It was pretty much like any beauty pageant, aside from a few elements such as the judges performing exotic dances for dollar bills proffered as tips by the audience.
Also, the first-ever Miss Gay Alaska America isn’t an LGBTQ+ female, but rather a female impersonator. Lamia Monroe of Anchorage was crowded with that honor on Saturday night following a two-evening competition among five contenders at the Juneau Arts and Cultural Center.
“It feels a little surreal,” Monroe said in an interview shortly after being crowned. “It’s the first national system that’s come to Alaska. So it feels kind of larger than just me. So I’m feeling a lot of responsibility of just representing Alaska and everybody who helped me get here.”
In another twist from normal pageant rules, both the winner and first runner-up — which went to Miss Guise (given name Richard Jay Carter) — are advancing to compete in the national pageant scheduled Jan. 16-19.
The Miss Gay America pageant was founded in 1972 with the goal of becoming “the most prestigious and most respected pageant for female impersonators in the world,” according to the event’s website, which claims there are now nearly 30 state and regional events leading up the national pageant.
The inaugural Alaska event was organized by Gigi Monroe (given name James Hoagland), who in an announcement as its promoter stated “I am eager to continue providing space and guidance to queens statewide and this is a great opportunity to do that.”
Plenty of notorious state and national personas made stage appearances during the event, including former Miss Gay America winners who in some cases served as judges, part-time Juneau resident Troy Michael Smith who was recently crowned Mr. Gay World and a proclaimed “mother of Alaskan drag” Queen Reyna (given name Oscar Aquino) who’s been performing since the 1970s.
Besides Anchorage’s Monroe, the stage names of the five competitors included three Juneau residents — Miss Guise, Dyanne Dystopia and Diamond Monroe — and Osha Violation of Fairbanks.
The event featured the contestants participating in an eight-minute personal interview in male attire with the judges before the evening pageant, plus evening gown, on-stage interview and talent categories.
Lamia Monroe staged a notorious performance in the latter by squeezing a musical narrative of a romantic sonnet, phone breakup and defiant rebound into the seven-minute limit amidst a relatively elaborate stage set created hastily in the moments beforehand.
Afterward, the pageant winner said even though the statewide pageant was announced several months ago and thus preparation time was limited, putting together the routine came naturally.
“Really what I would say is that I’ve been preparing for six years, performing and doing all of that,” Lamia Monroe said.
That said, the winner said “a whole new package” will be prepared for the national competition.
“I’m going to pull my team together and figure out what to do because I only have about a month to get ready,” Lamia Monroe said.
As with the other contestants, part of Lamia Monroe’s presentation was about advocacy cause(s), in this case being “passionate about sobriety and advocating for Alaskans Living with HIV,” according to an online bio. But before returning to daily life — and preparing for the national competition — the newly crowned queen planned to celebrate with both uptime and downtime.
“I’m going to celebrate by spending some quality time with my close friends that helped me get here and by taking a (expletive) nap,” Lamia Monroe said.