I wanted to start this blog section talking about some of the people that were involved with the success of MGAA 2010. This year was one of the most talented Top 5 we had and really set the course for a couple people in particular. This Top 5 saw two future MGAAs and one that would later be labeled, "The One Who Got Away". We saw the start of the journey for MGAA12, Diva in this Top 5. I remember how nervous she was when she went up in gown that year but also how she lit up that stage with an honest love for what she was doing. It would be 3 more years until she would reach her dream but I think my years and MGAA in general were made stronger because of her presence during those 3 years. More about her and her journey in Chapter 2012.
This year also welcomed a first and last Top 5 placement at MGAA for Naomi St James. I often call her The One Who Got Away. I say this because she is one of the few people I've know that I would have enjoyed seeing her crowned MGAA. Her raw talent, her humor and her " I don't give a fuck" attitude are a few traits I admire in Naomi. How can we forget her talent that year when she made out with Mya McKenzie on a park bench? She blazed a trail for herself around the country and the state but I often wonder, what if! One of the best memories I have of her was during critique that year, where the reigning MGA was completely rude and out of line with her attempted to get her to come back to MGAA the following year and she proceeded to tell her, "I'm good, I'm having my body done!" And that she did! Thank you NSJ for having my back and for always supporting me and MGAA.
Oh and about the reigning MGA that year (lol). It was the year I became super close to the wonderful and lovely Lady Tajma Hall. I asked her to judge that year because as the reigning Miss Gay USofA at Large and a former Miss Continental Plus I knew she would have an amazing perspective. For some reason the reigning MGA was not having her because she tried getting her pulled off the panel. Later it was confirmed that one of the contestants told her that Taj was staying with Mya McKenzie and TC Taylor (a contestant competing that year) and it was completely false. Instead of asking me she went off false information but I later got it resolved and Taj remained on the panel. I've always thought it important for a reigning titleholder to always consult with the pageant promoter to try and solve problems that arise. Unfortunately, that didn't happen and resulted in a less than desirable outcome. It was a learning lesson that prepared me for the next year. After that Taj and I grew closer and she became part of my family. I am so happy she asked me to be part of her larger family and will always be grateful to have asked her to be On the panel that year. #YouAreTooGoodForTHIS
That year we saw a first time contestant win the title of MGAA. TC Taylor was crowned that night and started a reign that would defy a lot of boundaries and skeptics. TC was one of the few that won the title of Miss Gay Arizona America on their first try and one of only a couple that won Miss Gay Arizona America as a first alternate to their city preliminary. TC never won a city crown but quickly showed why she would later be one of the most successful Miss Gay Arizonas. Now from the beginning TC had some hurdles to maneuver. I am not sure if people felt she wasn’t ready for the title, or if she had not paid her dues yet but there were a lot of who felt like the judges got this one wrong. I personally feel like this only empowered TC to make her reign a success because if she failed, her critics would win.
One of my most favorite times with TC during her reign was the trip to Miss Gay America. TC cara-vanned to St. Louis to represent the Arizona at the national pageant. Her truck was filled with costumes, hair, alcohol to feed the masses and her legendary see through staircase. TC won the Michael Andrews Miss Photogenic award and was only on the cover of a local St. Louis magazine featuring the Miss Gay America pageant!
This was also the year I was able to form a friendship with two wonderful people, Ron Rogers and Bryon Wiley. We had such a fun crew with us that year: Alicen, Dottie, Ron, Lee, Ron, Bryon, and Aaron. This is when I really got to know TC and was able to understand her passion for everything she sets out to do. I am so thankful for this trip on so many different levels. It helped me deal with so much going on in my life at the time. This trip really got me over my relationship that ended 2 years prior because of a connection I made with someone who will also hold a special place in my heart. This trip also allowed me to get to know Bryon Wiley. He would be someone who would hold me up and talk to me on so many different levels after this trip.
