Illusions for the great photos. It's always a pleasure to see Barb and Kathy out and about. And thank you Robert Dunn for selling raffle tickets for MGA © TREVOR. We added another $220.00 to our total.
The next morning we were off to Baltimore, Maryland and The Hippo for the Miss Gay Maryland contest. Chi Chi Ray Colby was kind enough to be my chauffeur into the city. I have to admit I was a little jealous when Chi Chi picked me up at the hotel in shorts and a tank top, and I was already decked out in a shirt and tie. Heavy is the head who wears the crown, ha ha. I had not been to The Hippo in almost a decade so I was really looking forward to the contest. Additionally, I have had the chance to get to know so many forever Miss Gay Maryland's over the years, I was excited to see them all at the pageant.
I was thrilled to see 12 well qualified contestants at registration, all of whom had dreams of being the next Miss Gay Maryland America. Chuck Bowers, Joe Diffenbaugh, and Jayson Kueberth had done a great job getting everything set up and organized, and I was truly honored to conduct orientation and talk about my love for the MGA system and help ensure that the contestants were well prepared for a long day of pageantry.
Arizona promoter, Daniel Eckstrom, forever MGA Sabrina White, forever MGMA Andora Tetee, and longtime MGA supporters Allan Dudley and Debbie Wolcott made up our judges panel, and they did a fantastic job start to finish. I was so excited to work with such amazing forever Miss Maryland's Truly, Ashley, Araya, Chi Chi, Joanna, Stephanie, Brooke, Andora, Ingenue, and Jonathan (Tatiyanna). It was a pleasure to have a little time with Alondra Sanchez and to witness her step down. Alondra is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the out, and I was honored to be present for her give up!
I want to recognize all of the contestants on a job well done. There was so much talent on the stage, you should all be extremely proud of what you presented. Congratulations to our new Miss Maryland, Sasha Renee and 1st Alternate, Ariyanna Myst. I know you will both be making quite a splash at nationals this October.
Thanks again to Robert York, Eric Brown, Tom Kinnier, and Michael Serio for supporting your fellow promoters. Barb and Kathy were again on hand to capture some great moments, and I am truly appreciative to Keith and James for hawking my raffle tickets (another 220.00 for MGA © TREVOR). It was nice to see Grecia and Lequitcha that night as well. Finally, I want to take a moment to say a very special thank you to Chuck Bowers and The Hippo for your years of support of Miss Gay Maryland and Miss Gay America. The Hippo will be closing its doors soon, and the Miss Gay America family wants to wish Chuck the very, very best in his upcoming endeavors!
I'm excited to be returning to Memphis, TN on May 29 and 30 for the upcoming Miss Gay Tennessee America and Miss Mid America pageants. I'll be reporting on these contests along with Miss Arizona and Miss Louisiana in the next edition of "The Blair Essentials."
May was certainly an event filled month, full of exciting travels, rewarding experiences and lessons learned. To date we have raised $3100.00 for MGA © TREVOR, with another $350.00 in outstanding pledges. I am grateful to everyone for their generosity and assistance. My goal for October is $10,000.00, and I believe that this is completely reachable! Don't forget you can always log onto www.missgayamerica.com, click on the MGA 2016 menu item, and then scroll to the bottom of the page and click DONATE. Anything you give will be appreciated.
This month, I have been reminded that no one including me is perfect. I have read some less than kind remarks about me and my talents, and I have had my feelings hurt. However, I have also come to the conclusion that EXCELLENCE is not synonymous with PERFECTION. To me, "excellence" means that I strive to do my very best every day, that I remain positive and approachable, and that I try to inspire and motivate others. It also means accepting responsibility for your mistakes and working to correct them as expeditiously as possible, as well as learning from them. I am honored and deeply humbled to wear the Miss Gay America crown. This job, and yes it is definitely a job, is my priority. I will continue to strive for excellence, and I will continue to reign the best way I know how, and that is simply by continuing to be vigilant in my duties and honest in my approach.
I would like to thank a few people this month and how have truly demonstrated the essence of excellence:
· Larry Tyger and Terry Eason: Thank you for the love, support and belief you continue to have in me as Miss Gay America.
· Eva Couture and M'ara Diamond: Thank you for handling a difficult situation with such class and respect. I thank you both for embodying the ideals of Miss Gay America.
· Robert York: Thank you for the opportunity to raise the visibility of my fundraising efforts for The Trevor Project.
· Mark Martin: Thank you for the gifts this year, but more importantly thank you for all you do for our pageants. The support and services you provide definitely do not go unnoticed. I am so happy to know you are part of the MGA family.
· Dawn Phaneuf: Thank you for your friendship and your assistance over all these years. You are a fighter and a remarkable woman.
Aristotle is quoted as saying, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." I encourage everyone to form good habits and strive to be better and do better.
Through it all, please remember:
"Excellence is not being the best; it is doing your best" ~Children's quote unknown
Miss Gay America 2015
It is hard to believe that I have surpassed the half way mark of my reign. It feels as though I just got started, and I am a little fearful that it will be over with before I even realize it. This revelation is a very good reminder to myself to take in each moment and enjoy every possible second of this incredible opportunity I have been given.
I feel as though I have scarcely been home since my last article, but the travel I have done has been rewarding; the reception I have received has been heartwarming; and the respect for Miss Gay America, as an organization and as THE Symbol of Excellence, I have felt is astounding.
