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

DON MAINES | Special Contributor

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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.