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