Pageant season is in full swing, and I have to tell you with four prelims completed and eight contestants qualified for Miss Gay America, I have a feeling it is going to be an extremely competitive national contest. As I say at each prelim, I know that everyone has a choice in pageantry. I am so happy and humbled that you have chosen to compete in the America system. While the sacrifices for competition can be great, the rewards are plentiful, whether you ever receive a crown or not. The friendships I have developed over my years of competing, the skills that I have acquired, and the lessons I have learned will stay with me long after crowns and gowns are no longer a part of my everyday life.
We kicked off the pageant season in Washington, DC on March 28 with the Miss Gay DC America Pageant. I was excited to have this as my first prelim. Miss Gay DC was the first title I won after my return to competition, so it holds a special place in my heart. Over the years, I have developed a wonderful friendship with Robert York, and I knew that as a promoter, he would deliver a great event. I was also comforted by the fact that Forever MGA's Coti Collins and Kirby Kolby would be on hand should I have a question or just need some moral support. Robert gave me some touching and personal gifts including a wonderful book of quotes and a really awesome Lemon Cake that barely made it home. Did I mention I have gained nearly 10 lbs since being crowned Miss Gay America? LOL...
I arrived in DC a day early as Jon Parks had been kind enough to offer me a booking at Ziegfeld's/Secrets the night before our pageant. It is always a pleasure to work with Jon and The Ladies of Illusion, I had a wonderful time both on stage and off. Thanks, Mr. P. for the kind words and the support!
On the day of the contest, I was up early to rehearse what I intended to say in the orientation and get my nerves in check. We had 2 great contestants show up all the way from Columbus, OH, and registration and orientation went well. Coti Collins, Austin Payne, Ardavan Heavens, Sonya Gavankar McKay, and Michael Z'God made up our judges panel and proved to be well qualified and well versed in adjudicating the pageant.
The pageant itself was held at Town Danceboutique, a beautiful club with bright lights and incredible decor. Robert had lined up some fantastic entertainment, and I was happy to see so many familiar faces both back stage and in the audience. Thank you to all the promoters who came out to support our first prelim of the season as well. It was so nice to see you all in attendance. I want to say a special thank you to my husband Bob Dunn and to Mark Lambert for helping sell raffle tickets to support my platform, MGA © Trevor. Likewise, I wanted to say thank you to Layla Foxxx for helping me and all of the contestants and performers backstage.
During my final number, Robert presented me with a beautiful framed print capturing the emotion of the moment when I realized my dream last October. It included the words, "Never Give Up," something we all need to be reminded of from time to time. Robert also named all of his Category Awards after the Forever Miss Gay DC America's. I was honored to have the Blair Williams Male Interview Award named after me (wonder why he didn't choose the evening gown category for me ha ha).
At the conclusion of the night, Deva Station was awarded the title of Miss Gay DC America 2015 and Rushena Fontaine was named as 1st Alternate. I am excited for both Deva and Rushena, and I know they are already working hard on their packages for nationals.
John Parks was kind enough to invite both Deva and me back to Ziegfeld's to perform Saturday night in their late show, and we were happy to oblige.
Miss Gay DC was successful, and I was thrilled to have one contest under my belt.
After a few days at home, I was off to Wyomissing, PA for the Miss Gay Northeast America Pageant. I had heard great things about promoters Tom Kinnier and Eric Brown, and I have to say these gentlemen were everything I had been told and more. Tom and Eric picked me up at the airport in Philadelphia wearing crowns, and we laughed and joked and felt comfortable with each other right away. We went into Philadelphia and walked around the "gayborhood" for a bit. We even stopped into a bar called Woody's, a place I used to frequent for Friday night two-stepping when Bob and I lived in New Jersey. I wonder if I still remember any of those line dances that I used to love? When we arrived at the hotel, The Crown Plaza, I was blown away by the facility and the genuine kindness of the staff. It was apparent how much they all loved and admired Eric and Tom. My room was beautiful and filled with goodies. It is good to me!!!
The judges all arrived on Friday afternoon (I think Jessica Jade brought more luggage than I), and Tom and Eric had arranged to take everyone to The Sight and Sound Theatre in Lancaster, PA to see a production of Moses. I thought it would be a fun evening at a community theatre. I had no idea what we were in store for. What we witnessed was a Broadway quality stage production. I was blown away by the sets and the production value. It was a wonderful evening spent with new friends!
The next day was pageant day, so we were all down to business. Three of my friends showed up to compete for the title of Miss Gay Northeast. Our judges panel was comprised of Forever MGA's Sabrina White and Jessica Jade, along with Danny Koye, MaKayla Summers Diamond, and Michelle Rene'. These judges did a stellar job. I was so very impressed with their professionalism and their passion. Terry Eason and Coby Myers were on hand to handle the tabulation, but don't worry... I checked their work carefully LOL. The ball room was beautiful too. I went around prior to the start of the contest saying hello to everyone and taking pictures. We had a packed house, and I wanted everyone to know how much I appreciated them being in attendance. Tom (aka Lady Tabatha), along with Ingénue, did a great job as the emcees, and the entertainment was wonderful. Deva Station, the new MGDCA, was in attendance as well. Again, several of our promoters and pageant directors had made the trip to PA to support Tom and Eric. MGA truly is a family!
I was honored to watch LeQuitcha Rodriguez during the evening. LeQuitcha puts his heart into everything he does, and I am so proud of him and his reign this past year. The love and respect he received from the audience during his give up was tangible and moving.
