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