The storied Miss Gay Missouri America (MGM) pageant returns to Kansas City, April 9-11 after a 15-year absence. The pageant itself will be at the Arts Asylum (1000 E. Ninth St.) - with a revue show of former title-holders on April 9 at Missie B’s (805 W. 39th St.) Founded in 1973, MGM is the state’s oldest female impersonation contest and the second oldest preliminary to Miss Gay America (MGA).

 

Some 24 contestants from across the state have qualified to compete in the categories of male interview, solo talent, evening gown, onstage question and long talent. The weekend will honor the reigning Miss Gay Missouri America 2014, Adria Andrews, and Miss Gay America 2015, Blair Williams.


We recently caught up with Williams, whose given name is Todd Mauldin, to talk about the win at nationals, MGM and more. (Below is our chat in its entirety. An abbreviated version of this interview was published in the March issue of Kansas City's Camp Magazine.) 


Give us a glimpse – whatever you are comfortable with – of the man behind the illusion... who is Todd Mauldin?


Blair Willams-MGA2015-green gown-colorTodd is a short little old man who is living an unbelievable dream this year. Seriously, I live in Savannah, Georgia and I have been married to my wonderful husband Robert for nearly 24 years (four years legally). We have two dogs and two cats and two adult children.


I grew up in a single parent home with my mother and two sisters. We were poor (although I'm not sure I realized this as a child), and my mother struggled to make ends meet. In spite of that, I always felt loved and supported in anything that I wanted to do or be, including female impersonation. I graduated as the valedictorian of my high school class, and attended Pfeiffer University. I was also the drum major for my high school marching band. By coincidence, so was Jenna Skyy, the current Miss USofA.


I can't carry a tune in a paper bag (as my mother would say), and my sister and I used to practice dance routines for hours because we genuinely believed we could win the annual American Bandstand dance contest (does anyone besides me remember Dick Clark?).


Professionally, I work in the accounting/bookkeeping industry. I enjoy cooking, reading, and spending time with friends and family...oh, and playing Words with Friends. I am a huge fan of How to Get Away With Murder, and I have read all the "Harry Potter" and "Hunger Games" books.


I am a hard worker, passionate in all things that I do; committed, and a little quirky (some would say crazy) too. I wear my emotions on my sleeve, and I champion the underdog.


I have a great life in and out of the female impersonation industry. I'm a lucky man.


How did you get your start in female impersonation?


My first experience was actually seeing a show on a Wednesday night in Charlotte, North Carolina at a now defunct bar called Chases. It was also my first time in a "gay bar," and I was scared to death. The show featured some legendary North Carolina entertainers: Toni Lenoir, Kelly Rae, and Kasey King. I was mesmerized, and I remember thinking to myself, "I could do that." It was a few years before I actually managed to be on stage, but that single experience planted the seed.


So, from the very beginning, I was so enamored with the art form. I saw it as a way to perform and entertain; something I had always fancied myself doing. I loved the costuming and the makeup, and it all seemed so glamorous, I guess. But definitely, I saw it as a creative outlet.


Like many performers, my first time out in female attire was on a Halloween, although my friends and I had been practicing make-up techniques and performing in my living room on Saturday nights for months before actually venturing out (scary... I know).

Blair Williams-MGA2015-red-color
Gerri O'Neal gave me my first opportunity to be on stage at the legendary Scorpio Lounge. She allowed me to perform in a benefit show and did my hair and makeup. That night I performed "I've Got Love on My Mind" by Natalie Cole. I wore a green lamé fishtail tea length dress and thought I was everything. The experience was amazing. I remember feeling like a million bucks and grateful to have had the opportunity. I was hooked.


When did you first compete at Miss Gay America? Talk about your competitive journey and what kept you coming back.


My history with MGA is interesting... and long. I attended the national contest for the first time in 1991, the year Valerie Lohr won. I got there on a fluke. I was called and asked to do a regional contest by the owner of the bar where I performed. As I recall, it was the Miss East Coast Pageant, and there was only one contestant... big surprise that I placed first alternate that night. I had competed at the Miss North Carolina pageant three times, but I was never able to crack the top seven for final night. Imagine my shock when I placed 13th at MGA that year. But during that week, I observed everything and everyone. Something clicked within me, and I learned how to compete.


The following year, I was fortunate enough to win my state contest in North Carolina which allowed me to return to Miss Gay America. That year, I was thrilled to place 2nd Alternate to Tiffany Bonet.


