During the first round question-and-answer session of the 15th annual Miss Gay IU drag pageant, contestant Naomi Divine answered with, "We're here, we're queer, we're proud and we're gonna live for it."
Her response captured the mood of the event, which was hosted by OUT, IU's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Union, Friday at the IU Auditorium.
IUPUI student Vanessa Vale took this year's oversized, diamond-studded crown and title of Miss Gay IU 2006. The pageant, consisting of an excess of sequins, false eyelashes and feathers, opened with Miss Gay IU 2005, Alana Steele, lip-synching to a medley of well-known disco songs, contributing to the "Disco" theme of the evening. With a Diana Ross-style wig and hot pants to which she stripped down, Steele brought audience members to their feet -- ready to begin the night.
The pageant was held together by the two hosts of the evening, Vicki St. James and Sugar Blackmon, both former Miss Gay IU winners and the latter an IU alumna. Junior Emily Cohen, the secretary of OUT, was most excited about St. James' performance as a host, noting her talent for completely unscripted, spur-of-the-moment jokes.
St. James, sporting tiny outfits with her never-ending legs throughout the event, proved to be an important asset to the evening. She smoothed over technical problems with jokes such as whispering into the microphone, "I see gay people," mocking "The Sixth Sense."
The two hosts engaged in playful banter, often with phallic humor, which kept the show moving during many costume changes and performances.
The four contestants, strutting in platform heels and form-fitting dresses, competed in three rounds: opening question, evening gown and talent. They were evaluated by five judges including senior Kendra Clarke, junior Will O'Berry, Jason Urban of Storm Productions, OUT's adviser Helen Harrell and Kinsey Institute researcher Debby Herbenick.
Between rounds, former winners performed a variety of songs as members of the audience lined up in front of the stage to give them money in hopes of receiving a wink or a kiss. The performers displayed immaculate balance on their platform heels while shimmying and pelvic thrusting to their songs.
The talent round drew the most crowd response. Vale maintained a Cruella DeVil theme, complete with a two-toned wig and backup dancers in boxer-briefs. Her fierce rendition of Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams" was an audience favorite. She ended her performance with one sentence: "And that, my darling, is what they call talent."
Aside from the glamour and glitter, more serious themes such as equality for the GBLT community and raising awareness of AIDS recurred throughout the pageant. "God loves cross-dressers just like everyone else," Vale stated powerfully during the question round.
Before Steele did her last performance under her title of Miss Gay IU 2005, she too took a serious note.
"AIDS affects you, you, you and you," she said as she pointed to audience members. "(AIDS) hurts for the people that none of us know yet."
She then proceeded to tell the audience that instead of keeping the money they bring up to the stage, she was planning on donating it to YouthAIDS, an organization dedicated to educating youths about AIDS.
Before Steele could even begin lip-synching the first words of Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You," hundreds of audience members lined up to put money into containers. Afterward, OUT President and junior Lucas Elliott said there was so much money they couldn't count it all backstage.
When Vale was crowned Miss Gay IU 2006, she dropped to her knees in tears as Steele placed the large crown on her head. When it would not stay in place, many of the queens reached into their own wigs and handed her bobby pins to secure it.
Backstage, Vale towered over everyone, and said that as the newly crowned Miss Gay IU, she is "looking forward to serving and being there for the students, and having a fabulous year."