Betty Neal wins B/HAP’s 2015 Tommie Ross Pioneer Award

Betty Neal

Betty Neal

Every morning when I get up, as I wait for my turn in the shower, I log on to Facebook to check in with my “friends” and see what’s trending in the world of social media.

And every morning in my timeline, there’s a post from my friend — on Facebook and, for many, many years, in real life — Betty Neal. Betty always posts something inspiring and uplifting. Even she is herself going through trying times, such as the recent death of her brother from cancer, Betty offers something positive to start the day.

And when you “like” the post, or comment on it, Betty comes back right away to say hello.

“Good morning Tammye Nash.”

“Good morning Betty Neal.”

So even though I rarely see Betty in person these days, I “talk” to her every day. And I was glad to hear that someone who always brightens my day is being recognized this weekend for her years of hard work and contributions to Dallas’ LGBT and same-gender-loving communities.

During Dallas Southern Pride weekend — Dallas’ black Pride celebration — Betty will be presented with the B/HAP Tommie Ross Pioneer Award in recognition of her “longstanding presence, her grace, her poise and her many accomplishments within both the pageant and the house/ball communities.”

“B/HAP” stands for Ball/House And Pageant communities. The award is named in honor of pioneering and iconic entertainer, and Pageant Hall of Famer, Tommie Ross. The award “recognizes and honors an individual whose work, art and achievements have demonstrated a legacy of passion, commitment, grace, style and transcendence within the pageant community.”

Betty Neal, who helped originate Dallas’ black Pride celebration back in the 1990s and who is a long-time volunteer with the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, will receive the award Saturday, Oct. 3, during the B/HAP Awards Ceremony, starting at 3:30 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Dallas – Market Center. The awards ceremony is part of the Southern Regional B/HAP Communities Health Disparities and Leadership Conference, being held in conjunction with Dallas Southern Pride.

For a full schedule of conference events, visit the conference website. For a complete list of black Pride events, visit the DSP website.

In a statement on Facebook, Betty said she is “humbled to be receiving this prestigious award from the Ballroom/House And Pageant system, and to have been nominated by the legendary Tommie Ross herself. I am a huge fan and friend. What an honor! Thank you all from the depths of my heart.”

I just want to say congratulations Betty. You deserve this recognition and more. And I am proud to call you my friend.


—  Tammye Nash

Miss LifeWalk tonight at the Round-Up

Walk this way

Not often do we get to see both men and women compete in drag pageants together, but Miss LifeWalk is different that way. Everyone can make a run for the tiara, but the goal is to raise funds for AIDS LifeWalk and the amazing things they do. But for real, these contestants are still gonna do all they can to snag the crown.

DEETS: Round-Up Saloon, 3912 Cedar Springs Road. 6 p.m.

—  Rich Lopez

Weekly Best Bets • 07.15.11

Friday 07.15

FIT for a queen
The Festival of Independent Theaters (FIT) returns with an inspired schedule of shows including works by Steve Martin and David Mamet. We’re curious though about The Madness of Lady Bright with Larry Randolph, about an aging drag queen’s descent into madness.

DEETS: Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. Through Aug. 6. $12–$16.


Sunday 07.17

Walk this way
Not often do we get to see both men and women compete in drag pageants together, but Miss LifeWalk is different that way. Everyone can make a run for the tiara, but the goal is to raise funds for AIDS LifeWalk and the amazing things they do. But for real, these contestants are still gonna do all they can to snag the crown.

DEETS: Round-Up Saloon, 3912 Cedar Springs Road. 6 p.m.


Thursday 07.21

Givin’ up the Love
We don’t have to rely on Chelsea Lately or America’s Dumbest Criminals to get some Loni Love up in here. The comedian brings the laughs with her signature sass and we’re all the better for it.

DEETS: The Improv, 309 Curtis May Way, Arlington. Through July 24. $17–$20.

—  Kevin Thomas

Behar Looks at Boy Beauty Pageants

BOY PAGEANTS JOY BEHAR X390Joy Behar talked with Tracy Miller and her son Zander about the boy’s winning record in beauty pageants. Daily News

—  admin

Guest Post: Pageants, Medicine, and LGBT Rights

The following is from Dr. William Buffie, an internist that has pushed the Indiana State Medical Association to adopt a resolution addressing issues affecting households led by same-sex couples:

In late June, the title of Miss New York was earned by my daughter, Claire Buffie.  She is an intelligent, articulate, and passionate 2008 Ball State University graduate whose personal platform is “Straight For Equality — Let’s Talk.”  As a straight ally for gay rights, she speaks with conviction, offering a voice for a minority group — which includes her older sister, Sarah — that suffers unjustly on many fronts.  If the historically conservative Miss America Organization is ready to confront controversial civil rights issues, should one be surprised that the historically conservative medical community of Indiana has embarked upon the same?  Are straight allies from across the social spectrum ready to speak out and turn the tide in favor of marriage equality?  Can facts, reason, and education overtake fear, emotion, and tradition?

