As the last pieces of pageant gig are put away until next time, I’m able to truly reflect on my recent adventure to compete at E.O.Y. and what it meant to me to be onstage once more. I’m also able to realize what I can accomplish, how others support or do not, and if it’s all worth it at the end of the day. This is my journey to the Entertainer of the Year 2014 contest pageant event. Also known as E.O.Y. Enjoy the read. X
I arrived to the airport at PSP on-time Tuesday and ready for the competition ahead. At the self-serve kiosk for American Air I checked my one suitcase since I had already FedEx’d my bigger suitcase ahead to the hotel. (Travelers Tip: Wheels should always be strong inside suitcase frame not loosely attached on outside no matter how cute it looks – Baggage handlers don’t care.) I grabbed my carry-on and punched it to gate C4 with boarding pass in hand. There’s no way to travel out of Palm Springs and not know someone on your flight so after a few Hello’s, I found my aisle seat 25B and settled in.
I obsessively watched videos like Cheryl Cole’s new dance floor stomper “Crazy Stupid Love” and The Saturdays’ incredible jam “What Are You Waiting For” on my iPhone while cruising men on the plane. There was some serious “bird watching” at DFW which is code for cruising the cute boys and snapping a photo to share it with your friends. I also like to eagle watch which is what I call studying my men of maturity and brawn. I don’t do it often but if I do share a snap then know it’s someone that worried me considerably. I love traveling and my camera phone, well it has a mind of its own.
Convenience is important to me when I fly back to visit mom and the Radisson Airport always homes me when I fly back to Nashville. Since my dancers for the pageant were there in Music City it seemed like the best option to rehearse in town and drive to Louisville. After putting the choreography privately on YouTube here in California, my girls learned the moves and we perfected them once I arrived to town at a newer studio Dawn’s Dance Explosion and the Nashville staple in dance, Legacy. “Daddy’s Dancing Divas” Kelsey and Kendall were members of the same dance company I was at 18, however, many generations later. They pulled the talent number off and were wonderful!
A teenage-hood friend Jana who also danced with me (back in our day) came up with her daughter Rue (who escorted me out last year for Creative Evening Wear during E.O.Y.) and was my assistant all weekend. It was a family affair. It made the trip that more special to share it with people that care. They stayed around the corner from me and my home at the Candlewood Suites. Great room and friendly staff. Kitchenette, laundry and gym. Done and done.
After I checked-in and dropped off my bags, my rental car quickly found its way to my prop-maker and best friend Tyler who was finishing up my stage at his house in Louisville. Very convenient and generous. And yes I wanted a stage on top of the stage. I’ll put myself on a pedestal, thank you. (If you could see me I’m winking!) I took him to dinner after we discussed logistics and we called it an early night. Back in my room I pulled out my drag and took assessment. (And on a side note, “drag” in this context is my wardrobe and gig, not that I’m doing drag. Well, not this time.) Luckily only one lone rhinestone found its way off my pants. Good job, glue! e6000 rocks!
Thursday was registration for contestants and run-throughs for Talent and Presentation categories. I drew contestant number 3 and immediately felt the Britney “3” factor to be kismet since I was doing her song but in my voice for Talent. Yes, I’m a singer AND a rapper! Who knew?! (Directors Note: Let laugh track play and play.) There were 11 contestants. As we all watched one another and sized up our competition (Hey, just being honest!) I enjoyed seeing what everyone else was doing because during the show we are sequestered to the dressing rooms upstairs. That is unless you can boldly escape past Terri Vanessa who runs the show keeping it all in check. She does her job and does it well. I feel it’s ran rather well for being on such a grand scale for a major competition. There’s a lot she has to handle. Kudos, Mamma!
My number was called and I stepped onstage from the audience. As my Presentation film began playing I thought two things as I watched. First I was thankful it played on their recorder and then I almost started crying as I watched up on the screens with everyone else seeing my life pass before my eyes, literally. The film was everything I wanted it to be and the quality stunning. I wanted it to be professional and impressive. It was that. My mom sent me the pictures and I scanned them. Rand Larsen met me in the desert at 8 a.m. one morning before work and filmed me with his aerial drone camera while I strutted through the sand in jeans and motorcycle boots. Jacques filmed the opening scene walking down the road by I-10. Luc Benech came over and on my MacBook Pro created my film while Jacques cooked him dinner. Many photographers, friends, family and fate made that movie happen. It’s everything to me.
My Talent rehearsal came up and it was mostly for staging and getting the prop set up and placed. The run through was fine considering I told the girls to take it easy. Afterwards we got them checked into the hotel and ready for the evening ahead. I grabbed some food at Kroger to cook in my room as the girls hung around and we bonded for a few minutes. I sent them on their way and told them I’d see them later at the The Connection.
I checked-in upstairs and as the crowd began to fill in the theatre downstairs we proceeded to get ready for Presentation then Talent and Onstage Q/A. Alongside us Mr. contestants, the Kings were also competing. There were a few that worried me like Gunner Gatlyn (above) who was one I just could’t stop staring at. He is simply gorgeous. What a transformation! Stunning. (Pageant Lingo: “Kings” are biological women impersonating or living as a man.) The Miss contestants started on Friday consisting of both female impersonators and pre-op transsexuals. It’s a triple crowning.
