Might want to add this to your vacation ideas for next year. I’m sure it would be a hoot. ❤
In some parts of Arkansas, cornfields seem to stretch for years. Over a third of the state’s 539 cities count populations of less than 1,000 residents. Conservative Arkansas, nicknamed “The Natural State,” might not seem like a great place for drag queens — but backstage on a Saturday night at a Little Rock community theater in mid-August, 12 queens are split into two dressing rooms, adjusting their wigs and sucking themselves into corsets before the 44th annual Miss Gay Arkansas pageant in Little Rock.
On a counter, there’s a makeup kit filled with a crayon box of eye shadows, contours, and Elmer’s glue sticks. “Put some Carmex on there to soften that lip up,” someone says to a nearby backup performer. A contestant sits stone still as her “big sister” paints her face, a process that can take about 1.5 hours. There are at least three rolls of duct tape available at a moment’s notice for tucking or cinching waists. “Does anyone have an extra pair of pantyhose?” a dresser asks no one in particular. Laughter pours from backstage as a queen fits into her hand-stitched blue feather gown.
The Miss Gay Arkansas pageant is the oldest continuous state preliminary. This pageant formed in 1972; the first-ever Miss Gay America, crowned in 1973, hailed from Arkansas. In the contest’s earliest days, organizers sent out announcements about an upcoming pageant to gay bars and theaters around the country. From there, it has grown, through promoters and pageant fans, into a large system. Now, these contests are heavily loaded in the East Coast — places like Virginia, the Carolinas, and Pennsylvania — but next year, there’ll be a new preliminary in California.