Eric was also instrumental in helping me raise money for The Trevor Project, and I am grateful to him and his generosity.
It is difficult to watch your friends compete, knowing only two of them will move on to the next level of competition, but that is the nature of pageantry. At the end of the night, Truly Fabu was crowned Miss Gay Northeast , and Grecia Montes D'Occa secured the 1st Alternate position. I am excited for both Grecia and Truly and what lies ahead for them!
I had a incredible time at Miss Gay Northeast and felt even more comfortable in the role of Miss Gay America. I know that as long as I make every decision in the best interest of the pageant and the organization, then I will indeed have done the best job I can.
After two days at home, I was back on a plane heading for Kansas City, MO and the 42nd Miss Gay Missouri America Pageant. I was picked up by the speedster Sparkle Iman and whisked away to the host hotel where I was again greeted with some wonderful gifts from so many different people and organizations. The chocolates that Emilio Olvera (MGMA 2000 Lexsus Chaney) gave me were honestly the best I have ever had! That evening, I was very excited to attend a meet and greet at MGMA 2013 Christa Collins' restaurant Californos. I got a chance to meet a few of the contestants and also have a bite to eat with the reigning MGMA Adria Andrews and the members of the MGMA Board. Daniel Flier and I hit it off immediately, and I suspect there will be a long distance friendship for a long time, especially when I need him to mail me an "Ooey Gooey Butter Cake."
Before I get too far ahead of myself, I also wanted to thank Jade Sinclair and Chris Sutton for carting me around and taking such great care of me while I was in Kansas City. Jade gave me a wonderful MGMA 2015 commemorative t-shirt with my name across the back, and Chris also gave me a lovely tie embellished with the Symbol of Excellence. Thank you both for your thoughtfulness
The next morning signified pageant day. We got to the beautiful Arts Asylum venue, and the registration ran flawlessly. I was again overwhelmed to be speaking to 19 contestants, all of whom came with dreams of being the next Miss Gay Missouri America. Eleven of the contestants were first time competitors, and I was heartened to see so much new interest in our system.
Carl Glorioso (MGA 2009 Victoria Depaula), Charity Case (MGA 2001), Atheena Voce (MGMA 2004), Zane Redfern, and David Beckwith comprised an expert panel of judges. Between the Board of Directors and these judges, I had no doubt I was in good hands.
We saw all the solo talents and evening gowns during the first night of preliminary competition, after which we made our way to Missie B's for a MGMA Review show. I was so honored to perform with Adria, Jade, Sparkle, Christa, Charity, Atheena, Loretta Martin, Melinda Ryder, Kathy Klein, Vicki Valentino, Ali Kat, and Nikki Stevens. It was such a fun and memorable evening.
Night two of preliminary competition had us watching all the talents. At the conclusion of that night we had our Top 10, and I had some authentic Kansas City barbeque thanks to Emilio!
The next morning I got to enjoy a nice breakfast with Mike Rinehart whom I have known for many, many years. It was great to catch up with him before starting the final day of competition. On final night, I was overwhelmed by the energy and sense of family in the Arts Asylum. We played to a standing room only house, and the contest was stellar. I loved all the talents: I cried, I laughed, I hummed along, and I danced in my chair. And then there was Adria Andrews... Adria is one class act. His step down was beautiful, and I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for him. Thank you to Melinda, Kirk, and Edith for helping with MGA ♥ Trevor. And a special thank you to Reba Lamkey for your 1st class tabulation skills (and the cheeseburger). I still think I would have been faster than you if I hadn't had those darn finger nails on LOL.
After a hard fought contest, our judges selected Kyla Breeze as the new Miss Gay Missouri America and L'Oreal as the 1st alternate. Congrats to all the contestants on an amazing 3 days of pageantry. I am very excited to see what Kyla and L'Oreal have in store for us in Memphis. I am sure it is going to be spectacular.
Missouri, I am still speechless over your kindness towards me and your support of and respect for Miss Gay America. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Well as my Forever Miss Gay America sisters have warned me, there will be little time for rest this year. The next weekend, I was off to Memphis Tennessee and Starkville, Mississippi for a weekend of shows. Thank you PJ Patrick Newton for arranging these bookings. Larry and Chuck were kind enough to put me up, and it was great to watch Pageant with Larry and PJ on the evening I arrived. Saturday afforded a little down time to get in some sightseeing, accompanied by great food and great company. I hope you all will take some time in October to get out and experience all the Memphis has to offer!
Saturday evening, I made my 2nd appearance as MGA at Club Spectrum in Memphis and was once again honored to be performing with the talented cast.
On Sunday, I made may way to Starkville and Rick's Cafe. After a 2 hour drive, PJ and Paulette Harness made sure I was comfortable in my hotel and gave me a little time to pull Blair together. It was an early 6:00 PM dinner show so I was ecstatic about that! I had the opportunity to work with Iris LeFleur and Bella Duballe (your reigning Miss Gay Tennessee and 1st Alternate respectively) , and several new up and coming entertainers. It was such a fun evening and I had the time of my life. I was also able to raise another $138.00 for MGA ♥ Trevor. The audience was so receptive, and I spent quite a bit of time speaking to folks and taking pictures at the end of the night. Later that night, Paulette and PJ got me settle back at the hotel and left me the world's largest cheeseburger. I am proud to say even I was unable to finish it before crawling into bed.
