Lybarger, Sehl hope to return Miss Gay Texas contest to its former glory
Expect more from this year’s Miss Gay Texas Pageant.
The pageant system "where the boys are boys and female impersonation is an art" has new owners for its Texas pageant.
According to a press release, on Feb. 5, L&T Entertainment sold the Miss Gay Texas America pageant to New Day Productions, a company owned by two former Miss Gay America contestants, Michael Lybarger and his partner of nine years, Richard Sehl.
"The fit is finally good with Texas," said Terry Eason of L&T Entertainment. He said the Texas pageant has been owned by three different parties over the past 10 years. However he is confident that the New Day Productions deal "is going to be a nice long relationship."
"Larry and I are very selective about who we do business with," says Eason, who bought the national pageant in 2005. He explained that just because someone has the money to purchase the pageant, that does not necessarily mean they have the best intentions.
"We don’t want people who are only committed to the pageant for one year," said Eason. That’s why L&T Entertainment limits whom they do business with and screens potential business partners. Eason says he thinks the sale was a good choice because Lybarger and his partner are well known and respected throughout the state.
Lybarger said he and Sehl are up to the task.
"Some people buy pageants and think it’s going to be easy, while everything is falling apart backstage. We’re more hands on," said Lybarger. "We think if you’re going to be a promoter, you need to roll up your sleeves and go to work."
Current reigning Miss Gay Texas America Chanel LaMasters said she is "happy to have somebody who’s as experienced as [Lybarger and Sehl] are in this department."
Lybarger said he’s been involved with Miss Gay America for 25 years. He met his life partner while competing at a pageant in Louisville, Ken. According to a press release, the two — who live in Allen — are corporately affiliated with a successful chain of beauty colleges throughout the Southwest.
Although both are retired from competing in pageants, Lybarger says they have remained active behind the scenes over the years. It was during that behind-the-scenes work that Lybarger began to see a need for change in the structure of the Miss Gay Texas Pageant.
When he learned the previous Miss Gay Texas promoter had not renewed the contract, he knew "the timing was right mentally, physically and financially" to purchase the pageant.
Lybarger says one of his major goals is to increase the total number of participants. He remembers a time when 76 female impersonators competed for the title. Last year, there were only 30 contestants, and Lybarger said he hopes to have at least that many this year.
"We have 18 right now, but nine pageants aren’t scheduled," he said.
According to LaMasters, although Miss Gay Texas used to be one of the biggest pageants, there has been a decline in the number of contestants over the past decade. LaMasters believes the reason is because there are so many other pageants out there.
In the past, one or two promoters were responsible for all preliminaries in all cities participating in the statewide pageant. Lybarger believes that system is an inefficient way of promoting the pageant in Texas.
"If we included more people from more areas of the state, it would run better, and we’d get more contestants," he explained.
Lybarger and Sehl have now implemented a regional pageant director program that splits the duties up between four promoters, each from a different area in the state, meaning the state pageant is now run by a team rather than just one or two people.
According to Eason, similar systems are being used by states with pageants as big as Miss Gay Texas and this system has proven to be the best form of management for states like Oklahoma, Missouri and Ohio whose pageants are as large as the Texas contest.
Lybarger stressed that not just anybody is qualified to be a regional director. Directors "are seasoned veterans of pageantry or hold knowledge of importance to the success of Miss Gay Texas America," Lybarger and Sehl explainecd in a letter to the public posted on the Miss Gay Texas Web site.
Lybarger and Sehl explained that a regional director’s duties include handling the preliminary sale of pageants, directing and guiding new promoters and contestants with information about the contest, and introducing them to the Miss Gay Texas America Pageant System.
Lybarger said things are going better than he had anticipated. In less than two months after the purchase, nine primaries have already been sold.
He said he is planning a new "Project Runway"-style presentation to capture the spirit of the now-absent "most creative outfit" category.
"Contestants will be presented on the runway in a creation of their own with no props of any kind," Lybarger explained.
The event is just for fun and has no actual bearing on the outcome of the pageant, Lybarger said, adding that in the past the "most creative outfit" category was removed because contestants worried too much about it and spent too much money on their outfits.
Lybarger said he’s gotten a lot of support for the way he’s been running things so far.
"I had no idea how many people truly saw our same vision and were just waiting in the wings to help out and get to work rebuilding Texas," he said.
LaMasters is one of those who expressed confidence in the future of the pageant with Lybarger and Sehl at the helm. She said she expects the two to own the pageant for a long time and that under their leadership, "the system will gain respect and stability."
The Miss Gay Texas America Pageant begins Sept. 3, with a bar tour starting at Illusions. The actual competition takes place in the Rose Room at Station 4 on Sept. 4-5.
For more information on preliminaries or the pageant visit www.missgaytexas.biz
A red carpet premiere of "Pageant," a documentary about the Miss Gay America Pageant system, will be screened at the Angelika Film Center during the AFI International Film Festival at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 4. The public screening begins at 10:15 p.m.
For more information visit the AFI Dallas Web site.
Miss Gay Texas America Chanel LaMasters performs every Thursday night at J.R.’s, 3923 Cedar Springs Road.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 28, 2008
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