After winning ten major awards at various film festivals, the inspiring documentary Pageant is making its DVD debutthis week courtesy of Wolfe Video. The film provides a revealing behind-the-scenes look at the 34th annual Miss Gay America competition.
Taking place over one weekend in Memphis, Tennessee in 2006, the pageant contestants were comprised of one gay man from each state. For the better part of the year, they and hundreds of others participated in local competitions. Each winner at the state level then went on to vie for the title “Miss Gay America.” The pageant celebrates the art of illusion through makeup, costumes and movement. As a result, physical enhancements such as hormones or cosmetic surgery are prohibited.
The documentary spotlights five of the contestants beginning several weeks prior to the penultimate event in Memphis. They are Carl Glorioso, aka “Victoria De Paula,” from Kansas City, Missouri; David Lowman, aka “Coti Collins,” from Raleigh, North Carolina; Robert Martin, aka “Chantel Reshae,” a Walt Disney World employee from Orlando, Florida; Victor Parker, known as “Victoria Parker” in competition and “Pork Chop” among friends, from Nashville, Tennessee; and Anthony Brewer, aka “Alina Malletti,” from San Jose, California.
Each of these men has a unique history and varying degrees of family support. Whereas some are longtime female impersonators, others have started more recently. Also, while some have been cut off from their families due to their being gay and/or performing in drag, a few have partners, parents, siblings or children who are so supportive they travel to Memphis for the competition.
Most impressive to me as shown in the film is the relationship between Martin and his performance partner and best friend, Jake Fisher. The two met backstage at Walt Disney World, and Fisher is clearly Martin’s #1 supporter despite the fact Fisher is straight. The devotion and intimacy they share is something all men should strive for, regardless of sexual orientation.
Pageant was co-directed and co-produced by Stewart Halpern (When Boys Fly, TV’s How I Met Your Mother) and Ron Davis. They do a great job of capturing both the intense backstage preparations and the entertaining, on-stage performances during the course of the competition. There is also considerable suspense as the competition’s outcome becomes increasingly difficult to predict. Be sure to watch through the film’s end credits for a glimpse at the 2007 pageant’s winners.
More than a few of the contestants’ acts during the talent competition are incredible. Whether doing an uncanny impersonation of Reba McEntire, reigning over a production number from Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida or dedicating the song “Home” from The Wiz to their beloved city recently ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, most of the performers shine.
Even if one isn’t a fan of drag, Pageant is definitely worth a view. Better yet, invite your friends over for a Pageant party! The DVD, some bottles of champagne and a few tiaras are all you’ll need to feel like a winner!
Click here to watch the trailer for Pageant.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.