The following week allowed no time for idleness either. I got home on Monday, 4/20 and had agreed to perform at the Armstrong Atlantic State University's Inaugural Drag Show on Tuesday, 4/21. The event was sponsored by Armstrong's Office of Multicultural Affairs and was attended by about 300 students and staff. I was able to raise another $180.00 for MGA ♥ Trevor. On Thursday, 4/23, I was honored to deliver the key note address to Armstrong's Lavender Commencement Ceremony. This was the 2nd time I had been asked to deliver a speech here. Last year I spoke about my journey in the Miss Gay America system, and the themes of that speech were following your dreams and the importance of perseverance. This year I spoke about making the most of your reign! One of the things I said in my speech was that for me, "Becoming Miss Gay America was never about that winning moment. It wasn't about receiving a crown (although that certainly is rewarding); it was about the reign that followed. It was about what you do with that year you are so blessed to receive...At the end of the day, I think we will all be challenged to ask ourselves: 'What did my reign look like?' Make yours memorable!" I also reminded people to wear sunscreen. There wasn't a dry eye in the house LOL.
Later that evening, I picked up my bestie, Layla Foxxx, and we started an 11 hour trek to Monroe Louisiana and The Miss Gay Southern Elegance Pageant. After driving for about 5 1/2 hours, we decided to stop and spend the night before finishing up the following morning. Ever the frugal one, I chose a Motel 6 off I-20 somewhere in Alabama. If I can offer you one piece of very sound advice, it would be "don't choose a Motel 6 off of I-20 somewhere in Alabama!" And if you do, don't touch the comforter.
We arrived in West Monroe the following afternoon to a much nicer hotel. David Green knows me well, and I was ecstatic to walk into our room and find a jar of smooth Peter Pan peanut butter. It is my favorite food. I also had some beautiful flowers and a great card. And on top of that Shirli Stevenz had sent me a care package with some much appreciated new hair in it. I now had enough wigs with me to start my own gently used wig shop!
Layla and I settled in and ran a few errands before I had to get ready for a show that night at The Corner Bar. Deb Hart Poindexter had been gracious to set up this booking, and I had a fantastic time with Dextaci, Stormi Rayne, Chi Chi Ray Colby, and Athena Campbell. The crowd was lively, and I am so appreciative of the reception I received. It was great to see David Green , Mike Divoky, and Eric Gabbard that night as well.
The following morning, I was up early and preparing for my 4th prelim. Dextaci, Chi Chi, and I made sure registration ran smoothly, and in no time we had 4 contestants ready to give it their all to become the next Miss Gay Southern Elegance America. Our judges were Forever MGA's Sally Sparkles and Charity Case, along with Mike Divoky, Rusty Croy, and Coby Myers; and David Green's beautiful mother, Edie Michie served as tabulator.
The pageant took place at Club Pink, and the stage decor was really beautiful and befitting to the pageant theme. Chi Chi Ray Colby shined all night, and I was so happy to be able to witness his love for the America system in his give up. Thank you Brent for helping me by selling raffle tickets for MGA ♥ Trevor; Chi Chi for your generosity; and Daron Ables of Foxes Pizza and Tina and Katie Anzalone of The Corner Bar for your generous donation. It was a pleasure watching the contestants compete and strive to give their very best to the audience and the judges. In a very tight race, Sasha Leigh Chambers was crowned MGSEA and Trixie LaRue was named 1st Alternate. Both of these gentlemen are motivated to bring their very best to Memphis this October.
Well that was my month... and how was yours? Life has given me a wonderful opportunity as Miss Gay America 2015. As I have said, I am humbled by the magnitude of this year and all that is unfolding. I continue to work hard and strive to do my absolute best at every preliminary and with every task. I won't be perfect, but I will take every suggestion, every criticism, and every compliment to heart in an effort to do an even better job going forward. We have a long season ahead of us and I will be resilient!
Before I close, I would like to recognize some resilient people who inspire and motivate me.
"It is not very often that an opportunity comes knocking. But when it does, you better be bathed and dressed and ready to answer the call." ~ Jyoti Arora
Miss Gay America 2015
It's 10:51 AM on Thursday, March 25, 2015. My mind is racing with so many events...past, present, and future. March is a big month in our family. Both Bob and his two brothers celebrate birthdays in March, and birthdays have always been a very big deal for us. It's not so much about the presents or the cake (OK maybe a little about the cake), but more about taking the time to enjoy the day (or week in our case), relax, and have the opportunity to do exactly what you want, even if exactly what you want is to do is nothing at all. Bob and his middle brother Larry actually have the same birthday. While they are a year apart, both were born on March 11. This year Larry traveled to Savannah to celebrate with us. I suspect he was as excited about escaping the never ending winter in Minneapolis as he was about seeing us LOL. Our son Daniel and our niece Mandy will also have birthdays at the end of this month, so the parties just keep on coming.
On March 24, Bob and I celebrated our 4th "legal" wedding anniversary. As most of you know by now, we will celebrate 24 years in September, but in 2011, we traveled to Waltham, MA to make honest men out of each other. It was a Thursday courthouse wedding minus the shotgun. This is the day that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the federal government officially recognized our relationship as equal under the law. Today, 36 states and the District of Columbia recognize our relationship / marriage. I sincerely hope the Supreme Court will make equality the law of the land this summer!