I’ll be honest, I was really excited at the crowning of Miss Gay America 2010. Alyssa Edwards was someone that I saw in the 4 years prior and I always admired her talent and was in awe of her beauty so needless to say I was one of the many excited when she was crowned that year. We all know what eventually happened but I often think to myself, “I wonder what if”.
Going to Miss Gay America that year was my kind of escape from reality. My mom was really sick throughout 2009 and during the fall/winter her doctors had scheduled a blood morrow transplant for her. It was something that was supposed to suppress her entire immune system but then give her more power to fight the cancer that was living inside of her. The one thing I always knew is that I didn’t have to worry about much when it came to TC. There were not ulterior motives, there was no ego, TC was real and real upfront about everything. That year our first preliminary was Miss Gay Tucson America, held at the Hotel Arizona. I had been down to Tucson that weekend spending time with my mom who was in hospital and had timing planned when I could leave visiting hours, head to my parents’ house, shower and go to the pageant. We had a wonderful male interview session and when I headed home that afternoon to get ready for the pageant I was confident everything would fall into place. Life always throws little wrenches into plans because that afternoon I went home, put the key in the door and SNAP, the key broke inside of the door! WTF is all I thought. Luckily my dad was on his way home and we called a locksmith, but like life would have it, that locksmith took FOREVER! I was stressed because this was TC’s first preliminary. I remember calling TC and explaining the situation and with no stress or hesitation in her voice she said, “Handle what you have to and I will see you soon.” This was the first of many times that TC would reassure me. Of course I called Mya who was there as well and asked her to be there for TC and that I would be there as soon as I could. I think I showered, dressed and got to the venue in less than 10 minutes (a feat for anyone that knows me)! They had already completed Solo Talent and I was told where TC and Mya were tabulating. Mind you, I had all the stuff for the preliminary in my car. I walk back to this dark area of the ballroom and see Mya and TC tabulating…on Mya’s flip phone!!!! My heart dropped but laughed at the same time. Never once did Mya or TC get mad at me, except I remember Mya giving me one of her infamous looks. They did their job and at that moment I felt lucky to have those two in my life because that is what family does, helps when they are most needed.
After solo talent mishaps from the previous year, Diva was crowned Miss Gay Tucson America that night! That night really showed me that Diva really wanted to leave her mark in the system and the next few years would solidify her position as one of Arizona’s best (more to come in Chapter 2012).
Looking back this year, 2009/2010, gave us so many glances into the future. Miss Gay Copper City that year introduced us to a contestant that really did step up the game and changed the face of MGAA and how people competed. I remember when I saw Tyra Marie on stage at that preliminary, I looked over at Mike Fornelli and said, “who is this?” Tyra had such a charisma and a different look that I had not seen but was so happy to have. While tabulating I remember telling TC that this was the future of Miss Gay Arizona, because we needed new blood to continue the legacy. I was new, TC was new and so this was our chance to really build the foundation of a “new” Miss Gay Arizona America. Tyra Marie was crowned Miss Gay Copper City America that year. Tyra opened the doors for so many “Latinas” to cross over into the “American” side of drag. I am forever grateful that she entrusted our system and that the door swung wide open.
You really don’t understand why things happen when or how they do. The spring of 2010 really changed my life forever. After a long battle with cancer, my mom died peacefully at home on March 29, 2010. That is a time in my life that really changed my life in so many ways. During this time, I was able to depend on a few people and in the process lost a few people. It is funny how some people cannot cope with loss or do not know how to be around someone that has lost someone. I had a group of friends that would later alienate me because of their desire to not deal with someone that had a huge hole left in their life. One said, “I wish you would stop using your mom’s death as an excuse.” Later another would one ask a current friend, “Why did Daniel ditch us?” I didn’t ditch you, you all decided not to support and be there for me, instead you decided it would be easier to brush my loss under the carpet and not deal with me. But I digress---
I don’t think I would have been able to keep Miss Gay Arizona floating if it were not for TC Taylor. During this whole ordeal I never once had to think about what Miss Gay Arizona was doing or not doing. Miss Gay Phoenix America was scheduled for the week of my mom’s funeral and I remember TC telling me not to worry that everything was under control, and it really was. I never doubted TC’s words and I knew if anything, Miss Gay Arizona was in great hands because TC was cool under pressure and had nothing but the best intentions when it came to the pageant system. I remember walking into the church, during my mom’s funeral and seeing TC, Mya, Mike Jacobs and Bryon Wiley. Seeing them there made me happy and smile at a time that was not really easy for me. I will never forget this and will always thank them for being there for me and my family.
