By Liz Massey, April 2016 Issue.
Fashions and fads come and go, but many individuals and organizations in the public eye manage to keep on top of trends by refreshing their look and their brand from time to time.
Following this line of thinking, the Miss and Mister Phoenix Gay Pride Pageant has introduced several key changes to the event for 2016, in hopes of creating a more inclusive event that’s representative of the entire LGBTQ community.
“After last year’s pageant, we took a look at the pageant and how it reflected on the community as a whole,” said Dani Logan, program manager for Phoenix Pride.
The Name Change
Big change number one for the competition is a change in the event’s name, from the Miss and Mister Phoenix Gay Pride Pageant to the Miss and Mister Phoenix Pride Pageant. Logan explained that the new name aligns with the organization’s brand more closely, and better describes who is competing for the title.
“‘Gay’ doesn’t fully describe who wears the sash now,” she said. “And we are Phoenix Pride, not Phoenix Gay Pride.”
In a similar vein, the pageant changed its contestant requirements, broadening who can compete in each category. Previously, organizers had limited competition in the Miss and Mister Gay Pride categories to female and male drag performers/illusionists, respectively. But interest in non-drag performances at the pageant has surged, so organizers have changed contestant requirements to include those who present themselves as the gender they identify with, as well as illusionists who present in a drag persona.
According to Logan, Phoenix Pride enacted similar updates with the Miss and Mister Junior Phoenix Pride Pageant last fall. However, there were no contestants in any category before the scheduled finals at the Rainbows Festival in October, so the junior pageant will re-launch with the changes this year. Logan added that she felt the changes would be especially beneficial for youth performers.
“I think it will help,” she said. “Kids can come as they are and not have to develop a drag persona. We’re excited about the 2016 event.”
According to Logan, the current titleholders, Dee Jae Galaxy-Broadway and Trixxie Deluxxe, have been instrumental in encouraging people to enter as well as communicating these changes to the 2016 contestants.
“Our current titleholders are phenomenal,” she said. “They’ve been out during the preliminaries discussing what the changes are to the pageant and what that means.”
Mister Phoenix Gay Pride 2015 Dee Jae Galaxy-Broadway, who is also known as MK Underwood, said he was very excited and motivated about communicating the 2016 pageant changes.
“I was very excited about that news,” he said. “There are so many talented and well-rounded non-drag performers who would do so well for the community and our title. The reason I love our community is the inclusivity, no one should be left out. I’m very excited about all our [non-drag] performers competing; they’re really bringing the heat this year! This will also open the door for more interest in the title and Pride.”
A Community Cause
An aspect of the pageant that the recent changes may reinforce is its function as the primary fundraiser for the Pride organization’s student scholarships. Each year, the pageant, which is not affiliated with any other local or national drag pageant systems, raises $30,000 in funds for the student scholarships. It is for this reason, Logan said, that potential titleholders needed to be prepared to step into a community leadership role.
“The pride titles truly are community titles,” she said. “It requires maturity and experience … people really rise to the occasion and they become pillars of the community, if they weren’t already.”
Miss Phoenix Gay Pride 2015 Trixxie Deluxxe, also known as Marcos Sandoval, said she decided to compete for the Pride pageant title because of her experience as Miss Arizona Gay Rodeo 2012, which involved fundraising for the Arizona Gay Rodeo Association.
“I wanted to be able to continue to give back to the community, and felt being Miss Pride was the best way to do that,” she said. “I wanted to create my own path and start in the nonprofit sector and then continue on to the more competitive systems … [the Pride pageant] can be a great place to start for someone who is new, but also a great place for the more seasoned performers.”
Dee Jae Galaxy-Broadway said that he and Trixxie Deluxxe had planned out their fundraising activity to ensure they hit their monetary target, and that they were making progress toward that goal. Participating in the annual Pride Gala last summer, he said, helped him focus on why the scholarships were so important.
“My favorite event so far would have to be the Pride Gala – to actually see the scholarship recipients and the good that the scholarship fund does is incredibly humbling,” he said. “It really puts things in perspective. It just motivated us to work harder!”
Stepping into the Spotlight
According to Logan, there are 16 finalists (11 in the Miss category and five in the Mister category) going into the 2016 Miss and Mister Phoenix Pride Pageant, which will take place March 20 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Tempe.
All contestants have competed in preliminary contests, with categories that include eveningwear, on-stage question and talent. At the finals, contestants are also judged based on how much fundraising they have done for the scholarship fund, and compete in a professional interview category, which Logan likened to a “job interview” for the position of Miss or Mister Phoenix Pride.
Once the new titleholders have been crowned, they will quickly take their place as a key part of the 2016 Phoenix Pride weekend festivities by kicking off the weekend’s entertainment on the festival’s main stage April 2 and riding in the parade April 3.
“Pride weekend is the first big duty that they fulfill,” Logan explained. “It’s their introduction to the community – and their time to shine.”
2016 Miss Phoenix Pride Contestants
• Maxine Hart
• Payda Parc
• Miley Mitchells
• Aubrey Ghalichi
• Mishal Mishal
• Daynah Rivera
• Charmaine Knight
• Naomi St. James
• Valentina Grayson
• Tyra Marie
• Patricia Mason
2016 Mister Phoenix Pride Contestants
• Buster Cherry
• Jay Krawford
• Roman Holiday
Former Miss Phoenix Pride Titleholders
2015: Trixxie Deluxxe
2014: Barbra Seville
2013: Khloe V Monroe
2012: Grecia Montes D’ Occa
2011: Olivia Gardens
2010: Diamond Dallas
2009: Chane’ Jordan
2008: Afeelya Bunz
2007: Claudia B.
2004: Paula Sha’
2003: Anita Champagne Pride
2002: Aurora Gayheart
2000: Mimi Rae Rose
1999: Paula Sha’
1998: Pussy LeHoot
1997: Diane Daniels
1995: Felicia Fahr
1994: Roxy Blue
2015: Dee Jae Galaxy-Broadway
2014: Eddie Broadway
2012 and 2013: Jensen Dean
2011: Freddy Prinze Charming
2010: Nikki Kidd
2009: Brandon Packer
2004: Tomi Boi
2016 Miss and Mister Phoenix Pride Pageant
6 p.m. March 20
DoubleTree by Hilton
2100 S. Priest Drive, Tempe
Tickets: $15; VIP table for 10, $250