March is also a big month in Savannah. Our tourist season kicks into high gear with the annual Saint Patrick's Day festivities. Savannah hosts one of the largest St. Patrick's Day parades in the country, and we have nearly 500,000 revelers in our downtown area. That means lots of business and lots of shows in the club where I perform most often. In fact, I was in full Blair regalia for 12 shows over 6 days during the height of the celebration. After that marathon, I was thrilled not to have to shave for a few days! I truly enjoyed the time I spend with my ClubOne family, however, as I won't be back there to perform until the middle of May. There is a great deal of travel in my immediate future.
Moreover, March ushers in Spring, which is one of my favorite seasons. Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. The weather starts to break, the flowers start to bloom, and my spirit starts to rejuvenate. The month also signals the beginning of the Miss Gay America pageant season and the search for our next symbol of excellence.
Our first preliminary contest will be held in Washington, DC on March 28. So by the time you get to read this article, 2 lucky individuals will have already secured their spots to compete to be Miss Gay America 2016. I am looking forward to seeing Robert York and the Miss Gay DC family. I was fortunate to have held the title of Miss Gay DC America 2013, and I have the upmost respect for this prelim and Robert's ability to help bring out the very best in his contestants. I'd be lying if I said I weren't a little nervous or anxious as I approach the first prelim, but I am confident that I am prepared to perform my job duties to the best of my abilities. Under the guidance of Larry and Terry, and with the assistance of my sisters, the Forever Miss Gay America's, I have been provided with the tools for the job and the best support system I could possibly ask for. Let the games begin!!!!
And once they begin, there will be no rest for the weary. In April alone, I will have the opportunity to visit Wyomissing, PA; Kansas City, MO; Memphis, TN; Starkville, MS; Monroe, LA; and potentially Nashville, TN. The hits just keep coming J.
I am humbled to wear the Miss Gay America crown, and I am happy to see us grow the organization and make changes and improvements along the way. I hope you have all had the chance to check out our revamped www.missgayamerica.com website. The interface is more modern, and the navigation is easy and intuitive. Many thanks go out to Daniel Eckstrom for the hours of work he has put into this effort. Daniel will serve as the webmaster going forward, and we are thrilled to have him (along with a little help from Nick Ray) in this role. We also continue to increase our social media presence with a concentrated effort to generate interest in our Miss Gay America facebook page. Chuck Guthrie works hard to keep the page updated and fresh. We are closing in on 8000 "Likes," and I think we can easily reach 10,000 over the next few months as our season progresses and momentum builds towards MGA 2016.
I have spoken to many people recently about the Miss Gay America organization. I have truly enjoyed my conversations with promoters and potential contestants alike. I look forward to speaking to the promoters I have not yet had the opportunity to reach out to and offer my services in any capacity needed.
I would like to personally welcome David Gish as the new promoter for Miss Gay West Virginia America and congratulate Sean Mauck as his pageant director. MGWVA is a limited regional contest and will be held at The Club in Martinsburg, WV on July 4th.
With almost all of our prelim dates set for this competition season, we are still looking to bring on a few more preliminaries. Please watch for updates concerning additional opportunities and locations as you as contestants pick your preliminary pageant. All of our contests are available for you to review at www.missgayamerica.com/preliminaries. I urge all potential contestants to do your research, pick a contest, and work towards preparing yourself for competition.
On the eve of our preliminaries, I do want to take a moment to speak directly to anyone considering competing in the Miss Gay America system this season. One thing that is a common theme is the reluctance of someone to enter the MGA pageants because, as an entertainer or competitor, they don't feel they fit the "mold." In her March 2011 "My Life on The E List," Coti Collins says:
Each Miss Gay America before me has left the system with their personal touch. When a person tells me "I'm not so America," I often wonder how many formers thought that same thing. I personally see 39 different personalities, talents and success stories. My best advice to anyone is not to follow but to lead.
I completely agree with Coti. If you feel there is a mold and you don't fit it, then change the mold. The categories for MGA and our scoring system are common knowledge. Take the time to review them and find a way to showcase yourself without feeling as though you have to change or compromise in ways that sacrifice who you are. That's where creativity can be rewarded. The judges want to see you! They want to know why you want to be Miss Gay America, and they want to know that you are ready to do the job. Show them that!
And as you prepare to compete, I think Kirby Kolby in the April 2012 edition of the "Kronicles of Kirby" offers some sage advice:
I urge all of you potential contestants to make preparations on your packages and carefully choose what future prelim will be best for you. Don't rely on your success from previous years to help secure your spot to the national competition. As with all the pageants, there can only be one winner and one 1st Alternate position. If you are not lucky enough to secure one of those, PLEASE DO NOT GIVE UP!!! If it is your dream to be Miss Gay America, let nothing stop you!! Take time to listen to the critiques and advice from the judges and take a strong hard look at the package you presented. Most often our friends and supporters are not the best group to get an opinion from on what we present. Seek advice from others outside of your group and from entertainers who have achieved success. The words of wisdom they choose to give you will reward you far greater than those from your best friends.
We are all different and we all bring different skill sets, talents, and abilities to the table. Play to your strengths, and believe in yourself.
Earlier in March, I was excited to announce the theme for Miss Gay America 2016. As I hope you know by now, my theme is "Heroes." I believe a Hero lies inside each one of us, and as you compete this year, my hope is that you are not only able to harness the power of your Heroes, but that you are also able to find the Hero inside of you. I would like to thank a few of my own Heroes this month:
· Jeff Capell / Kerri Nichols: An inspiration in life and drag, Jeff is a friend, a mentor, a sounding board, and a hero to me and many others.
