Miss Gay Michigan America Pageant Promises Grand Glam

Event will send winner to national Miss Gay America competition

Jason A. Michael

The Miss Gay Michigan America pageant is returning to the state after a 30-year absence. 

Though the pageant system is 50 years old this year, there’s been no Michigan qualifying competition for the last three decades. Producers and pageant owners Robert Beaton and his husband Scott promise this revamped pageant will feature all of the glam and grace of the national version.

“It’s very grand,” said Beaton. “Miss Gay America is the oldest pageant line. It’s parallel to Miss America. They have the same kind of rules. It’s very proper, down to they can’t even drink out of a glass when they have their gown on. They have to use a straw.”

Beaton promises his new pageant will be “unlike anything we’ve seen in Michigan.” To achieve that goal, he is bringing four former Miss Gay Americas on board to “make sure that it gets kicked off properly. The Miss Gay America pageant line is ecstatic. Usually, the reigning Miss Gay America is always there to oversee things. But to make sure that we get it done the right way, we have four coming to our pageant.”

While Beaton is new to the pageant world, he is not new to the world of drag. “We are huge advocates and drag enthusiasts,” he said. “We travel all around the world to see them. Some people travel for beaches or for dining. We like to travel for drag shows.”

Drag queens, Beaton said, have always been at the forefront of the LGBTQ+ rights movement. Now, he said, it’s time to support them and lift them up. “Being an older guy, I remember when HIV and AIDS came out. The drag queens were the loudest and most compassionate voices for our community, when everyone else was not welcoming and turning their backs on us.”

More recently, Beaton said the drag community was just as active in the Black (and Brown) Lives Matter movement. “They were right out there screaming and hollering and advocating for our community again. Now you see that they’re the ones who are under attack. So, my husband Scott and I thought it was going to be our chance to give something back to the community we’ve gotten so much out of over the years.”

The idea to get into the drag pageant business, said Beaton, occurred to him when he attended a Miss Gay America pageant in Little Rock, Arkansas. “When we got there, we couldn’t believe what a big, huge pageant it was. They had representatives on stage from all over.”

But not Michigan. 

“There were almost 50 queens but there was none from Michigan,” Beaton said. “It was quizzical. We thought, ‘Where is Miss Gay Michigan America? Why isn’t there a Miss Michigan?’ We couldn’t understand that because there’s so much going on in the drag community in Michigan.”

The first and only Miss Gay America from Michigan is Jennifer Foxx. She took home the crown in 1982, and she will be in attendance at this year’s pageant. “I was fortunate to be crowned at the 10th annual pageant in Dallas, Texas at the Dallas Convention Center,” said Foxx. “It was the first time that contest was covered by the media. About 2,500 people were in attendance, which was unprecedented for anything drag.”

Foxx recalled competing against 41 other contestants. “They were the best in the country,” she said. “My mom was there, and she came up on stage and she hugged me. The UPI was there, so I got photographed hugging my mom, and the next day it was on 100 covers of newspapers across the country.”

After her win, Foxx said she tried several times to establish a preliminary competition here in Michigan. “But to be done correctly, you have to have capital. … So these gentlemen come along and go, ‘We have a little bit of money and we want to do this.’”

Now, Foxx is thrilled. “I’m elated for several reasons,” she said. “Some of it is ego, of course. There’s been no Miss Gay America here for all these decades. So my luster has dimmed over the years because I couldn’t say, ‘Well, our representative this year that we’re sending is…’

Foxx said that what she appreciates about the Miss Gay America system is that “from the beginning, these were guys who did illusions of women. And they adhere to that. I like the true theater that is Miss Gay America, where there’s no body augmentation.”

There are 10 contestants vying for the title of Miss Gay Michigan America this year. Among them is Katrina Alexis Monae. “I’ve been wanting to do a national pageant for a really long time and there were no preliminaries in the systems that I wanted to do in Michigan. So when I saw Miss Gay America come up, I was like, ‘Oh my god.’”

Monae, a former Miss Gigi’s, had been considering traveling to another state to participate in a preliminary pageant. “It’s a system I’ve always admired. I love the excellence that comes along with Miss Gay America. It’s the pinnacle of drag pageantry.”

Lavender LaRue, also a former Miss Gigi’s, said much of the same.

“I wanted to compete for Miss Gay Michigan America because I feel that drag pageants in Michigan are fading away,” she said. “I have been doing drag for just over 12 years now … and I want to inspire the younger generation of queens. Let them know that pageants are important within our community and there is more to drag than what is in our hometown.”

Monae said that she owes a lot to the sport of pageantry. 

“Pageant to me encompasses perfection in the art of female impersonation,” Monae said. “Because I’ve done so many pageants, I know my drag aesthetic is impeccable. Pageants gave me that. In a pageant, you try to be the best of the best in every category every night. And I’ve taken that into my shows. Pageants just create perfection for me in my drag.”

Foxx said that if the pageant goes well, “we’ll continue to have a preliminary here in Michigan long after I’m gone. Michigan has always had talent, and they haven’t had this type of outlet to display it.”

Paying homage to Foxx and calling her “fabulous,” Monae said the time has come for another Michigan contestant to go all the way. “It’s time to show the Gay America system what Michigan has to offer.” 

The Miss Gay Michigan America Pageant will take place Saturday, Aug. 12 at Saint Andrews Hall, located at 431 E. Congress St. in downtown Detroit. For tickets or more information, visit


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