Presentation went very well. I had on a white dinner jacket that took me two months to rhinestone with crystals. Well worth it. I received great feedback from people even a few judges about how much they loved my film. I spoke briefly and clearly introducing myself on the microphone and felt great about it all. I love the microphone and have no problem with it. Elton John’s “Circle of Life” played and I stood lip-syncing for my life. I presented myself and that’s what the category called for. Again, very proud of me and my team.
Talent went nicely, also. A great friend who has judged E.O.Y. before told me to do something I enjoyed. I have a sexy sultry side to myself so with Elvis’ version of “Fever” I gave the judges and crowd that. I knew I wanted to record my own voice and lyrics about competing another year to Britney Spears’ “Work Bitch” because the song is hot and I say the words a lot in my vocabulary. Then I texted my dear sister Latrice Royale from RuPaul’s Drag Race fame to see if she could do a voice-over to mix into my final edit. She sent it back and I then recorded my own voice into Garage Band on the MacBook of the lyrics I wrote to sing over Britney’s instrumental.
boy pup Gizmo née Delorian Chase mixed it up for me out of Phoenix and overall I’m thrilled with how it turned out. Not bad for someone who has never claimed to sing. I even rapped for the kids. It really was totally me and from a place of expression I’ve never traveled to before. Very proud of it and the concept. The concept being to do what you want to do and to work, bitch. I made it through my costume change and considering that was the first and only time I tried the whole thing, not too bad. Again, I was received well and had a good number of compliments about our routine. Thanks to Trinity Taylor for sponsoring work on my girl’s dresses while getting ready herself for competition.
For Onstage Q/A I wore all black and no tie with a gold chain Jacques had given me years ago that says in French, “More Than Yesterday, Less Than Tomorrow.” The reigning Mr. E.O.Y. David Freklz came by to check in and told me to really pop the shirt open. I got on the microphone and Jason asked me, “It states in your bio you’re a second year competitor at E.O.Y. and feel the stage of E.O.Y. to be where you truly belong. Why do you feel it’s where you truly belong?” I took my deep breath and spoke clearly, concisely and from the heart. I knew if they led me certain ways how I’d respond. And they did.
To paraphrase my answer here, I spoke of how “last year I was able to come and get a lay of the land, see the camaraderie among the contestants and felt a little love from the judges so I decided to come back. The stage of E.O.Y. provides me the platform to be exactly who I am at any given time because even though I may give the UFC Ultimate Fighter image on the outside I’m giving you pure Vegas showgirl on the inside with hair down to here and legs are to there giving the gig.” I think it took people by surprise and that’s what I’ve always done. I’m happy with myself for being completely honest.
Let’s face it. We are all showgirls at heart or we couldn’t be competing in this arena dressed in rhinestones and full blown glitz. (Inspirational Tip: It’s fine to be honest with who you really are!) The crowd seemed to appreciate it and again I felt great. Heading into competition one must be comfortable with being organic with responses and reactions. We are all human. You may plan one thing and a completely different occurrence is born. My night was over. And White Castle fed my way-out-past-bedtime ass before finding its way back to hotel at 2:30 a.m.
Friday was a lighter day for me. I met Jana and Rue at Cracker Barrel for an Old Timers Breakfast. Yes, Ghawd! That evening I had Creative Evening Wear competition and the Miss contestants started as well including my dear sister and front-runner Trinity Taylor and RuPaul’s Drag Race star Alyssa Edwards. Dressed in a hand-painted Yves St. Laurent tuxedo jacket I added an entire Steampunk Realness look to the category. Add in an incredible top hat with gear accoutrement and gig I found downtown vs. Hollywood Blvd which had the price jacked up 100%. On the jacket were Carmelo Roman created portraits of gay icons including Gaga, Britney, Liza, Judy, Janet, Madonna, Marilyn, Barbara and Cher painted in acrylics. Incredibly creative. I just wanted something other than another beaded jacket. Even though there were some stunning pieces my look was by far the most creative. No Tea. And yes, it’s all subjective. I modeled the hell out of it and again felt really good.
Saturday there was a contestant brunch and I was glad I stopped by for a bite. I sat with the future Mr. and Miss E.O.Y., Matthew Kelly and Trinity Taylor from Florida, alongside their entourages and promoter Josh Maywalt. That night I had Swimwear competition. Not my absolute favorite thing to do but I will because it’s part of the Mr. E.O.Y. pageant line-up and that will never change. I decided to go gimmicky with a whole E.O.Y. collegiate university gig with Audrina Taylor as a cheerleader and me in a Yuppie navy box cut and personalized sweatshirt with E.O.Y. University Class of 2014 across the back. I even had E.O.Y. jewelry I made to wear.
I wore grey canvas oxfords and was offering J. Crew meets Nautica Realness. It was fine. It didn’t blow me away in hindsight but I also knew that the contest is basically decided by then anyway so have fun with it. The first night schedules the major categories so the bigger scores are already tallied. Swimwear will not sway the placements that much to change who’s in the front of the pack. I’m being honest. Unless you fall on your face or have your dick out then you should stay consistent to where you already are in the rankings.
At the end of it all (as you may have caught above) my new friend Matthew Jay Kelly and my dear sister Trinity Taylor (after seven tries) became 2014 National Mr. and Miss Entertainer of the Year with Chase McGroin as E.O.Y. King. For those keeping score I placed 3rd runner-up. A good step-up from last year’s ranking. We all want to win but as I preached all weekend long, the adventure has to be the win one takes from competition because that’s the only thing we can truly count on. I had a blast once again competing and got along with everyone very well. Will I be back?! Stay tuned…