True Confessions of a Pageant Papi

KA MGM GrandI just returned home from competing for the title Mr. Gay Sin City USofA in Las Vegas last week. For the first time ever I kept quiet about where I was headed as I prepared to propel forward to reaching my dream and again compete nationally for the title Mr. Gay USofA. It was so hard to keep quiet because I am a firm believer in being your own biggest fan and top salesman. I tend to be very vocal with all the GO! FIGHT! STEVE! I’m able to muster. I become very pep rally for myself because no one does it for me. And that’s ok. It should matter to me the most! If I didn’t believe in myself, I wouldn’t be typing these words. It wouldn’t matter. But it does. So here I share and you inhale. Here’s the story of my recent trip to Sin City and the big gambles I took.

Stitched - The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Like I said, I kept quiet about running as I prepared here in Palm Springs for the preliminary. Since Las Vegas has always felt like another home to me, I was ready to take on the responsibility. I would have loved to represent the city and what it stands for. In many ways I suppose I do exactly that right here with my blog and in conversation. Open Table booked a few dinners for me because it would be a busy weekend in town and I didn’t want to sit in my room looking at the walls hungry and indecisive. I was going to enjoy myself regardless if I was competing or not so I also booked a show. I don’t get nervous. I may have a flair of anxiety (translation: deep breath) about this or that but I honestly can say I don’t get nervous to compete nor be onstage. It’s my comfort zone. Give me spotlight and the slightest bit of attention, and I’m good.

Bellagio

I planned my competition package as well and meticulous as I believed I could. In hindsight and as the story progresses, I will reveal that I was wrong in having that belief. And if I still have you reading this, thank you for allowing me to share my journey because that is always the win for me. I was able to cast my girlfriend Amber from Las Vegas’ hottest revue Fantasy at Luxor. We’ve known each other for many glorious years and finally shared the stage together. I twirled my soundtrack up on Garage Band and was very proud of the creation. It was a mix of dance music mashed together with dialogue from the movie Sin City. I’m sorry (not sorry) but it was brilliant. Kudos me! Old School Realness. I always try to elevate the talent I show and is shown to our audiences. They deserve that. I placed the choreography on YouTube privately and Amber learned it before I arrived.

Las Vegas Strip

Being I was on a pageant budget, I opted for a quaint off-Strip casino property called Tuscany Suites and Casino behind Flamingo and Bally’s. It is a hidden gem that gets two thumbs up from this Vegas connoisseur and enthusiast. Three levels, positioned separately as buildings of rooms, easy access to your car with a small dated casino and a few restaurants. Always do your research on Trip Advisor. I’m peculiar about hotels and this one is a winner. The rooms are huge! Small fridge kitchenette, living room area, nice size bathroom. I’m on LMTClub (Last Minute Travel) .com and get cute discounts on rooms. Go to RetailMeNot.com and get a free promo code for membership. You’re welcome!

Lago by Julian Serrano - Bellagio Fountains

After checking in and dropping off a few bags, I ran over to Amber’s high-rise condo overlooking the Strip to block and rehearse the routine. She is amazing! A former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, I believe she’s on her 10th year with the show Fantasy. If you see the logo for the show in the advertisements at Luxor, her body silhouette is the pink A in Fantasy. To me she is Las Vegas. My very own Nomi Malone without the ice, Cheetah and bad acting. Showgirls, get your life! Afterwards I pressed back to the hotel room to unwind to shower the drive from the desert and rehearsal sweat off of me. Dinner called me to Bellagio for deliciousness at Lago by Julian Serrano overlooking the famous fountains before my front row seat at KÀ at MGM Grand.

Lago by Julian Serrano

I had planned on taking Uber or Lyft leaving the car but decided to drive and self-park one last time since the end of free parking on the Strip after an era of complimentary spaces at many resorts is creeping near. I’m glad I did for the ease of it. When the parking is implemented at these hotels I’m afraid it’s going to snarl resort traffic quickly. I saw where ticket booths and new gates were in place to collect monies currently with paper signs saying no money is needed now. Get ready!

Beauty and Essex - The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Getting to the MGM Grand I soon realize that it’s a cluster fuss though I want to use another word. I got caught in the wrong lane pulling in and got trapped under the canopy wth taxis and limos crawling around the drive towards parking. It was chaos! I finally inched my way back around and found parking before making it to my seat with minutes to spare. The show KÀ is from the Cirque du Soleil family and is truly spectacular. A few of the comedy breaks found in most Cirque shows went on a wee bit long but not too long. The stunts were death-defying and thrilling with a main hydraulic screen wall that went vertical 100′ in the air changing position and use. Sign up for MLife (their rewards program) and get discounted pricing and points on purchases. Travel smart and make the effort. It usually pays off!

Overlook Grill - The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

After the show I made it back to the hotel and quickly found sleep. Memorial Day I woke up and showered before heading to The Cosmopolitan for breakfast at Overlook Grill at their Boulevard Pool. Delicious! Anything Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and I’m in. To be a reader here is to know that. And the beautiful bodies on many were fabulous to watch as I enjoyed freshly squeezed OJ with chicken and waffles. A few stunning and sunning men gave me early morning life. Trust! I know there are big changes happening at The Cosmopolitan like the opening of their redesigned Race and Sports Book, Beauty and Essex and a few more eateries. I made sure to tip around and check out the scene before making an annual stop by the General Store at Sahara as I often do to make sure I’m not missing some sickening or silly souvenir. Soon after I was back to Tuscany for some needed pool time.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

I made this trek by myself missing my husband the whole time. Sad face emoticon. Traveling alone is always interesting because you’re able to listen to your surroundings, and the things you hear and notice are considerably intriguing. I travel alone well and have done it for years but as soon as I returned, Jacques and I booked our one-year wedding anniversary trip for ourselves at The Cosmo for Fourth of July! Happy face emoticons and lighting bolts, too! I need some Blackjack 21 in my life, immediately. However, I did drop a few dollars into a 2¢ slot machine at The Cosmopolitan and won! Hey, it paid for my $100 entry fee to the compete in the contest. I hoped my luck was going to be good for the day ahead.