In missing Miss Gay Phoenix America, I also missed the debut of Nevaeh McKenzie into the Miss Gay America scene. Nevaeh brought a youthfulness into our system that started in 2010, as Miss Gay Phoenix America. She would be another person that will later be featured in Chapter 2015, The Redemption!
In all the sadness and confusion of my life, I was able to have some hope and joy. Around that time, I met someone really important to me, Nick Ray. He really helped me cope with my feelings and with understanding how to deal with the loss of my mom. He never judged me when I was sad or when I needed to cry, he just let me. I will also be grateful to Nick for never giving up on me and for letting my feelings be real and valid.
During TC’s reign she raised a lot of money, and by a lot of money, I mean a sh*t ton of money. The money she raised went to different organizations throughout the state and valley. This was the first time I really saw the community rally behind a titleholder and really supported the effort that TC was taking. I don’t recall the final number but I believe TC raised over $17,000!!! That number is astronomical, especially given the fact that TC was fairly new to drag and pageantry in general. As I previously mentioned, TC was not particularly “popular” with some of the veteran drag performers in Phoenix. I often wonder if that was the reason, because she showed that it didn’t take years and “dues” to be a successful Miss Gay Arizona.
We were headed into celebrating the 30th anniversary of Miss Gay Arizona America! And this was the first year Miss Gay Arizona would be held at the Tempe Center for the Arts. I really think this move changed the vision of drag pageantry in Arizona. One of my visions, when taking over this preliminary, was to make it the best of the best and the first way of doing that was making sure the event wasn’t held in a bar or small hotel ballroom. Moving Miss Gay Arizona America into a theater started a trend that still continues to this day- Miss Gay Arizona America, setting trends!!!
To this day, the step down of TC Taylor remains one of the most successful pageants we have seen. It ranks in the Top 3, attendance wise within the past 10 years. I really believe this is due in part because of the involvement TC had within our communities. She really bridged the gap between Tucson and Phoenix, a trend that is still strong today. TC was in Tucson just as much as she was in Phoenix, always making sure to never let the Tucson community feel like they were second fiddle to Phoenix. One of the biggest let downs, in my eyes was the lack of involvement from formers that year. TC only had 4 formers present at her stepdown- Lucinda Holliday, Bunny FuFu, Tori Steele and Mya McKenzie. This has always been something that I wish I could have changed for TC. But I remember her telling me that her experience was never about making the formers happy or proud of her, that it was ensuring her legacy was left and that the contestants had an amazing experience, all of which happened. TC was never one to be loud, upset or angry often. One of the only times happened preliminary night of Miss Gay Arizona when a former caused a storm because she was being charged $12.00 to enter the pageant. Mind you, this former had NEVER once helped in any fashion in the years I was involved and sure didn’t spend any time helping during TC’s reign. This former is also very vocal about her dislike of me to this day! When we were told about her being upset, TC walked into the showroom at the Rock and LET HER HAVE IT! I remember peeking through the curtains and seeing TC get into the face of this person and I just said, “you go girl!”.
In closing I’d like to say how much I still respect TC and her opinion and everything she did for me. In the following year, many of the contestants started calling TC’s year, “The Standard” because they felt she set the standard for what a Miss Gay Arizona America should be. I probably don’t tell her enough but I am so thankful that she was crowned that year because I don’t think anyone else would have been able to handle things being so new and handle it with grace and poise. I was honored and am still happy to be your bossman!
Chapter 2010 will pick up during the Miss Gay Arizona America 2010 pageant and will chronical the 2010/2011 pageant season!