This weekend, Iowa’s best female impersonators will compete for the crown. The title means a spot at the national competition in Dallas this coming May, cash prizes and the honor of representating our state for the next year. We spoke to three local queens going for the crown.
They’ve practiced talent routines in their living rooms until the wee hours of the morning. They’ve stitched, cut, glued, taped and pieced together the couture-like gowns they’ll model for hundreds of fans. They’ve recited the answers to their interview questions in front of the mirror to meticulous perfection.
And this weekend, nearly 20 queens from around the state will give their all in three rounds of competition — interview, gown and talent — in hopes of becoming the next Miss Gay Iowa. It’s no easy road to the crown, but these girls, who have put in the time, money and passion, wouldn’t have it any other way.
This year, event owner and promoter Vanessa Taylor (a former Miss Gay Iowa ) has moved the competition up from February to November, to give the winner and the first alternate (the second-place winner) more time to prepare for the ultimate event, Miss Gay USofA, held in Dallas in May.
“It was a little cramped when we held it just a few months before the national pageant earlier this year,” Taylor, 36, said. “This gives the winners more time to raise money for the trip and more time to prepare.”
Taylor bought ownership of the pageant last year, in the fall of 2011. This will be her second event as owner and promoter (the first Miss Gay Iowa was held in 1989), and her leadership has earned praise from the pageant’s community.
“Miss Gay Iowa has had its ups and downs,” Evian Waters, 34, a returning competitor, said. “Vanessa took it over and it’s been packed. She’s doing a really good job and I’m really proud of her and her professionalism. She’s building it back up and I’m looking forward to what’s coming in the future.”
Taylor won the best state promoter and hospitality award for Miss Gay Iowa at the 2012 Miss Gay USofA national pageant in Dallas.
At the 2012 Miss Gay Iowa pageant in February, The Garden Nightclub (where the event was held) was at capacity all weekend. Lucky (or should we say, smart) people reserved tables for their groups; others stood for the entire show.
The standing-room-only factor didn’t mean much to the line of people that stretched out the door — this was Iowa pageantry’s biggest event of the season, and no one wanted to miss it.
To accommodate the community’s interest, Taylor is keeping both preliminary nights — where all the girls compete for a spot at the finals — at The Garden (Friday and Saturday nights), and moving finals night (a competition between the best of the best) to Wooly’s, where there will be more room. Tables are available at both locations for prime seating and viewing of the stage.
Five judges will critique the contestants on Friday and Saturday, ultimately selecting who will compete in the finals on Sunday, and who will be crowned at the end of the weekend.
The judges are stars themselves, including former Miss Gay Iowa title holders, the reigning Miss Gay USofA (Lawanda Jackson) and a current cast member of the Tony Award-winning musical “Memphis” (Antoine Smith).
On finals night, two more judges will join the panel, including Layla Larue (Miss Gay USofA 2004 and Miss Gay USofA Classic 2012) and Simba Hall (a former Mr. Gay USofA and former Mr. Continental).
“This year I’m looking forward to having not only the reigning Miss Gay USofA Lawanda Jackson here, but also Layla LaRue, who was Miss Gay USofA the year I won,” Taylor said. Plus, “the whole weekend is hosted by Miss Gay USofA at Large Tajma Hall. I’m so excited to have four national title holders here on finals night this year.”
For some, these celebrity sightings are the reason to go. Others go to support their favorite queens and the art of impersonation.
Regardless of the reason, as the Miss Gay Iowa pageant continues to grow, our state gets closer to winning a national title, or at least getting close.
“The biggest thing I’m proud of is that I get to give the queens in Iowa the opportunity to perfect their craft and better themselves as entertainers,” Taylor said. “Competing in a pageant helps them learn and grow.”
Miss Gay Iowa 2013
What: A pageant-style competition between the 20 best female impersonators in the state, who each won qualifying preliminary rounds earlier this year. The winner will be crowed 2013’s Miss Gay Iowa, and will compete in the Miss Gay USofA national pageant in Dallas in May.
When: Two preliminary rounds 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, finals night 8 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Friday and Saturday’s preliminary rounds will be hosted at The Garden Nightclub, 112 S.E. Fourth St. Sunday’s finals night will be hosted at Wooly’s, 504 E. Locust St.
Cover: $10 cover Friday and Saturday, $20 cover Sunday
Reserved tables: $20 tables (seat four) Friday and Saturday, $40 tables (seat four) Sunday. Tables ensure better visibility of the stage. Table cost is in addition to cover cost, but act fast — these go quickly.