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Miss Continental 2024 Zhané Dawlingz Is a Superstar in the Making

Miss Continental 2024 Zhané Dawlingz Is a Superstar in the Making

Zhane Dawlingz
Instagram (@zhane93)/TiosPhotography.com

The Miss Continental 2024 winner opens up to Out about her ever-growing career, current reign, and future aspirations.

It only takes a few seconds after meeting Zhané Dawlingz for you to realize that you are in the presence of a superstar in the making. She is regal, but relatable. Ambitious, but patient. Confident, but curious. And after being crowned Miss Continental 2024 earlier this year, Dawlingz’s career skyrocketed to new heights.

“Being born a biological male, I went through a period where I was able to fully complete my transition,” Dawlingz tells Out. “At that time, I found a name that my mother would’ve actually given me had I been born a biological female, Zhané, and I decided to keep it as a staple.”

While watching a documentary about Andy Warhol, Dawlingz felt inspired by one of his favorite muses, Candy Darling. “I was like, ‘I love that last name, but how can I switch it up a little bit and make it my own?’ So I added a W, and a Z at the end, and became Zhané Dawlingz. You could say it with a little flavor, you know?”

Dawlingz started her drag career in 2014 performing in a musical production of La Cage aux Folles at the Wall Street Nightclub in Columbus, Ohio – a venue that unfortunately closed down a year later. Through that experience, Dawlingz was bit by the drag bug after identifying the power, the presence, and the possibilities of being a queen on stage.

In subsequent years, Dawlingz began to compete in pageants, and it didn’t take long for her to start snatching trophies. She recalls doing her first-ever pageant while attending Tiffin University, followed by titles such as Miss Platinum Gem City Newcomer, Miss Masque Newcomer, and Miss Gay Midwest USofA Newcomer. After conquering the Newcomer circuit, Dawlingz won her first state title – Miss Gay Ohio USofA Newcomer – propelling her to gain national attention in the pageant scene.

The pageant scene for LGBTQ+ entertainers is a universe of its own. It’s a competitive, tough, and expensive endeavor, and it can take years for contestants to be recognized by the community at large. Though there are many well-respected pageant systems for drag and trans performers, the most prestigious of them all is Miss Continental, which has former winners like Candis Cayne, Sasha Colby, Brooke Lynn Hytes, Monica Munro, and Erica Andrews, to name a few.

Though some might’ve still considered Dawlingz to be a newer face in the world of pageants – particularly on a national level – she entered to compete in the Miss Continental 2024 pageant. For her talent number, Dawlingz sang “At Last” by Etta James, delivering a truly spectacular performance that featured her powerhouse vocals, compelling stage presence, and undeniable charisma.

As the saying goes, “If you want to test a person’s character, give them power.”

Dawlingz was crowned Miss Continental 2024 by the end of that fabulous evening. And with a world of possibilities opening up in front of her, as well as questions of “what’s next,” Dawlingz continues to display a degree of wisdom that is beyond her years and a clear commitment to staying true to who she is.

For instance, when asked if she’d like to pursue a career in music, Dawlingz says that she absolutely does. “But I’m not here to rush anything or force myself into any space that isn’t ready to accept me for who I am, what I am, and what I represent,” she adds with absolute conviction. “As I move forward within my career, I want to explore different avenues. Having a music career is definitely one of those things.”

Then the name of Sasha Colby comes up – a trans entertainer who was crowned Miss Continental 2012, won season 15 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and is now releasing original music and going on a solo tour. Is joining Ru’s universe something Dawlingz would consider?

“I do have aspirations to put my foot into the Drag Race realm, but I’m not trying to force anything other than what is already happening at this moment,” she replies. “I’m going to enjoy my reign as Miss Continental and soak up all the opportunities that I get with that. But I do see television and film in my future, for sure.”

It’s clear that Dawlingz is currently focusing on her reign and examining what it means to have been crowned at 29 years of age. She explains:

“[This title] means that I have not only validated myself, but also validated the journey that I’ve gone through to get to this point. I feel like this title has opened up so many doors that I never would’ve even thought would open. I’ve already made connections and networked with people who are pretty much sitting [in the highest positions of power.] So it’s just like, ‘Wow, to be in the presence of people who are so established and already have such a kinship in this industry… it is really eye-opening.’ I’m very fortunate to have been able to make my mark in the history of the pageant world.”

It is brilliant to interact with an artist who is so obviously going to conquer the world someday but still conducts herself with professionalism and keeps her feet on the ground. So I challenge Dawlingz one last time to dream big, to share her aspirations, to manifest her fantasies.

“Well, completing this [reign] and being able to go on this journey is something that I didn’t expect would happen so soon,” she says. “So I really look at my future as the sky is the limit. I want to tap into film and television. And I definitely want to dabble into Broadway. Like I said, I am a musical theater girl at heart. And I aspire to be an EGOT one day, so I’m trying to go for all of them! Give me that EGOT as quickly as possible.”

Trust me on this: we’ll be hearing from Zhané Dawlingz for years to come.

Watch highlights from Out’s interview with Zhané Dawlingz in the video below.

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Bernardo Sim

Bernardo Sim experiences and explains queer multiverses. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.

Bernardo Sim experiences and explains queer multiverses. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.