Emerging from a fabulous cloud of glitter, feather boas, and lip-synced Katy Perry songs, Miss Gay Kansas City 2014 will be crowned this weekend. The winner will take the reins from 2013 champ Christa Collins (Christopher Barksdale-Burns), a two-decade veteran of the Kansas City Ballet. Christa nabbed the title on the strength of a modern dance performance and went on to win Miss Gay Missouri.
Now in its 32nd year, the Miss Gay Kansas City America Pageant is one of the oldest continually running female-impersonation pageants in the country. This year's two-night event will take over Missie B's on Friday and Hamburger Mary's on Saturday.
caught up with organizer and emcee Jeff Hickman, a.k.a. Loreal, who won the pageant in 1991 and has been running the show since 2001.
The Pitch: What are the requirements to compete in the pageant?
: You have to be a male. It's not for transsexuals or transgender - it's for gay men. Friday night they'll be competing in solo talent, which is a three-minute talent where they have to perform by themselves without any prop. On Saturday afternoon they have their interview, and Saturday evening they'll compete in evening gown and on-stage questions, and also in the extended seven-minute talent category where they can have dancers and props.
How are the contestants judged, and who does the judging?
We pick the judges. My stage name is Loreal - I'm also a female impersonator. My co-promoter is Valari Knyte. We won the pageant together. We pick judges that we think are qualified, and they have to be approved at the state pageant level.
What qualifications do you look for in a judge?
For the most part, they need to be familiar with female impersonation. It relies heavily on how you conduct yourself offstage, in and out of drag. There are very specific rules about evening gowns and the length and the way they're supposed to fit. Our three judges are all former winners of the Miss Gay Kansas City Pageant, so they've all won at this level.
What can we expect from the talent portion of the competition?
You really never know until it happens. My personal thing - I still compete - is I do comedy. Last year's winner danced in the Kansas City Ballet, so he did modern dance. There's usually some kind of lip sync. It varies from contestant to contestant. It just depends on what their strengths are.
What are Miss Gay Kansas City's duties if she's crowned the winner?
We help them compete at the state level, which is Miss Gay Missouri in the spring, and if they win that they go on to compete at the Miss Gay America pageant, which is typically held in the fall.
What would Miss Gay Kansas City have to do to lose her crown?
We've never taken a crown from anyone. It's happened in other cities. Typically if you didn't have just cause and you didn't represent us at the next level, you would have your crown taken away. That is your main duty, is to go on to compete at the next level. We help pay for that - we pay for the hotel room, give them money to help them compete, and hold fundraisers, because for somebody to compete at that level it could cost thousands of dollars. If someone were demeaning the pageant or the system itself, they could have their crown taken away. If somebody committed a crime or something - it would depend on what it was. It typically doesn't happen.
What about the event are you most looking forward to?
I'm excited about all of it. In the past it's always been a one-day pageant - we've had it all in one evening. This year we decided to break it up. Friday night they'll do their solo talent, but after that we're having a revue show with the former winners - all that can make it. So that's very exciting. There are a lot of formers who like to perform, and when we have it all in one night, we're not able to do all of that since we have such a long legacy of winners.
The Miss Gay Kansas City Pageant will be rolling out starting tonight at Missie B's and will conclude tomorrow at Hamburger Mary's. Details here.