“They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what happens in Atlantic City, matters,” host Suzanne Westenhoefer yelled to an excited crowd at Atlantic City’s historic Boardwalk Hall for the 2011 Miss’D America Pageant. A crowd of more than 1,200 people burst into a raucous applause as community leaders, tourists, and LGBT activists showed their support for not only the Miss’D America contestants, but for the resilience of this seaside resort city that’s constantly reinventing itself and trying to move forward from hard economic times, while simultaneously embracing its historic past. The jab at Las Vegas is in reference to the anger some locals still harbor against the actual Miss America pageant, which abandoned the city after 84 years. Taking away with it many people’s livelihoods and a strong sense of the city’s cultural identity. When the pageant left, a smaller tradition also failed to take place—the Miss’D America Pageant. The alterna-show gave boys who had to literally “miss” participating in the pageant, a chance to show off their goods a day after the Miss America Pageant. The small gathering began in 1993, but didn’t take place after the show moved to Vegas. Last year, the Greater Atlantic City GLBT Alliance and the Schultz-Hill Scholarship Foundation revived the tradition, dusted off the old runway, and the community whole-heartedly welcomed back the queens after five years.
Read all about this year’s exciting event after the jump…
This year, ticket sales saw healthy growth, and just by walking around the city and chatting with locals, it was something on everyone’s social calendar. The theme, Boardwalk Empress, had even the guests getting into the 1920’s spirit with 1920’s-inspired garb. OK, I have to admit that I had no idea what I was in store for when the show started. I am a bad gay and have never sat through an entire beauty pageant, but when the curtains opened and revealed a disheveled bunch of old drag queens sporting flapper dresses, I knew I was in for a unique experience. They danced and sang through various numbers, making jokes about the speakeasy and whorehouse culture of 1920s AC, and they had the crowd captivated with dirty jokes, absurdities, and Chicago-style songs. Then the actual pageant started when the eight ladies who would be competing were revealed. First it was the swimsuits, then eveningwear, then the talent, and finally the questions. The talent section put the Miss America talent portion to shame. Splits, style, sex, and silliness reigned supreme, as the ladies did everything from Liza Minnelli to yodeling—the crowd gave standing ovations at least three times. With our own clear favorite in mind, my table was arguing over whom they wanted as the winner. But it wasn’t up to us to choose who won, that was reserved for the eclectic judging panel that included everyone from a travel writer to a Cher impersonator.
In an emotional goodbye, the crowd blew kisses and waved to last year’s winner Michelle Dupree, and then we waited with bated breath for the announcement of this year’s winner. Kitty Hiccups of Secaucus, New Jersey, whose alter ego is David Hyland, took top honors after winning the crowd over with her live singing of “I Want to be a Rockette,” her jaw-dropping looks, and her well-spoken answer. A clearly overwhelmed Kitty was nice enough to talk to the press and snap some photos. As part of winning the crown, Kitty will be doing numerous charity events and media rounds along the East Coast.