Believing that I could win (and honestly not knowing if I wanted to), I took a year off from competing. However, in 1994, I made the decision to return to competition, secured my position by winning the Miss Mid East prelim and put everything I had into preparing for Miss Gay America. Unfortunately, that year I placed 3rd Alternate at the national contest and was disappointed... heartbroken at the outcome. Not long after that experience, I decided not only to retire from competing but also to retire from performing. You see, I felt like something besides a hat had been stolen from me that night. And in fact it had been. I let circumstances steal my confidence and my dream. Publicly, I had said that I have no regrets about that decision, as it allowed me to pursue some wonderful professional opportunities in other arenas. And for the most part, that is true. But still... what if I hadn't abandoned that dream... what if I had gone back? That question nagged at me for years... for nearly two decades.


Fast forward 18 plus years...the dream to become MGA is still alive. After moving to Savannah, Georgia and beginning to perform again, I reconnected with some old friends, one of whom would go on to become Miss Gay America. About that same time, I watched the documentary, Pageant. I had a powerful reaction to that viewing, and I knew that my goal in this business was still to become
MGA. Although I hadn't actively pursued that goal for years, the dream to be called Miss Gay America was still something I carried around with me.


In 2011, I did return to the MGA stage and when the dust settled on final night, I was elated to have placed 4th alternate to MGA
2012.

Blair promo
Motivated and determined, I returned to the MGA 2013. That year, I placed 1st Alternate... so close to realizing my goal.


For the MGA 2014 season, I decided to go back yet again for what I anticipated would be my last appearance in the competition. Win or lose, this was going to be it for me. I put together a talent number that I believed told my story and history and would resonate with the audience and the judges. I was wrong. Alas, my dream did not come true that year, and I placed second at the national level for the second year in a row.


So while I thought my journey to MGA was over, the lyrics from that "unsuccessful" talent continued to speak to me, and I hope some of them will resonate with you as well. Those lyrics include:


• "Everybody has their dues in life to pay"
• "You've got to lose to know how to win."
• "The pages I've turned are the lessons I've learned."
• And my personal favorite: "Dream On, Dream On, Dream On, Dream until your Dreams Come True!"                                                                                                                            

Versage, who has filmed the national contest for the past few years, helped me make the decision to compete at MGA 2015.  She asked me two questions: Do you think you won MGA 2014? Do you think you did the best that you are capeable of?


The answer to both questions was no. I knew that until I could honestly say "I can't do any better" that I needed to continue to pursue my dream. And thank goodness I came back one more time with a different mindset and a different approach: Perseverance along with a willingness to look at yourself objectively and be open to making necessary changes and adjustments brings different results. As Norman Jones writes in My Life, My Pageant, My Crown, " I tip my HAT to persistence. I suppose it pays off in the long run." I am honored to be Miss Gay America 2015.


Are you able to appreciate winning Miss Gay America now more so than if you'd won when you first started?


Absolutely... without a doubt. If I had won Miss Gay America back in the 90s, I don't think I would have had a very successful reign. I was too young and too insecure in myself to do the job. I'm not even sure that I understood the magnitude of the job, or had the skill set to accomplish the necessary tasks and duties.


Although extremely rewarding, winning at this stage in my life also carries with it certain pressures and expectations. It's up to me to manage those and make this year everything I have hoped it would be. I am incredibly grateful to have been given this opportunity. People around the country have been amazingly kind and supportive. I'm appreciative and humbled as I look to our upcoming season. I plan to take in every moment.Blair Williams-MGA2015-red-color


Many people look up to you as an inspiration in the art form. Who are some of the entertainers who helped to shape you?


It seems almost surreal that people would look to me as an inspiration. There are so many entertainers who have helped shape me over the years both through their on-stage performances and their off-stage behavior. Having begun in this art form in North Carolina, many of them are based in that area. Honestly, there are too many to list, but that list would include: Toni Lenoir, Kelly Rae, Kerri Nichols, Coti Collins, Kirby Kolby, Nicole Dubois, Catia Lee Love, Blaze Starr, Charity Case and so many more.


And what advice would you give to a performer just starting their journey?


Always remember why you wanted to perform in the first place. If you connect with what you are doing, the audience will too. Stay humble and open to learning new things from your peers and mentors. I always say once you stop growing and learning, then it is time to retire. Work hard, avoid the drama and always carry yourself in a manner in which you can be proud of.


For someone looking to compete in the MGA system, I would definitely suggest that he visit the Miss Gay America website, specifically the "About MGA" tab. There is a wealth of information here that will assist a potential contestant in preparing for their first contest. It is critically important that you understand the rules and the competition categories as you put together your package. Each category, including the scoring system used, is clearly laid out. Your task is to make sure you maximize the possible points available in each sub category to get the best overall score you possibly can. Consistency is key. And I think, if you can find a way to be creative while adhering to the category descriptions, then you have definitely created a competitive package.


What organizations and issues are you supporting or championing during your reign?


Both my husband and I have been involved with a local LGBTQ youth organization for many years. So this year, I hope to use my
reign to help bring attention to the issues that face our young people. On a national level, I officially will be partnering with The Trevor Project to raise funds for and awareness of their much needed services.


