It's early in the morning and I'm sitting here writing what I feel. So many things are happening and it seems to be nonstop. Heartbroken seems to be the theme lately. It's with a bittersweet heart that I realize so much. I have been asked so many times lately of my opinion on the past year. This has been one of the most trying, heartbreaking, passionate, challenging, fulfilling, and eye opening years of my life. On one hand it's the closing of a huge chapter, yet the opening of another. My will has gained so much strength and I have been giving my best. To some it's enough, for others not merely enough. I've changed and this is where "bittersweet" comes into play. I've looked around these past few days and have seen so many changes. People I confide in have changed. Places I go have changed. Yet one thing is constant, passion.
I had a long conversation with my mother. This is usually my source of inspiration when I feel the world has let me down. I was reminded of those truths she taught me so long ago. Some people will stay, some will go. Some will surprise you both negatively and positively. Those who had nothing but time for you will have less and less. Yet those who you thought were here for a second, stay for much longer. People grow and pursue their lives, sometimes that doesn't include you. It's not a bad thing, hopefully they taught you something. Hopefully you taught them something. Everyday the sun sets, it also rises once again.
I can feel down deep in my heart that better days are coming. I constantly think of the direction I will go after I pass on this legacy. Who will it include, where will it guide me? I've always been a dreamer. Sometimes, they even come true. I will say this however to the community in Arizona:
You are the dark horse runners in the world. You always have been. From the time you were young and even now. There have been walls you look up at and think you will never climb them. There are days you think it's all going to disappear. I heard that in a song once...You, the person reading this, YOU are product of what you overcome. You are the product of those that inspire you. The craziest things happen if you let them. Open your heart and remember these truths...It's always darkest before the dawn. It may not be as bad as you imagine. It's always ok to restart. No dream is too big. Time has no bearing on your dream. Respect the past, carry it forward, and know where you come from.
This is where I come from. My mother and father raised me in humble ways. I'm a mexican boy from El Paso, TX. I grew up with 2 older brothers and many cousins. These people are the ones who shaped who I grew to be. My brother Michael taught me how to laugh at life. How to live lightly and be happy in even the worst situations. My brother Robert, the eldest, taught me how to be strong. How to face problems head on and not buckle just because people say you will. My father, the solid foundation of my life showed me how to balance strength and being gentle. How hard work pays off and how to provide. My mother, my heart and soul. She taught me how to be compassionate, showed me music, how to dance, how to love, how to live, and most importantly how to embrace who you are. My cousins showed me how to make friends. They gave me an outlet to be who I am without judgement. My aunts and uncles challenged me and some showed me the harsh realities of this world. They woke me up and taught me the world is not full of roses, there are thorns as well. The trick is finding them and dealing with them.
The first show I ever went to was hosted by Tori Steele. It featured Lucinda Holliday. Little did I know these were Miss Gay Arizona's. I came from a time where new people were expected to work to perform along side these names. I had no idea that night would change my life forever. I remember telling my friends, "I want to do that, I want to be a Miss Arizona. I want to be them" After this, I was addicted. I would drive to Phoenix with Thomas and Ricky to watch Angela Dodd, Sache Van Cartier, Mikayla Kay, Phaedra, Chane Jordan, and the other title holders. I remember the tears welling up in my eyes when I saw Mya's talent, it wasn't sad...I felt so much emotion when I heard, " THIS IS MY LIFE!". Competing for the first time along side HUGE names across the state the year TC Taylor was crowned. I felt like I won and I was 4th alternate. I was asked to stand along side Naomi St. James (a huge inspiration to me) in the top 5. It was an AMAZING feeling. I remember doing show after show after show for no show pay just to get my name out there. I remember not even being booked and going out in face just to meet people. Benefit after benefit for months and months until I was asked to have a guest spot at VIVA LA DIVA with Bunny Fu Fu. She saw something in me and I was so proud to be a part of that night. I still remember it like it were yesterday. After all this time I was invited to perform at IBT's. I continued to work there for months until Janee Starr and Bunny decided to have me for Saturday Night Starrletes. This guest spot was so special to me. Yet I still worked for weeks and weeks before I was given a paid spot. The point is, you have to work. Someone asked me once what this crown means to me. I answered by simply saying, I can't describe it. You have to make the journey to completely understand it.
