Miss Gay Arizona America 2015 Nevaeh McKenzie with the freshly crowned Miss Gay Arizona America 2016 Savannah Stevens at last year's Miss Gay Arizona America pageant. Photo by Alexandra Gaspar. From the Phoenix New Times slideshow, "Inside the 2016 Miss Gay Arizona America Pageant".
On Sunday, June 25, 2017, the Tempe Center for the Arts will be the setting for Miss Gay Arizona America, a state preliminary competition for the 45th annual Miss Gay America Pageant.
Established in Nashville in 1972–37 years before "RuPaul's Drag Race"–The Miss Gay America Pageant is the world’s first, longest running and most prestigious female impersonator competition.
The Miss Gay Arizona America pageant began in 1986, is now in its 31st year, and last year claimed its third Miss Gay America “Best Overall Preliminary” Award.
The pageant will honor the current Miss Gay Arizona America 2016 Savannah Stevens, of Phoenix, and feature Miss Gay America 2017 Suzy Wong, of Nashville and Palm Springs.
Ten contestants from cities across the state including Phoenix, Tucson, Casa Grande and Flagstaff will compete in five categories: Male Interview (in suit and tie), Presentation (theme based costume), Evening Gown, On Stage Interview and Talent (big production number with costumes, sets and dancers).
The evening's theme will be "Bond: Excellence is Forever". For the Presentation category, contestants will be asked to impersonate their favorite Bond spy/villan. The Forever Miss Gay Americas (former national title holders) are encouraged to dress as "Bond Girls".
The Miss Gay Arizona America pageant will set the 2017 state winner and alternate on a path to compete for the title of Miss Gay America 2018 in New Orleans this October.
If you live in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, you can catch Savannah Stevens every Friday at BS West performing in the “Elements” drag show, hosting Drag Bingo night at Desoto Central Market, and performing throughout the valley in both Phoenix and Tucson.
Meet your reigning Miss Gay Arizona America 2016, Savannah Stevens, as she answers five questions in anticipation of her step-down and the passing on of the crown to Miss Gay Arizona America 2017 on June 25:
All photos of Miss Gay Arizona America 2016 Savannah Stevens by Scotty Kirby Photography
Having been involved in theater in high school and being cast in three separate roles in one musical, my passion for the performing arts was ignited. At 20 I went to my first drag show at Pookie’s in Phoenix (one of the best show places here in Phoenix, It wasn’t just a bar, but a dinner theater). The very first drag queens I ever saw were Barbra Seville, who was a former Miss Gay Arizona and Phaedra, who was the reigning Miss Gay Arizona at the time. You get to put on some makeup, a wig, a dress and heels and parade around acting out the words to other people’s music? Absolutely! Oh my goodness! I need to do this!
I’ve done other pageants, USofA and EoY (Entertainer of the Year), but the first pageant I ever entered was in the America system–Miss Gay Phoenix in 2008–and I lost my butt off! Anything that could go wrong went wrong. It was not a positive experience for me, so I stepped back for a few years. I finally re-entered the system in 2012, competing for five years before I won, wining First Alternate three years in a row for three of those years.
It’s a shame that it took me so long to get back into the America system, but I’m happy that I did and don’t regret a moment of any of it because I’ve had such a learning experience. That’s what I love about the system is that you never stop learning, never stop growing. As long as you keep an open heart and open mind just keep going forward. No going back in the America system. I am proud to say that I have been performing both locally and nationally for 16 years.
2 What has being in the Miss Gay America system mean to you personally?
It personally means being a part of a family that I am honored to be a part of. Every year competing is like going to a family reunion, reconnecting with friends and making new ones as we all share the same goals and dreams of becoming MGA. Keeping in touch with the girls I’ve connected with both locally and nationally, you can’t put a price on that. It’s truly a sisterhood that you carry with you forever and ever. I stay in touch with many of the contestants and former MGA’s that I’ve competed with over the years. I’ve had such an amazing time, the time of my life. I’m living on cloud nine the entire year!
3 How have you benefited from competing in the Miss Gay America system?
I have benefited by continuing to compete in the MGA system and to polish and perfect myself both as a well rounded individual and a female impersonator with the help and assistance from an enormous amount of friends, judges and former MGA's. The America system molds entertainers to be the not only the best performers, but the best people they can be. I feel the America system has helped me personally by making me a better speaker and helped me outside of drag to become the supervisor that I am today with Starbucks. I have much love and respect for the America system. Just the fact that it’s been around so long shows that it’s the best.
4 Is your family supportive? Yes! My family has always embraced whatever chosen to do, always.
My mother first put me into the performing arts at a young age and it my love of performing grew from there. They would always come to my school plays and when I entered in to community theater, they came to all my plays. Because of the unwavering love and support from my entire family I am able to continue to strive to reach my goals in life.
5 What is your life out of drag?
My everyday life out of drag has been for the past 4 years working as a supervisor for Starbucks. In my leisure time I enjoy cooking, dancing, watching movies and spending quality time with family and friends. •
For more from Miss Gay Arizona America 2016 Savannah Stevens, check out her blog, “Savannah’s Sentiments” at www.missgayarizonaamerica.com and read Savannah Stevens guest column in the February issue of “Sincerely Suzy,” the monthly newsletter from Miss Gay America 2017 Suzy Wong on the Miss Gay America website.
More about the Miss Gay Arizona America 2017 pageant at: http://www.missgayarizonaamerica.com
About Miss Gay America: www.missgayamerica.com/about-mga.html