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