While many in the LGBTQ community are familiar with the litany of pageants that exist for drag queen performers — including the Miss Gay America pageant, which has crowned talented queens for nearly 50 years (check out our extensive oral history on that long-running pageant here) — but fewer are familiar with the Mr. Gay America pageant, the drag pageant’s counterpart that every summer crowns one talented gay man as a top performer and entertainer.
In many ways the Mr. Gay America pageant is similar to its drag queen counterpart. The guys who compete are born entertainers, decked out in multiple bedazzled costumes and performing music under cleverly crafted stage names.
But for a real crash course in the pageant, who better to offer that than current titleholder Judas Elliot, who took home top honors in 2018. Here’s what the Maryland native (who currently calls Florida home) had to say.
Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about the Mr. Gay America pageant, told by current titleholder Judas Elliot:
1. Mr. Gay America started 39 years ago, in 1983, when it was known as the Mr. Gay All-American (MGAA) pageant. It was the first contest of its kind.
2. There are currently 26 performers who have won the title over the course of 39 years.
3. The current home of the pageant is the huge Hamburger Mary’s restaurant and show bar in St. Louis, Missouri, where the competition happens every July.
4. The competition aspect of Mr. Gay America includes five categories: Presentation (where your costume reflects a specific theme), Red Carpet Fashion, Talent, Question & Answer and Interview.
5. I spent about $30,000–$40,000 to compete when I won Mr. Gay America 2018.
6. My winning talent production for Mr. Gay America consisted of a team of 19 dancers from all over the United States.
7. The longest time I’ve been away from home, traveling for bookings, was three weeks.
8. My talent costume, which was Woody from Toy Story, took me six months to fully rhinestone from head to toe.
9. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to places I’ve never been before as the Mr. Gay America representative, including Arizona, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Key West (where the pageant owners have a home) for orientation and countless national competitions, doing national walks to showcase Mr. Gay America.
10. To prepare for nationals I spent an entire year taking interview workshops, flying to fittings, rehearsing in various states and many more daily tasks all to showcase one night worth of competition.
Mr. Gay America 2019 will take place July 6 & 7 in St. Louis, Missouri. Head here for more info.
Photos of Judas Elliot by The Drag Photographer