This journey has been a crazy one. I completed what I set out to do. I remember saying, I want to take this crown all across the state. I want people to know who Miss Arizona is. I was so proud to take the crown to Flagstaff as the first stop right before Miss America. Then off across the country to Columbus, OH for the national stage. I remember Miss Gay USofA Shae Shae LaReese telling me, "I can see why you won Miss Arizona". I'll never forget those words. I was able to wear the crown among the red rocks in Sedona for Pride. I even got to spend a little time (HEHEHE) in Phoenix. Tucson, my home is where the crown rested. Taking the crown to Bisbee Pride a few weeks ago was such an unexpected reception. People were genuinely proud of Miss Arizona and it made me feel just as proud to hold the crown. There were weeks that I spent more time on the road in a car than I did on solid ground. The longest stretch was 16 days in a row of shows. A fact I will always be grateful for. It wasn't the easiest, it wasn't the most glamourous, but it was the best. Being asked to perform at Rainbow Fest in Phoenix or Special functions in Tucson like Day of the Dead "All Souls Procession", walking the stage at Miss Gay Arizona USofA and helping select the new titleholder, Administrating each prelim to Miss Arizona America, Walking 5k in heels for AIDS walk, Performing at Phoenix Pride with Barbra Seville's Phoenix Phollies, Helping select Khloe V Monroe as Miss Karambas for Miss Phoenix Gay Pride, Tucson's 4th Ave Street Fair and Monday Morning Maddness, Appearing at Gay Skate in Tucson for Wingspan, Walking the stage at Turnabout for TIHAN with my crown, Drag Wars at BS West as well as performing and being a guest judge at Stars of Tomorrow Finale, countless shows and countless hours with my sisters across the state. What an honor. Coco Montrese told me once, "Diva, these are the days that shape your future in the artform" She was right. This year has shaped the Miss Gay Arizona America you see in me. Flaws and all.
I am so thankful for everyone who was a part of my journey. The ones who made it to as much appearances as they could to show love. Those who gave a hand when I stumbled, those who helped me get my footing when I made a mistake. To those formers that shined a light on the positive and helped me through the negative. The people who were a phone call away and answered. Most importantly the people who never disappeared and never left my side. The ones with patience and understanding from the beginning. The ones who stuck by my side even when the "Newness" and "shine" wore off after a few months of winning this crown. The people that cancelled plans to make sure I didn't feel alone. The ones who remembered there was still a person under all of this and understood how trying it could be. The people that texted me to wish me a great show randomly, the ones who were backstage at my last prelim when all I wanted to do was cry. There's a huge collection of people that helped me get here and a huge collection of people who saw me through. Some are the same, many have changed. I am grateful they all were a part of this journey. You all hold a special place in my heart and will forever be a part of not only this reign....but of me as well.
Although I have lists of people to thank, one person I spoke to everyday and was there every step of the way. The person I would call and always answered. The one that could calm me down just by the tone of his voice. Jefe, this crazy dream came true. Nothing will ever change that. I'm going to miss hearing you answer the phone and say, "Hello Miss Arizona". I'm going to miss seeing you drive up to every prelim and having that exhale. That moment where I felt ok because you were there. You made me not want to give up. I remember balling at Miss America and calling TC and telling her I wanted so much not to let you or Arizona down. She was right, you are the best promoter in the country and you would not let me fail. We went through so many trials this year and if there was a True Hollywood Story on this reign, I think people would be shocked. Shocked because of how you taught me to handle even the biggest disasters. Quietly and with dignity. So many things went wrong yet so many more went right. You reinforced class. You taught me that Miss Arizona is only as good as the perception from the community. To be a good leader is to speak, but to be a great leader is to know when to stay silent. I hope the next Miss Arizona realizes what they have in you. Daniel Eckstrom, you have become such a special person to me. Thank you for leading me to excellence. Thank you for letting me be me. Most of all, thank you for being there when I needed you. I will never forget those long nights with you and Nick. Let's get through one more night in July and we'll have a whole new journey to embark on. You were right, "This is just the beginning of who are destined to be"
Arizona, thank you for letting me hold this crown and giving me this opportunity. I hope it was what you wished for. I hope I didn't let you down. Because for me.....this was magical.
Miss Gay Arizona America 2012
From the Journal of Miss Gay Arizona America 2015, Nevaeh McKenzie