Jesse Lopez - Steven Michael

The competition was held at Piranha Nightclub. Registration was at 4 p.m. and all ready to go I walked in from the hot bright sunshine to a dark bar of musk from years passed prepared and positioned for what was to come. After a round of big hugs to those I knew and introducing myself to those I hadn’t met yet, I settled in. There were five contestants for the division I was competing in and three bigger boys for Mr. Gay Sin City USofA at Large. Eight contestants for the premiere year of a preliminary in my opinion is amazing! I drew constant #1 of the five meaning I was hopeful in setting the bar, so to speak. I walked into Interview, ready for any question I could be asked. I spoke, we laughed, I was relaxed, and told them who I was and why I was there. Afterwards, Amber came over and we had a stage run-through before setting off into the evening to be.

Steven Michael

I felt good! Interview is my category. I speak well, humorously and direct. I have the answers and have thought about why I’m doing what I do and where I am. Then if everything else falls into place it’s up to the judges to decide if they want me and believe in me. Judges included Michael Vasquez, India Ferrah from RuPaul’s Drag Race, the lovely Kara Young Ross former Miss Gay USofA, James Carden and Naysha Lopez from RDR. Back at the club after some quick dinner, I set up my area in a dark back alley with my iPhone flashlight illuminating my stuff waiting to go on. There was no room to get ready with 8 guys preparing so I made due but it was clearly not the most ideal setup. After waiting around backstage we finally started but again this is all to be expected. For anyone interested in the behind the scenes story of performing thats it. It’s not always glamorous but we do it because it’s all we know. Entertaining is in our blood and its undeniable until we are unable or decide not to do it anymore. Real talk here. And hopefully inspirational.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Presentation was “Stars and Stripes.” I wore white jeans, red and white striped rhinestoned shirt with a navy shirt with stars underneath and called it a gay day. Talent was first. Whew. So… LOL. I have to laugh at it but will continually grown from it. We started out great! I felt good, Amber strutted out, we did the choreography. I went into Cameo “She’s Strange” as we grind our hips into the beat-up splintered wooden dance floor that we moved across while more film dialogue, Don Henley’s “All She Wants To Do Is Dance,” “Bun Up The Dance” and “She’s So Mean” played on. She goes off and quickly changes her fringe bra and panty set into another Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show inspired set barely making it back out in time. I unfortunately didn’t have such luck with my costume change.

Race and Sports Book - The Cosmopolitan

I could at this point offer a list of valid reasons it failed from there but suffice to say, I wasn’t ready. I needed more rehearsal doing that specific change. My clothes were velcro’d but coming off stage I got caught up in curtains and then the velcro didn’t want to just pop off plus 101 other reasons. I was late getting back out from changing into another costume and missed the first words, I believe. I say “I believe” because it was a blur at that point until the end. My shorts made it on but I had my shirt in my hand and in split seconds backstage couldn’t figure to drop it and let it go. For as fast as the costume change went backstage the rest of the routine seemed to be in slow motion. I didn’t fall on my face literally (perhaps figuratively!) but I ran out, shrugged it off and kept performing, for… my… life! It was the very last thing I ever wanted to happen but as we know the show must go on.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Needless to say, I was disappointed in myself and the situation. I really wanted this title and knew at this point that would not be possible. I tried to keep it together but it bothered me. Amber was very supportive as I needed her to be. Since I was first onstage I had time after I was done to ponder and wait through the other guys, hearing audience cheers and shouting. It can be hard. I stood and looked out onto the distant Las Vegas Strip neon lights as I held my head up and focused on happiness in being there. Moments like these don’t define me they are only part of the the definition. As competitors we must know this, trust and believe.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

I was happy with my Clubwear, however, it didn’t seem to score well. As I mentioned in my Interview, the category is so subjective and actually should be called Fashion that one NEVER knows what the judges are going to like or what others may wear in comparison. One must be undeniable and that actually goes for every category. It’s a fine line to stay authentic to myself and give what is “required” for the points. Overall I felt good about what I took to compete with. I prepared well but it didn’t pan out for me. I won Interview! But sadly scored low enough in the other two categories that I failed to qualify to compete nationally unless I entered another preliminary. And for those keeping score, I am entering another prelim in a few months so please support if you wish! #TeamSteven marches on!

Steven Michael

After keeping up with my things fairly well during the contest, I was able to quickly scoop up my score sheets, say a goodbye and thank you to pageant promoter Mike Tafoya and head back to the hotel to sleep and decompress. I wasn’t and am still not bitter in any way, shape or form. I saw what the judges saw and knew it as it was happening. I’m keenly aware of everything around me. It wasn’t my night. Winners Jesse Lopez and Jeremiah Daniels will be AMAZING at nationals! Our reigning national men of #USofA Michael LaMasters and Kane Connors were supportive leaders, approachable and available for the contestants which impressed me as a returning vet. Thanks to the judges for their comments and attention. Score sheets are very important. I don’t always read them right away but another’s view of you often help clear your view of yourself.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Tuesday I woke up and headed back to The Cosmopolitan for breakfast at Overlook Grill before driving home. I needed to feel the love and the view is so spectacular there, I’m glad I stopped by. The drive home gave me great time to get into my mind about the event and decide what’s next. I’m back at home in Palm Springs preparing for my next step. I’m excited about making that next move towards a ticket to nationals in October in Dallas. And until then… I prepare for battle. X

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