· David Green: David is not only a wonderful promoter, but he is selfless in his passion to see others achieve their goals. I have witnessed the lives he has impacted including my own.
· Doug Venzie: Doug is a long time friend and a founding member of the "Jersey Morning Gym Girls." Through adversity and unimaginable heart break, Doug lives life and makes a difference in the lives of others, some of whom he doesn't even know. He is a hero in every sense of the word.
· Mariana Gutiérrez and Cody Thomas Hanrahan: Mariana and Cody are part of our original StandOut Youth members and two of our many "adopted" children. I group them together because that is often how I think them. Young in years, but wise in compassion and courage and humanity, they embody the ideals of a hero. All my love to you both.
As I think about what lies ahead this year (both the challenges and the rewards), I have given a lot of thought about how I will be perceived in the role of MGA. In a recent interview with "Boom Magazine," I was asked about what I wanted my legacy to be. This is what I said:
While I think I'm a good performer and people enjoy watching me on stage (I hope), I don't believe the performance aspect will be my legacy. During my on-stage question at MGA 2015, I said that I want to be "the people's Miss America." And while I may have been able to express myself more articulately, the meaning behind those words is very true. During my reign this year, I hope to be relatable and approachable and helpful. My job as Miss Gay America has little to do with me, and everything to do with our promoters and contestants. I want to be remembered as genuine, authentic, and as a nice guy!
In order for that to happen, I have to be a man of my word. I have to raise the funds I am committed to for my charities. I have to be available to our contestants and promoters. In short, I have to deliver!
Being a part of the sisterhood of forever Miss Gay America's is daunting. You don't want to be the one not to live up to the legacy. You have to respect and protect the rich history, but also be forward looking and thinking.
I sincerely hope that when people think of Blair Williams, they will think of integrity, and compassion, and the undeniable power of perseverance.
And now, it's show time!
"See the world not as it is, but as it should be." ~ Sue Sylvester (tribute to Finn Hudson "Glee")
Miss Gay America 2015
As I sit down to write the March edition of "The Blair Essentials," I find myself filled with gratitude for all that is unfolding for the upcoming pageant season and consumed with nerves in hopes that I will be the symbol of excellence that the country deserves and expects. I've been truly busy behind the scenes contacting existing promoters to solidify preliminary pageant dates, reaching out to new perspective promoters to provide the information they need and encourage them to join our family, and contacting potential contestants personally to extend an invitation for them to compete this season for the title of Miss Gay America 2016. I'm excited by the conversations I have had with both promoters and contestants, and I am heartened and motivated to see so much excitement and enthusiasm about our upcoming season.
I want to congratulate PJ Newton as the new promoter for Miss Mid America. Miss Mid America has a long legacy of excellence and a proven track record for producing top notch contestants. Although I was never fortunate enough to wear the Mid America crown (darn that Sally Sparkles - she likes to remind me she beat me twice in the 2013 season), I did have an opportunity to represent the contest on a national level. Thank you to L & T Entertainment for all the work you did with this prelim over the years, and thank you to PJ for continuing the legacy of this long running contest. See you in Memphis!
I would also like to congratulate Daniel Eckstrom and Nick Ray on the return of Miss Gay Western States. I have had the pleasure this year of spending some time with these gentlemen, and I was extremely thrilled when this prelim was officially announced. I often feel that that the western part of our nation is a little underserved with MGA preliminary contests, so I am excited that we have added Western States back to our roster this year. I am committed to working with Daniel and Nick to make this a successful and competitive contest. So ladies, let's make sure we show up in Phoenix and support Western States in August!!!
We have also welcomed back Miss Gay Virginia Regional under the promotion of Austin Payne / Sheer Illusions, LLC. Austin is thrilled to be a part of the America family, and he is focused on making his pageant one to remember. I have chatted with him on several occasions, and am looking forward to spending some time with him in May. MGVA will be held in Charlottesville, VA on May 2.
We have made contact with several other interested parties as well, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see us add yet another preliminary or two as we commence this competition season. If you or anyone you know is interested in joining the MGA family as a promoter, please contact either me , Larry, or Terry. We will be happy to get you all the information you need!
Before I move on to another topic, I want to take just a moment to thank all of our promoters for your hard work and dedication. Undoubtedly, the promoters are the backbone of our organization, and it is their commitment to excellence that really drives our success and keeps us at the forefront of pageantry. I tip my hat to all of you, and I can't wait to spend some time with you as the year progresses.
This month, I've also continued to build my wardrobe and music repertoire for the upcoming preliminaries. Social media makes it so much harder than in the old days. Part of me feels like I need a new costume and a new gown for every preliminary so that I'm not seen in the same things all year, but I know this isn't financially feasible. I've been focusing on acquiring travel friendly, quality pieces that will still look great when I pull them out of a suitcase. And I'll be excited to showcase them in the upcoming prelims.
I have selected my theme for my give up at Miss Southern States America (May 17 at The Jungle in Atlanta, GA). The theme is "Express Yourself," and I'll be paying homage to some of your (or my) favorite 80's music. The contestants will be asked to come in their very best 80's pop star attire for presentation.
