Juneau half-time resident and former candidate for office Troy Michael Smith was crowned Mr. Gay World in Cape Town, South Africa, on Oct. 27, gaining a platform he plans to use for greater awareness of mental illness.
Troy Wuhts-Smith, as he was known then, ran for District 1 City and Borough of Juneau Assembly seat in 2021, losing in a three-person race to ‘Wáahlaal Gíidaak Barbara Blake. A profile about Smith as a candidate listed his employer as Alaska Airlines and his company, Crowned LLC, as a pageant consultancy. That put him in touch with a lot of contestants, eventually leading to his decision to compete in Mr. Gay World.
“I’m really excited for him, and that he worked so hard to win this competition, not just for himself, but for the state of Alaska,” said state Rep. Alyse Galvin, an Anchorage independent. “Not only will we see important strides in public awareness around mental health and wellness and suicide prevention, but it’s an opportunity for Alaska to show that it celebrates the LGBTQIA+ community.”
Galvin first met Smith when she was running for Congress against incumbent U.S. Rep. Don Young, who ultimately prevailed. She was exiting an Alaska Airlines flight when Smith approached her. “I think he saw a post of mine on Twitter about mental health,” she said. “We became friends from that point on.”
Galvin said being crowned Mr. Gay World is especially important now, “when 15-to-24-year-olds in Alaska have some of the highest suicide rates, particularly among the LGBTQIA+ community.”
Galvin spoke at Smith’s sendoff party at the University of Alaska Anchorage on Oct. 16, right before he left for South Africa. The event was a collaboration with the Alaska chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, where Smith serves on the board. It was attended by other board members, pageant organizers and title holders, among others.
“We are over-the-moon excited with this win and for Troy to be able to elevate this message to a global platform,” said Dustin Morris, statewide area director for the foundation, who also spoke. Many of whom attended the sendoff event plan to greet Smith’s plane when he lands at the Anchorage airport on Tuesday. The title of Mr. Gay World, founded in 2008, is awarded based on a combination of judges’ scores and public votes. Contestants were evaluated on knowledge of LGBTQIA+ issues and history, commitment to social responsibility campaigns, and how they presented in various categories. The competition was held between Oct. 23-27.
“The competition was brutal,” said Smith, who was texting as he awaited a 16-hour flight back to the East Coast. “There were very rough categories including an extremely difficult written exam about LGBTQIA+ history and current events. There was a social responsibility category where you had to deliver a presentation for 10 minutes and answer questions in front of the judges as well as the other contestants.”
Smith noted that other categories in the competition were national costume, swimwear, formal wear, rapid question, final question, sportswear and the public vote.
The competition included 11 finalists from Australia, Belgium, Chile, Great Britain, Guam, India, Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Thailand and the United States, wrote Smith, who was the contestant from Guam.
“I was too late to compete for USA, so I petitioned for an at-large bid to represent Guam, being an American Territory,” he explained. His inspiration was a former Miss Guam, who encouraged him to pay homage to the culture. “Deep back in my family heritage there is a connection,” he wrote.
Smith said his driving mission is to work for suicide prevention and awareness and to address mental health issues in general.
“I have lost many friends to suicide,” he wrote. “In the pageant community, many of us were affected by the death of Cheslie Kryst, former Miss USA, who took her own life.”
Kryst was the winner of the 2019 Miss USA pageant, an attorney who also held an MBA. She worked as a correspondent for the television show “Extra,” which earned her an Emmy-nomination. Her death was a shock to many people.
“She was one of the sweetest people in the world, and you would have never noticed anything wrong with her,” wrote Smith. “It made me realize that we need to do more.”
“We need to do better to understand and recognize the warning signs surrounding suicide.”
Smith plans to get busy as soon as he returns. “Holding a title like this is similar to Miss Universe, Miss USA, Miss World — it is what you make it.”
• Contact Meredith Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (907) 615-3190.