Gigi’s Cabaret, the Detroit gay bar with the longest-running female impersonation show in Southeast Michigan, is back with their Miss Gigi’s Pageant from Oct. 23-24. Since its opening in 1972, the bar has been known for first-rate entertainment, and this upcoming pageant is no exception. Running concurrently will also be the Miss Gigi’s Classic pageant and the Miss Amateur Gigi’s pageants.
In celebration of the upcoming pageants, Pride Source spoke to four former Miss Gigi’s winners about their titles and what this event means to them.
But, first, you must understand that these pageants aren’t for everybody. They’re taken seriously. To qualify, you must fit specific criteria.
There are three pageants: Miss Gigi’s, Miss Amateur Gigi’s, and Miss Gigi’s Classic.
To qualify for the Miss Gigi’s pageant, participants must be 18 or over and not a current bar titleholder. Miss Amateur Gigi’s contestants must be 18 or over, not a current bar title or title higher than amateur status, and performing for five years or less. Finally, Miss Gigi’s Classic is open to anyone 35 or older who is not a current bar titleholder. All contestants must live in either Michigan or Lucas County, Ohio.
April Summers, whose impersonations of Patti LaBelle and others have taken her to stages across the country and long-term engagements in Las Vegas, New York, Atlantic City and Miami, was crowned Miss Gigi’s in 1980.
“It was a great year for me,” Summers recalls. “I did Barbra Streisand ‘How Lucky Can You Get.’ A lot of people know me for Patti. But I did everybody, and that’s what I did at Gigi’s. I won the first year I went out for it, and I think there were about 14 contestants.”
DeAngela “Show” Shannon won Miss Gigi’s in 2000, 28 years after her blood aunt, Elaine St. Jacques, won the very first Miss Gigi’s pageant.
“Gigi’s has been there for me and I for them,” says Shannon. “They groomed me and prepared me for my career the correct way, which allowed me to accomplish most of my goals in performing.”
Those goals included winning no less than 73 titles.
“Miss Gigi’s was one of the most meaningful I ever won, to be sure,” Shannon adds. “It represented home to me.”
Destiny Hunter won Miss Gigi’s in 2002, but as the current reigning Miss Gigi’s Classic, Hunter will hand down her newest title at this year’s pageant.
“I always set a goal for myself, and there were just certain things here in Michigan that I wanted,” she says. “I had started out at Gigi’s … I was a part of the family, but to me, it just wasn’t official until it was on paper. So I applied myself. The first two times, I was first runner-up. I took a year off then and then I came back and ran again, and I took every category and I won the pageant.”
“It was gratifying to become a part of the sisterhood,” Hunter continues. “And I haven’t looked back.”
Coordinating the pageants is Gigi’s Show Director and Miss Gigi’s 1992 Nickki Stevens. She’s been producing or co-producing the pageant since 1993. Stevens is quick to reveal that Miss Gigi’s is the longest-running gay bar title in the country.
“You can go to other bars and ask who their titleholder was in 1997, for example,” Stevens says. “They couldn’t tell you. But at Gigi’s, well, once a Miss Gigi’s always a Miss Gigi’s.”
And what does it take to win the crown?
“Professional, reliability, outgoing, uniqueness and determination,” she says. “And if you take the first letter of all those adjectives, you get PROUD. To be a Miss Gigi’s you must be proud of what you do, proud of who you are and very proud to be the representative of Gigi’s.”
The theme for this year’s pageant is “Hurray for Broadway.”
“Themes are thought out three to four years in advance, as I am always looking and shopping for set pieces everywhere,” explains Stevens. “Next year is ‘Candyland.’”