This Sunday, Mom isn’t the only reason to celebrate. VA Pride’s Mr. & Miss Virginia Pride Pageant is returning for its second year on Sunday at Diversity Richmond, and it is definitely an exciting occasion.
This all-inclusive pageant will see contestants of all shapes, sizes, and identities competing to become 2019’s Mr. or Miss Virginia Pride. The winners will succeed 2018’s Mr. Virginia Pride, Davonte Ova Spaulding, and Miss Virginia Pride, Victoria C. Snow, as the foremost representatives of VA Pride throughout the coming year.
The winners will have some big shoes to fill, according to VA Pride’s President, James Millner. “As the first Mr. and Miss Virginia Prides, Victoria C. Snow and Davonte Ova Spaulding have set the standard for every future winner,” Millner said. “They both have been incredible ambassadors for VA Pride in the last year, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”
This year’s contest will be open to contestants of all gender identities, including cisgender and transgender men and women, as well as male and female impersonators. “This pageant is open and we welcome all gender identities,” said VA Pride Director-At-Large Brandon Horton, who plays a crucial role in putting together the pageant. “It’s up to you which category to run for. You tell us. We don’t tell you how to identify, you tell us.”
For Horton, this approach helps make sure that people across the entire gender identity spectrum feel welcomed as contestants. “What I wanted to do is make this pageant super inclusive but also make sure everyone felt recognized,” he said. “Everyone can compete for the same thing, but you can also compete as your individual self.”
As far as Horton knows, this approach is unprecedented in the world of drag pageants, with which he’s intimately familiar from his years as a drag performer himself. “We’ll have drag kings competing against cisgender males, and I’ve never seen that,” he said.
But on an organization level, he’s found it an easy challenge to handle. “We have one contestant that is a non-binary individual,” he explained. “They are running for the Mr. category, but I’m going to introduce them as Mx.”
Contestants are judged in three categories: presentation, evening gown or formal wear, and talent. For audiences who come to the show, the talent portion of the evening is sure to be the most exciting. “You never know what to expect from talent,” Horton said. “The contestant could perform alone, or with five backup dancers. It could be comedy, a monologue, or a choreographed dance routine.”
While that section of the evening is sure to keep audiences on their toes, Horton himself is most excited about presentation. He explained that the contestant comes in an outfit they create themselves, which exemplifies either a social cause — such as Black Lives Matter or the Flint water crisis — or a charitable cause — like autism awareness or cancer research.
“This is the most exciting category for me, because it gives the opportunity to a title holder to show us what they care about, which becomes what we care about for a year,” Horton said. He explained that whatever social or charitable cause the winner picks will become one of the main causes VA Pride works with throughout the ensuing year. For example, last year, Mr. Virginia Pride Davonte Ova Spaulding held a toy drive in support of the Pulse Nightclub memorial fund, and Miss Virginia Pride Victoria C. Snow held a show as a benefit for breast cancer research.
This year’s Mr. and Miss Virginia Pride will be the foremost representatives for VA Pride at events throughout the coming year; whether they are there just to be seen representing the organization or are putting on a performance, they’ll be at the forefront of everything VA Pride does over the next year.
They will also play important roles behind the scenes. Their input acts as a valuable resource for Horton and the VA Pride board. “In my position on the board, I use Mr. & Miss Virginia Pride as my second pair of brains,” said Horton. “When I deal with issues that we’re working on, I ask them, ‘How do you see the community?’ or ‘What do you think we should be working on?'”
Whether you’re a contestant, a supporter, or a spectator, Sunday’s event is sure to be a glamorous evening full of fun and excitement. Horton emphasized the fact that Diversity Richmond has gone all out to provide a great venue for VA Pride, and attendees will enjoy the benefits. The event will feature a Red Carpet theme, complete with an actual red carpet where people can pose for photos, as well as a full bar and delicious desserts. In the words of Brandon Horton, “Come looking your best — it’s a pageant!”
Tickets will be $10 at the door, and in celebration of Mother’s Day, all moms will get in free! The event kicks off at 6 PM on Sunday, May 12, at Diversity Richmond, located at 1407 Sherwood Avenue. Don’t be late! For more info, click here.
Images courtesy of VA Pride