It was 1992, the year I took the stage for the first time as a beauty pageant contestant back home in the Philippines. I couldn’t remember the title at stake but I vividly recall the place in which it was held – right across Roxas Boulevard from the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City. It was a slum area, a shantytown on a reclaimed land in Manila Bay. We were ogled at, made fun of, and applauded by the area’s residents, who would be removed months after by the government from their makeshift homes made of plywood and corrugated sheets. I won second runner-up – not bad for a virgin contestant who joined on borrowed dress, gown, swimsuit, and a wig that later on I left on a cab on my way home at dawn to suburban Las Pinas. I cherished the experience as it signalled my entry into the pageant world for transsexuals and drag queens.
But it wasn’t until I moved in 1997 to Saipan and Guam, US territories in the Pacific, that I seriously got into the pageantry of it all. Since then I’ve won so many titles, and lost some, the latest of which was the debacle last year held in Astoria, in New York.
- We go through a strict diet and exercise regimen at least three months before the big day to fit into swimsuits. I would eat just oatmeal three times a day to lose weight.
- Some pageants, especially on Saipan, give out the expected questions a week before to allow us to formulate and memorize our answers – in English. Organizers defend the move as a way to help ease our fears during the interview. Frankly, it was never a problem for me, never prepped for it – and I always got the highest scores in the interview.
- Intensive rehearsals for dance numbers and stage blocking enhance camaraderie among the candidates. But they also breed gossips about favoritism as well as insecurities from much prettier and sexier contestants.
- Pack all the stuff you need for the pageant in one big luggage a day before.
- In my NY pageant last year, I got a tan a week before because it would make me look slimmer on stage. During pageant- Then I applied bronzers on the day itself to even look more tanned.
- Pageant makeup must be more dramatic – with false lashes, darker eye shadows, contours, and exaggerated lips. Body make-up is also a must to cover flaws. Hair extensions, curlers, and hot iron would give you the most beautiful hair.
- Don’t eat just sip water and energy drinks.
- Bring an aide or two to assist you in retouching your face, in changing outfits, and in securing your stuff at the backstage.
- Guard your gowns or instruct your aides to do so. Some assistants would intentionally rip them especially if they seem more elegant than their contestants.
- Use at least three nylon stockings that match your skin color for the swimsuits for slimmer legs. I used to wear one-piece in my pageants on the islands with stockings but chose to go bolder when I got to NY, wearing skimpy two-pieces with no stockings at all. Thank God for concealers and body make-up.
- Shave. Get a Brazilian wax. Use duck tapes to hide that thing. It is painful, but you just have to suck it up because you don’t want to embarrass yourself for any untoward accident. And pee before you tape it up.
- Chest out, stomach in. (Like this – - >)
- Apply Vaseline to hold your smile. Don’t forget to always smile. (I have to try Vaseline in my next contest!)
- Wear at least a four-inch heels to elongate your legs. Your right leg is always pointed forward over your left leg when standing on stage.
- Beware of contestants stepping on your gowns or pulling your wigs when you’re on stage. It happens.
- If you slip and fall on your ass or worse on your face, pull yourself up, smile and wave to the crowd.
- Sip cosmo, martini or any alcohol to calm your nerves.
- In the interview, focus on the question on being asked. Answer briefly and wittily. End it with a kicker – a funny line or an inspirational one.
- Backstage, engage in mindless conversations with other candidates to ease tension of the competition. Be helpful and attentive.
- Don’t let other people ruin your enjoyment of the whole experience. (This is very true!)
- Applaud and smile even if your name is not called in the Top Ten, in special awards, and especially in the winners’ circle.
- Congratulate the newly crowned queen. Behave like a winner even if you are a loser. It’s hard but it’s better to take the high road.
POST PAGEANT (Very important!)
- If you emerge a victor, be magnanimous. Humility is a virtue of a true winner. If others think you don’t deserve the crown, let them be. Just say to yourself “I have the crown, let them die with envy!” But by all means, bask in your glory.
- If you lose, be humbled. Sour-graping will get you nowhere.
- Analyze your performance on the pageant and make a mental note on things you can improve on for the next one.
- Return stuff that you borrowed and store those that you will be using again. (Some gay guys have to really learn how to take care of borrowed stuff !)
- Win or lose, get over it. There will be other pageants.
Thanks Dawn…. you’re indeed a winner !!!