I have also selected my theme for the Miss Gay America 2016 pageant. I am so excited about it, I could bust!!!! Keeping a secret has never been my strong point (my Bob always says the best kept secret between two is when one is dead, LOL), but I have guarded this one carefully. Hopefully, the theme will be announced soon, and you all will be as excited about it as I am. I will say it's going to be fun, energetic, and POW-erful.
I was also fortunate to be able to log some travel miles since my last article as well. On January 29, I traveled to Baton Rouge, LA where I had been invited to attend the Krewe of Apollo Ball Masque XXXIV on January 30. While there, I was able to see so many of my Louisiana friends and spend some quality time with David Green too. I was humbled to be presented as Miss Gay America to a crowd of thousands, and I got to see my friend Josalyn Royale crowned Queen Apollo XXXIV. Josalyn (aka Josh Richardson) is also the pageant director for Miss Gay Louisiana. It was wonderful to be a small part of his night.
The following evening, we traveled to Lafayette, LA and attended the Mystic Krewe of Apollo de Lafayette's Mardi Gras Ball as well. These were my first experiences with the grand balls, and my senses were on overload. It is quite a spectacle that you have to experience. The costumes were spectacular and elaborate, and the mood was beyond festive. I was moved by the kindness I received, and everyone I met went out of their way to include me in all aspects of the festivities. There are so many people I should mention here, but as I started to compile the list it exceeded 30 people. So please know, that I appreciate all of you. I will treasure this experience, and I thank you for an incredible weekend.
After a few days at home, I was back on the road...this time to Columbus, OH. Bob was able to join me on this trip and we enjoyed the drive up listening to stories from "The Moth" (check it out at www.themoth.org). I was invited to perform at "Deva Station: Movie Star," and I had the opportunity to work with some of my favorite people. Deva, Britney Blaire, Diamond Hunter, Rushena Fontaine, Mary Nolan, Vivian Von Brokenhymen, Helena Troy, Hellin Bedd, Sable Coate, and Lustinb leber put on a great production show, and I enjoyed the cast both on stage and off. We had some great food, great conversation, and even got a little snow (we don't get that in Savannah). Thank you to Wall Street Night Club for having me, and a very special thanks to Mark, Deva's husband, for the hospitality and the swagJ.
I actually took Valentine's Day weekend off. It was my first weekend off since October. I thought I better grab one before I don't have another chance (I think that may be post Miss Gay America 2016). Finally, I finished the month off in Savannah with performances at my home base, ClubOne .
It's been a busy and rewarding month filled with administrative tasks, performances, appearances and many memories and special moments. This month, I wanted to thank a few people in my "non-pageant" world who are special to me:
· My mom, Lula Burris: Thank you for your unconditional love and making me believe I could be anything I wanted to be...even Miss Gay America.
· My mother-in-law, Marianne Brouillette: You work harder than anyone I know. You motivate me to do more and be better.
· Robin Joy Davis: Thank you for always offering to help and for rarely saying no. I love your smiling face!
· Lisa Covino: Not only are you the best neighbor ever, but your strength and spirit are awe inspiring.
· Glenda Williams: Your no nonsense approach to life is a valuable lesson, but it is your heart that I will miss most.
I feel like my article this month is a bit rambling, but as long as it is a rambling account of my gratitude for this year, for this system, for this opportunity, then I suppose I'm OK with that.
I'm looking forward to March as we officially kick off the pageant season. Remember contestants, it is never too early to claim your spot and work towards presenting your best possible package at nationals. Through it all, be grateful for the journey!
"Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone." ~ G. B. Stern
Miss Gay America 2015
Miss Gay America 2015
I have always said the older we get, the faster time seems to fly by. I am finding that statement to be more and more true these days. It is hard to believe that I'm over 3 months into my reign, and preliminary season will begin before I can even blink an eye. I only get one shot at this LOL, and I figure I can sleep in November!
I began January with a week at home, where I got to ring in the New Year with my Club One family and celebrate the beginning of a much anticipated year. Club One has been a huge supporter and sponsor for Blair over the last 4 years as I competed for Miss Gay America, and they continue to support me as I hope to make 2015 a year to remember. If fact, we have begun to work out the details for an event that will help to kick off my fundraising efforts for The Trevor Project (MGA ©s Trevor), and I am really excited to see this come to fruition. If you are ever visiting Savannah (and you should), please make sure you put Club One on your list of places to see. Stop by for a drink and a show from our very talented cast, and tell them Blair sent you!
On January 8, I had the pleasure of performing with my friend Patti O'Furniture at Dudley's on Ann in Charleston, SC. Daniel, the owner of Dudley's, and his entire staff have also been instrumental in my efforts with the Miss Gay America pageant system, and I was honored to have been invited back to perform. We had a rowdy crowd who truly enjoyed the show. That night, Patti, who uses the art of female impersonation to raise money for many charitable causes, and I were able to raise $600.00 for The Trevor Project and another $200.00 for their local Trans Love Fund. It is always a wonderful experience to be able to give back to a community, especially when they have given so much to me!
The next morning, I flew to Memphis, TN to spend a weekend with Larry and Terry . Chuck picked me up from the airport and gave me a quick driving tour around Memphis. I got settled in Larry and Chuck's beautiful home before heading to lunch at a quaint local restaurant with them. We also visited the historic Peabody Hotel where I got acquainted with their famous family of ducks. That afternoon, I was thrilled to visit the host hotel for the Miss Gay America 2016 Pageant, Holiday Inn - Airport Conference Center. Later that evening, we met up with Terry and Coby for a great Mexican dinner, and then traveled back to Terry and Coby's house to begin the "schooling" process.
