Trans fitness trainer Chris Bruce heads west

Chris Tina Bruce, a transgender fitness trainer who made a huge splash when she was profiled by Dallas Voice last year, has moved to San Diego.

Contacted as she was driving halfway across the country to her new home last week, Bruce told Instant Tea she fell in love with San Diego during a recent visit.

“I was there two days, and it was the first place since I moved to Dallas 20 years ago where I was like, I would leave Dallas for this,” she said. “Life’s always a transition.”

Bruce said she’ll miss Dallas and while people here were generally tolerant of her gender identity, in San Diego she’s found love and acceptance. She said both the transgender and fitness communities are bigger there, which bodes well for her business, Discover Health and Fitness.

“Everybody there, they love the uniqueness and the difference of me. In Dallas, there were a few people,” Bruce said. “[Dallas is] a great place, but if you’re a little different, they tolerate you — I never had any major issues — but they don’t really seem to embrace you.”

Although she only officially moved last week, Bruce has already been profiled by both Gay San Diego and the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News.

—  John Wright

Update on Miss Texas Pageant and its gay connections

Don Maines, the contributor who wrote the piece in the June 25 edition about Miss Dallas Ali Burrow and her gay pageant consultants, sends along this update from the stages of the Miss Texas contest, which concluded last week:

Miss Dallas Ali Burrow placed 11th in Friday night’s Miss Texas Scholarship Pageant in Arlington, just a hair’s breadth from getting to compete in the top 10 in the annual contest to select the Lone Star State’s representative to Miss America. Burrow’s strong showing netted her a $500 cash scholarship that will help her continue studies at KD College Actors Conservatory.

Burrow was coached by best friends and roommates Chris Bertrand and Hunter Daniel, who worked so closely with her that she moved into their Uptown apartment last month so the trio could focus 24/7 on preparing Burrow for the annual state faceoff. Last summer, the guys’ house guest was Ashley Melnick, whom they coached as Miss Grapevine 2009. Under their tutelage, Melnick scored a preliminary fitness award and placed as second runner-up to Miss Texas in 2009.

Returning this year as Miss Fort Worth, Melnick won preliminary awards in both fitness and talent (singing “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King”) and captured the coveted crown of Miss Texas 2010.

In fact, all five finalists represented communities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including (in order) Misses Irving, Frisco, White Settlement and Arlington. The winner and first runner-up Jordan Johannsen are roommates at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, where third runner-up Kendall Morris is a featured twirler.

Rounding out the top 10 (in order) were three more North Texans: Misses East Texas, Plano, Ellis County, Houston and Harris County.

Because this was the pageant’s 75th crowning celebration, an inordinate number of gay men attended the weeklong pageant that featured many former Miss Texas titleholders who emceed and performed in production numbers. In addition, both former Miss Americas from Denton, Phyllis George (1971) and Dr. Shirley Cothran Barret (1974), held court at several of the festivities.

The new Miss Texas will compete for pageantry’s most prestigious title when the 90th annual Miss America finals is broadcast live from Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas on ABC-TV on Jan. 15, 2011.

Meanwhile, fans can spot Miss Dallas in a new TV commercial for the Big 12 Conference, in which Burrow plays a Kansas State University tennis player.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Crowning achievement

Two gay men hope to turn Miss Dallas Ali Burrow into Miss Texas — and beyond

DON MAINES | Special Contributor

Texas Hall at UT Arlington, 701 W. Niederman Road. June 28–July 2 at 7:30 p.m. $30–$75.
Also viewable online at

Hunter Daniel, left, and Chris Bertrand with the current Miss Dallas Ali Burrow

MISS THANG | Hunter Daniel, left, and Chris Bertrand worked so closely with current Miss Dallas Ali Burrow that she moved in with them. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

The night that Hunter Daniel arrived in Dallas, after his parents in Arkansas had kicked him out for being gay, he ordered pizza, unpacked his TV and watched Frisco’s Shilah Phillips crowned Miss Texas 2006 — the first African-American to win the crown.

That was omen enough for Daniel, who immediately enlisted as a volunteer with the scholarship program that chooses the Lone Star State’s representative to the granddaddy of all pageants, Miss America.

“That first year, I swept floors, helped with paperwork, put together the judges’ binders. Whatever [the Miss Dallas pageant] needed, I did,” he explains.

Today, Daniel and his best friend and roommate, Chris Bertrand, are co-executive directors of the organization that is preparing current Miss Dallas Ali Burrow for the Miss Texas Scholarship Pageant’s 75th Celebration next week.

Bertrand, 38, grew up in Odessa, where he knew two fellow vocalists who would become Miss Texas, Reagan Hughes (1997) and Tatum Hubbard (1998). He began volunteering with Miss Hurst-Euless-Bedford, which had back-to-back winners in 1999 and 2000, with Yanci Yarbrough, who made the top five at Miss America, and Tara Watson, who is widely known in the Dallas gay community for championing AIDS awareness and encouraging those with HIV to live life to its fullest.

Daniel, 25, met Bertrand in 2007 the moment he arrived at his first all-important Miss Texas “spring meeting” — the weekend planning conference that’s held several months before the annual state face-off.

Spotting a few empty chairs next to Bertrand and his group, Daniel and Miss Dallas sat down with them.

“Hunter was so organized, but we could tell he was nervous,” says Bertrand. The more experienced group decided to help Daniel and Miss Dallas, and they all became fast friends.

“I call Chris my brother,” says Daniel. “And I tell the titleholder she’s my adopted sister for the year.”

Last year, Daniel and Bertrand co-directed pageants in both Dallas and Grapevine, where Bertrand is a director of catering.

Burrow decided to enter Miss Dallas after being cast as a tap dancer in last year’s Miss Texas pageant. “I got to see the pageant from behind the scenes, and I thought, ‘Maybe I could do that,’” she says.

Last November, Burrow won the Miss Dallas title in a lavish two-day competition at Radisson Hotel and Suites Dallas Love Field, which employs Daniel as a marketing sales specialist.

“I was ecstatic because I knew that [Daniel and Bertrand] knew exactly what they were doing,” she says.

A few weeks ago, Burrow moved into her co-directors’ apartment in Uptown, so that the trio could spend more time focusing on getting ready for the pageant. “The titleholder gets my room,” says Daniel, “and I make up a pallet on the couch, which I hardly use because I’m staying up until two at night gluing stones on outfits, then getting up at six in the morning to go to work.”

Despite what Carrie Prejean might think, it’s not strange for a beauty queen to work and play with gay men. This week, they all attended Wicked together (Burrow was enchanted by the song “Popular;” she’s also a fan of Uptown Players) and she’s just been fitted for her final night gown, which the men helped select.

When the competition begins, “preparation is done,” says Bertrand. “We should be through coaching, every earring will be in place. We’ll have all that lined out for her.”

“Our goal is for her to be the best Ali Burrow she can be, and 100 percent confident and mentally prepared,” says Daniel.

And if all goes well, that could mean yet another crown. And that’s something any queen can appreciate.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 25, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice