Rainbow Reign! Meet Mr. and Miss Virginia Pride 2023

by | Oct 24, 2023 | QUEER RVA

This article originally appeared in Virginia Pride Guide 2023. This is an updated version with proper dates in retrospect. You can read the whole original issue here.

As September draws upon us so does fall, back to school, pumpkin spice lattes, and above all else – the return of Virginia Pride(VA Pride was rescheduled from September 23rd to October 22nd due to severe weather.)

Among those who made an appearance at the annual event are the current reigning title holders of Mr. and Miss Virginia Pride, Tiffany Hunter Monique and Onyx Spaulding. Crowned back in May of this year, they will be attended as part of their duties to make the rounds of course, but also to perform as well. 

TIffany Hunter Monique (Reshad Horton) has been doing drag for about ten years, and while originally from further down south in Louisiana, came to Virginia in 2013 after doing drag for a year in Louisiana previously. After taking a break to get acclimated with her new home, she returned to drag at the request of a friend, and with a goal in mind – to enter and win her first pageant. Consider that goal smashed. 

Mr. and Miss VA Pride, photo by Kimberly Frost

“To go from being completely unknown once I moved here ten years ago to being on stage representing VA pride is a huge milestone for me,” said Monique. “It feels very surreal, [and] it comes in waves. Like, ‘Oh that’s right. I won my first pageant, and I have a title and a crown. And it really feels so humbling as well, especially after all of the hard work that I put into the pageant and my drag in general. It feels very humbling to know that I am being recognized by people I love and adore, and that they are getting to see a different aspect of my drag now that I won the title that I have always wanted all of these years.”

It goes without saying that the decision to compete for such a title is not an overnight task akin to deciding to get cereal at the grocery store. Monique committed to the decision to compete this year as far back as March 2022 and spent a year with her team planning. Between the gown, and the performance, a lot of work went on behind the scenes, but even then as it goes with live performances sometimes, you can’t always be prepared for everything no matter how hard you try. 

“The night of, I got to registration and the nerves immediately hit,” said Monique. “I looked around the venue and figured out what needs to be done. I take a look at the stage and realize it’s a little smaller than I had hoped. When I choreographed my talent, I had in mind a little bit of a larger stage with me and four dancers, so I had to make the tough decision that day to cut one of my dancers and rework a lot of the choreography. Thankfully my dancers were able to figure things out themselves while I was getting ready. When it came time to get on stage, the noise faded and all I had to do was walk, and be beautiful, and showcase all of the hard work I had put in. When it came to talent, all I had to do was get out on the stage and shut it down like only I can.”

Mrs. Virgina Pride Tiffani
Tiffany Hunter Monique (Reshad Horton) – Miss VA Pride, photo by Kimberly Frost

Onyx Spaulding (Anthony Harden) has been performing for over twenty years, and has been a pivotal force in the RVA Ballroom scene since 2003, and helped it grow from a once smaller scene. Taking the Spaulings that he already knew and by making a house together, they were able to revamp the scene. By speaking with other houses he was able to bring together the House of Lanvin he is a member of now, who are also celebrating their ten year anniversary. 

If you know nothing else about Spaulding, however, it should be that community is everything to him, and he is always asking himself what more can he do? From raising awareness for various causes, to helping locally at places such as the Fan Free Clinic, he keeps his focus on home. While he still does pageants now, they are specifically with the hope to raise awareness about various causes that need attention. Causes in the past he has used his platform for just to name a few have included depression amongst our youth, HIV awareness, trans rights, and child abuse to LGBTQ youth. While not all pageants will have that opportunity to promote causes that need the attention, VA Pride does and is why Spaulding has enjoyed participating.

“I actually stopped doing pageants and would only enter under certain circumstances,” said Spaulding. “The only reason I entered the pageant is because I loved the presentation. If anyone knows anything about [me] it is that I am a community person. My work has always been with non-profits, going 18 years now. Any time I get an opportunity to express that, I’m going to express that, and that pageant allowed me to do that every time. Any time I can take on a platform, I’m going to do that and that’s what inspired me to do the pageant.”

Mr. Virginia Pride
Onyx Spaulding (Anthony Harden) – Mr. VA Pride, photo by Kimberly Frost

One of the biggest things he emphasized with entering a pageant is making sure that you have the right mindset going into it, not just because of commitment if you win but the time and work commitment you are making, and even the financial commitment that not many folks mention with events of this nature. Between the outfit and the performance alone, it’s a lot and not to be undertaken lightly.

Spaulding will certainly agree with Monique in that no matter how well you prepare for a pageant, you need to also make sure to prepare for something to go awry. Even with preparing for a year and intricate focus and dedication, it’s almost guaranteed something is going to happen any time you do a live show of any kind. 

“That’s one thing about a pageant – always expect the unexpected,” said Spaulding. “Even up until you’re at the pageant, something can go wrong so be prepared with a backup. I had these beautiful wings stoned out, done, they were like six feet tall. They were amazing, I wore them for a ball, too. I only prepared up until the week of and things fell apart and I could not do what I had to do. I had to spend a significant amount of money to get another outfit done. I reached out to family and friends in the community, and they got it done. It was beautiful to look at. My cause was Trans Lives Matter, and I made it my talent [so I can] display my cause.”

TIffany Hunter Monique and Onyx Spaulding appeared at the postponed VA Pridefest 2023 on October 22nd 2023, from 12 pm to 8 pm on Brown’s Island. For further information please visit vapride.org.

Ash Griffith

Ash Griffith

Ash is a writer and improviser from Richmond. She has a BA in English from VCU and an associates in Theater. When she isn't writing or screaming on a stage, she can usually be found wherever the coffee is. Bill Murray is her favorite person along with her black cat, Bruce.

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