Over the course of the weekend, we reviewed the promoters handbook and the Miss Gay America job description, practiced tabulating and verifying scores, discussed "what/if" scenarios, re-visited issues and challenges that had occurred in prior years, watched many Miss Gay America videos (I still tear up thinking about Raquel Chevallier's give up number and smile thinking about Coco Montrese's amazing review show), had some incredible food, went shopping, saw the sights, and got to know one another on a more personal level. Larry and Terry are genuine, real people who have a deep love for the Miss Gay America system and all that it represents. I need to give special thanks to my Forever MGA Sisters, Sally Sparkles and Jessica Jade for checking in with me during the weekend to be sure I was OK. I came away from that weekend, knowing that we are all working harder than ever to ensure a great pageant season and to be sure that our promoters and contestants alike have all the tools and support they need to be successful.
While in Memphis, I also got the opportunity to perform at The Spectrum with their amazing cast including Miss Gay Tennessee America Iris LaFluer, Miss Gay Tennessee America 1st Alternate and Top 10 Finalist at MGA 2015 Bella DuBalle, Demonica Santangilo, and Akasha Cassadine. I was a little nervous performing for the "bosses," but all went well, and I was grateful for the kind words and feedback. Thank you PJ for making this show possible. And thank you to the staff and management of The Spectrum for treating me like a queen. I hope to have the opportunity to return a time or two during my reign.
The following weekend, I traveled to North Carolina to perform at Club Snap in Winston Salem alongside Kimora DeLaDiva and then at the infamous Legend's Nightclub Complex in Raleigh. At Legends, I had the pleasure of working with Dana St. James, and my MGA sisters Coti Collins and Kirby Kolby. I have known all of these entertainers for ... well a few years... and we had a great time back stage. Coti, always full of wisdom and sage advice, wanted to remind me that "If you are nice to people they are very forgiving" - insert Kirby's eye roll here LOL.
The next morning, I was off to perform at the CMF Brunch, a monthly fundraising event for The Crape Myrtle Festival. CMF is an all-volunteer nonprofit that encourages and promotes the development of services for persons living with AIDS and/or HIV infection, and additionally raises money for financial assistance, outreach, and education within the LGBT community. I got to perform with Dana again, as well Candis Cox and two of my Charlotte sisters, Tia Douglas and Valerie Rockwell. The brunch is always an amazing experience, and I am truly humbled to be a small part of the organization's worthwhile efforts. Thank you Marilyn Merlot, Carlos O'Neal, Vivian Vaughn and everyone who made it possible for me to attend.
Over the next few weeks, I'll be traveling to Baton Rouge , LA; Lafayette, LA; and Columbus, OH. I'm looking forward to these trips and can't wait to share my experiences with you in the March Edition of "The Blair Essentials."
Well, I had not intended for this article to become a travel log, but I am so genuinely overwhelmed by the places I have been able to go and the amount of support I have received, I want you to feel my gratitude for this incredible journey. There is, however, more pressing business at hand.
The Miss Gay America 2016 pageant will be held in Memphis, TN October 7 - 11. The host hotel, Holiday Inn - Airport Conference Center, is extremely excited for our return. We actually used this venue for the Miss Gay America 2008 pageant where Mikaila Kay was crowned. Many of the staff is still with the hotel, and they treated us like long lost friends when we toured the facility. As I said on facebook, the hotel staff are going to go out of their way to make MGA 2016 a great event, and L&T and I are busy planning for a memorable week.
As I look to preliminaries, I want to remind both the contestants and promoters that I am here for you. No request is too small, so please don't hesitate to reach out to me . My job it so ensure that everyone has a positive pageant experience. I want us all to walk away from every pageant feeling fulfilled and as if we have done our very best.
We will be kicking off the season in Washington, DC with the Miss Gay DC America contest on March 28. I have begun reaching out to potential contestants, and I want to say to you from the bottom of my heart that I sincerely hope to see our veteran contestants as well as a lot of new blood at our preliminary pageants and at our national contest. The MGA competition serves as an avenue to make us better entertainers and people. In October, one very lucky individual will be named Miss Gay America 2016, and it could be you!!!! So I urge you all to search your hearts, and if being Miss Gay America is your dream, then don't hold back. If it can happen for me, it can most certainly happen for you too!
Do your homework, dissect the categories, build your packages, put your best foot forward, and believe with every fiber of your being. Remember I am only a phone call or email or message away. I certainly don't know everything, but I am happy to offer my opinion and support to all of you..
This month, as Valentine's Day approaches, I wanted to recognize some very special people in my life whom I love and appreciate more than they could every know:
· Robert Dunn: Twenty-four years of love, laughter, and friendship. What more could a guy ask for?
· Marsha McLawhorn: Thank you for the years of friendship, the guidance, the advice, and your unwavering belief in me.
· Reba Lamkey: You believed in me long before i believed in myself. Thank you for listening to me and supporting me.
· Coti Collins: Thank you for planting the seed that helped me find my way back to MGA.
· The Club One Cabaret Cast: You are the most talented and kindest group of entertainers I have ever had the pleasure to work with. You are so much more than cast members. You are my friends and confidants.
There are so many more people to thank, but I'll move on for now. Make sure you take some time this month to tell those closest to you how much they mean to you!!!
"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." ~Thornton Wilder
Miss Gay America 2015