The Palladium was the site of the final night of competition for the annual Miss Gay USofA Pageant on Friday. The competition boasted 36 contestants in the preliminary competition that took place at the Round-Up Saloon in the days prior to the final round of competition. The winner was Miss Gay USofA Shae Shae LaReese. First Alternate went to Alexis Mateo, Second Alternate was awarded to Naomi St. James, Third Alternate was claimed by Sasha Lauren, and Fourth Alternate was won by Cotti Collins.
With interview scores carrying over from the preliminary portion of the competition, the 12 finalists again were judged on the categories of Talent and Evening Gown. Shae Shae LaReese’s performance involved several black lights on the stage highlighting a colorful array of stylized body suits suggestive of muscle fibers in neon paint worn by LaReese and her backup dancers. Additionally, the audience went crazy with cheers and applause as several dwarfs in neon yellow suits entered from both sides of the stage and danced as a portion of “Harlem Shake” blasted over the speakers. Some, like Mahajanay DeMornay, with her fierce, animalistic theatrics set to the music of both Dianne Reeves and Kat DeLuna, repeated previous performances from the preliminary competition. Others, such as Alexis Mateo and roughly 15 professional backup dancers, performed a fresh routine choreographed by fellow RuPaul’s Drag Race alumna and Dallas resident Alyssa Edwards. Not only was the routine choreographed by Edwards, but it featured her and yet another former Drag Race star, Shangela. The end of the routine saw a poster of Raj (winner of season 2) unrolled, and someone resembling RuPaul walking onto the stage. As part of the performance, Mateo started verbally assaulting the character of RuPaul. With a solid, attention-grabbing performance and a standing ovation from the crowd, Mateo seemed a shoe in for a placement in the top five.
Some in the audience wondered if Mateo and the rest of her Drag Race trifecta were throwing shade at RuPaul and Raj. Kelexus Davenport, one of the emcees for the finals as well as the prelims, said that sort of thing should not be taken seriously. “I think it was all in [good] fun. You have to grab people’s attention.” Davenport knows a thing or two about drag and the USofA Pageant system. She has been one of the emcees for the event for eight years running; her very first pageant was Miss Gay Dallas USofA in 1993 (a competition she won). Mateo posted on her Facebook fan page later saying, “Back home after a crazy week, thank you all for the amazing comments, NO PERSONAL ATTACKS against RAJA or RUPAUL..It’s just drag!” On an interesting side note rumors abound that RuPaul was there in male attire to support Mateo. One wonders what RuPaul would have thought about Mateo’s performance. If RuPaul was indeed there it seems that he gave most everyone the slip since there were no long lines for photographs with the star, or, according to sources close to the pageant, no requests for additional security.
Another icon on the stage, albeit in a video format, was the tribute made for the late Erica Andrews who passed away earlier this year from a lung infection. The tribute, shown in between Talent performance groups, featured both stylized, modeling shots of Andrews as well as candid photographs from pageants in which she had participated.
The other finalists of the evening included Alina Maletti, Texas’ own Armani Nicole Davenport, Domanique Shappelle, Symphony Alexander Love, Sunny Dee-Lite and Mahajanay DeMornay.
Miss Gay USofA was first held in 1986, and the inaugural title holder was Michael Andrews. Since then many of the most well known entertainers have sought and won the prestigious Miss Gay USofA title. The pageant is open to all men who are 21 years of age by the time of the National Pageant. The National Pageant is generally held in Dallas the week before Memorial Day in May of each year.
For more information and a complete list of contestants visit www.usofa.org
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