The mission of The Trevor Project is to end suicide among gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people. Their vision is to create a future where the possibilities, opportunities and dreams are the same for all youth, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition to fundraising efforts at each of our scheduled prelims, I will also be announcing other ways throughout this year that you can help me give to an organization that works everyday to save lives and change futures. I am going to call "our" effort "MGAs Heart Trevor." Together, I know we can make a difference in the lives of young people who struggle with sexual orientation and gender identity conflicts.


Finally, I am also going to donate a portion of the proceeds we raise at each prelim to a local LGBTQ youth organization (local to the geographic location of the preliminary pageant).

Blair Talent
We’re excited to have you at Miss Gay Missouri this year. As you know this is our 42nd year—it’s really become a legacy—what comes to mind when you think of MGM?


Thank you. I am truly looking forward to visiting Kansas City and being a part of Miss Gay Missouri. MGM has a rich history and proven legacy of producing a great state contest and top-notch contestants ready to be Miss Gay America. I remember always looking for MGM at the national contest, because you knew whoever that person was, they were going to be prepared and competitive. They were your competition. I have had the pleasure to meet many of the forever Miss Gay Missouri America titleholders over the years, and they are all talented and committed entertainers.


It is apparent that all those associated with the MGM pageant respect history and have a deep dedication to the Miss Gay America organization. It sounds cliché, but MGM is obviously a family, and I look forward to being a small part of that family this year.


You met your husband in 1991 and were married in 2011. How do you balance being a successful entertainer and having a solid relationship. What's your secret?


Well, let me start by saying Bob (my husband) is an amazing man. I have always said he is the "best" person I know, and that is the honest truth. I don't think we have any big secret. A relationship requires work and commitment. Pressures are always present be they career, family, finances or a multitude of other things. You have to balance and keep everything in perspective as best you can.

 

After all these years, we still laugh and genuinely "like" each other, and I think that is very important. We learned early on that we can't both "drive" at the same time, so we are willing to let the other person take the wheel (Okay, Bob is much better at this than I

am), and we partner pretty well when it comes to most things.


We have always tried to be supportive of each other's interests and passions, and female impersonation is no different. Bob comes to the majority of my shows and truly enjoys watching Blair on stage. One caveat: he's not allowed to critique my costumes or performances until the next morning.


Now that you've realized your dream of becoming Miss Gay America - what do you hope your legacy will be in the system? How do you hope to have your reign remembered?


It's funny. Just this past weekend Bob and I were talking about this. While I think I'm a good performer and people enjoy watching me on stage (I hope), I don't believe the performance aspect will be my legacy. During my on-stage question at MGA 2015, I said that I want to be "the people's Miss America." And while I may have been able to express myself more articulately, the meaning behind those words is very true. During my reign this year, I hope to be relatable and approachable and helpful. My job as Miss Gay America has little to do with me, but everything to do with our promoters and contestants. I want to be remembered as genuine, authentic and as a nice guy.MGMPoster


In order for that to happen, I have to be a man of my word. I have to raise the funds I am committed to for my charities; I have to be available to our contestants and promoters. In short, I have to deliver.


Being a part of the sisterhood of forever Miss Gay Americas is daunting. You don't want to be the one not to live up to the legacy; you have to respect and protect the rich history, but also be forward looking and thinking.


I sincerely hope that when people think of Blair Williams, they will think of integrity, and compassion, and the undeniable power of perseverance.


Any last words for your Missouri fans?


On a personal level, I just wanted to say that I have been entertaining for a very long time, so traveling and performing are definitely not new to me. However, there is some added pressure doing this as Miss Gay America. I hope that everyone will appreciate what I do. I am not a trained dancer, nor will I be the most talented MGA you have ever seen. But I make every effort to be sure that I leave you entertained and having experienced the best I have to offer. I'm a nice guy, and I'm looking forward to meeting people this year from all over the country. Cultivating that connection or relationship with the audience is important to me. So, please come up and say hello when you see me.


I want everyone to know how much I appreciate the opportunity to travel this year and represent the Miss Gay America organization. I know that I won't be every one's cup of tea. In fact, my feelings were recently hurt when I heard someone relay a story about Miss Gay America being a joke. My journey with this system was certainly no joke. Larry, Terry, and I are working hard on the national level to make this pageant season vibrant and memorable. We are all committed to making this season and the national contest our best ever.


Thank you for the years of support for Miss Gay Missouri and Miss Gay America. I look forward to attending the state contest in Kansas City and hope that I will have the opportunity to visit and perform at other venues across the state before the year is over. See you all April 9-11th.

 

For pageant information check out www.mgmpageantry.com  - photography courtesy of Miss Gay America 

 

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