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