On September 26, 2010, the Indiana State Medical Association House of Delegates overwhelmingly passed an amended version of my resolution (after unsuccessful efforts in 2007 and 2009) concerning public health policy matters germane to households affected by same-sex relationships:

Therefore, be it resolved that the Indiana State Medical Association (1) recognizes that exclusion from civil union or marriage contributes to health care disparities affecting same-sex households; (2) will work to reduce health care disparities among members of same-sex households, including minor children; and (3) will support measures providing same-sex households with the same rights and privileges to health care, health insurance, and survivor benefits, as afforded opposite-sex households.

The lSMA resolution is nearly identical to AMA policy H-65.973 Health Care Disparities in Same-Sex Households which was embraced at the AMA convention last November.  Though the language does not provide an endorsement of same-sex marriage by the ISMA, the preamble clauses leading up to the resolution make a strong case that marriage equality does “reduce health care disparities among members of same-sex households.”  But I think the wording is good, as the use of the word “household” is perhaps more appropriate to emphasize that this issue has broader health implications than that affecting just same-sex couples themselves.

Imagine a child who being kicked, spat upon, and called “faggot” by bullies at school?  Imagine children who are homeless, living under a bridge in a cardboard tent because they have been kicked out of their home for the crime of being gay.  Imagine a 13 year old boy who chooses to hang himself rather than face the shame and disappointment of telling his dad that he is gay?  Imagine the boy who did tell his dad he was gay and then spent the next five years of his adolescence receiving daily beatings chained to a pole in his basement?  Imagine the fear, shame and self-loathing that a young, closeted gay man feels growing up fearing rejection by his church and family.  Imagine him questioning his own value as a human being.  Think about how he must feel when he comes out to his mother at the age of 22, but makes her promise to keep it a secret.  Recognize, as he did, that his mother had never kept a secret her entire life.  But this secret she kept, and they both knew that she kept it not to honor her word to him, but rather because she was ashamed of him.  Imagine the next 8 years of his life in a downward spiral marked by heavy drug use, contracting AIDS and near death.

But you need not imagine these events.  They are real — families and households being torn apart as a result of the stigma and discrimination experienced by LGBT people in a heterosexist society.  Marginalized into a position of second class citizenry, LGBT people are victim of the phenomenon known as “minority stress” wherein societal prejudice is internalized in a fashion that contributes directly to the mental and physical health maladies that are so prevalent in the LGBT community.

It is telling of our times that a New York State Miss America contestant and the Indiana State Medical Association share in a journey to educate Americans about what it means to be LGBT — the pain and the suffering, but also the hope that comes from education; the validation that comes from acceptance; and the love that families can share, irrespective of the sexual orientation or gender identity make-up of one’s household.

Though the Indiana State Medical Association is the first of its kind to embrace the AMA platform, I call now upon physicians and community leaders in other states to accept the responsibility, and seize the opportunity, to review the evolving evidence-based literature, educate the public (and one another), and acknowledge that supporting marriage equality is sound public health policy.  Acknowledging the health benefits of marriage equality is not just a symbolic gesture. It will change, and save, lives.

It was H.G. Wells who once wrote, “Human history more and more becomes a race between education and catastrophe.”  The education — based upon current evidence-based medical/social science literature — that we as physicians can provide is undeniably clear.  Educated voices need to be heard.  The remarkable thing about this resolution passing in Indiana is that it opens the door for greater dialogue on a state and national stage.  Likewise, Miss NY bringing this discussion to the Miss America stage offers awareness and education that will — it is just a matter of time — help shape the changing attitudes of those confronting a major civil rights and public health issue of our times.

The good news about one of the stories I shared earlier is that the young man who nearly died from AIDS after his mother was too ashamed to share his secret is now a 40 year old successful businessman.  When on death’s door, his mother finally broke down and told the family that he was gay.  His, and her, worst fears were not realized.  His family did accept and embrace him for who he was and he was able to finally start on the road to recovery.  How might his life have been different if he and his mother had not internalized the prejudice and stigma attached with being gay?

I will always remember a line in the book “Shadow of the Wind” in which a character states “Books are like mirrors; people only see in them what they already have inside of themselves”.  I hope that whether it be fellow physicians reading the evidence-based literature and the ISMA resolution, or traditionalists interpreting scripture, it is compassion for the least, the lost, and the disenfranchised that they have inside of them, rather than a judgmental nature and blinding bias.

Remember, the most powerful voice contributing to the perpetuation of fear, stereotypes, and LGBT discrimination is not that of the passionate traditionalist; it is the voice that goes unheard.  We need for physicians and beauty pageant contestants — and everyone in between — to be heard now.

So, please join our family, the ISMA, and the Miss America organization in promoting the respectful dialogue that fosters the empathy and compassionate understanding of the “other” that leads us to search for common ground and to achieve common purpose in the pursuit of better serving one another.

William C. Buffie, M.D.
Internist, Indianapolis IN
Phi Beta Kappa, Northwestern University, 1977.  Alpha Omega Alpha, Indiana University School of Medicine, 1981.  Completed Internal Medicine Residency, Indiana University School of Medicine, 1984.  Critical Care boarded 1989.  CEO of Indiana Internal Medicine Consultants since 1997.  Co-author (with John R. Charles) of The Christian Pluralist:  An Invitation From The Pew.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

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