Beauty pageants haven't gotten the best press over the past year. Their descent began last September with John Oliver's viral takedown of Miss America. Then NBC and Univision dropped Miss Universe and Miss USA after Donald Trump's racist comments in June. There was also a recent media frenzy over The View cohosts' seemingly insensitive remarks about nurses after this September's MissAmerica telecast. It's safe to say that mainstream pageants are far from the American institutions they used to be. Is there any room left for these "scholarship programs" in a PC, everyone's-rights world? That's where drag comes in.
This past weekend, The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa crowned New York's Fifi DuBois at the Miss'd America pageant--an annual Atlantic City drag spoof of Miss America--in front of a packed house at the Music Box theater. Hosted by Caron Kressley and bookended by a VIP pre-party and nightlong after party, the parody pageant was no joke. The talent portion was packed with impressive song and dance, professional production value, heartfelt sociopolitical statements, and glam, glam, glam. When the wigs go on, the gloves come off, and anything goes. All that makeup forms a mask, but one that encourages freedom of expression, and it's increasingly becoming a platform for social change ever since RuPaul's Drag Race has brought the artform more into the mainstream. Miss'd America is no exception--it's a raucous, sequined spectacle for sure, but it's a powerful fundraiser at its core. The pageant has already raised and donated over a quarter million dollars since its inception, and this year's proceeds will be split between the Atlantic City GLBT Alliance and the Schultz-Hill Scholarship Foundation, who will disperse the funds to various causes.
Borgata's inaugural involvement in Miss'd America was no small boon to the event. In addition to hosting and promoting, the hotel also covered all production costs, a first for the pageant, allowing even more proceeds to be donated to deserving organizations. The generosity is no surprise from a hotel that's been championing LGBT inclusion and aggressively courting the community to Atlantic City with the recent launch of the Out at Borgata initiative, a program that seeks to increase first-class LGBT entertainment and tourism in the former showplace of the nation.