Since it first burst onto the entertainment landscape of Atlantic City back in the 1990s, Miss’d America has been one of the hottest tickets of the year.
Serving as the counterbalance to the buttoned-up nature of the Miss America pageant, the competition is hosted by reality TV icon Carson Kressley and features a group of some of the top drag queens in the Northeast battling it out in all their sparling glamour for the title of Miss’d America while also raising money for various LGBTQ supportive charities.
It’s funny, it’s campy, it’s wild and — unlike that other pageant — it’s one A.C. tradition that isn’t headed out of town any time soon.
“We are the pageant that never left, and we never intend to leave,” says Richard Helfant, one of the producers of the show. “We still have a runway, and we still have a swimsuit competition — we have all the things that we should have.”
Although it didn’t technically leave town, the Miss’d America Pageant went dark last year for the first time in many years as concerns over COVID ultimately caused the show to be canceled. But the good news is that this year it’s back!
The Miss’d America Pageant returns in all its sequined glory 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct.23, at the Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.
The CompetitorsSo what will it take to become Miss’d America 2022?
“They (the contestants) need to be outspoken, and they need to be able to represent not only the LGBTQ community, but to represent Atlantic City specifically, because the pageant’s home is Atlantic City. They need to be well spoken and be well educated in current events and things that affect the LGBTQ community both around the world and within Atlantic City,” Helfant says.
There will be eight contestants this year camping it up and fighting it out for the title of Miss’d America 2022, and each will be judged in the categories of swimsuit, talent and evening gown, as well as a judges’ interview.
Along with the crown and sash, Miss’d America will receive a prize of $5,000 and must be available for multiple appearances throughout her reigning year. First runner-up will receive $2,500, while second runner-up receives $1,500. This year’s contestants include:
Miss Elaine (Scott McMasters) — Pennsylvania
Miss Amanda Porq (Ethan L. Wintgens) — New York
Countess Mascara (Michael Mascari) — New York
Miss Cleo Phatra (Bobby “Fabulous” Goodrich) — Pennsylvania
Miss Fyre Wood (Sean Green) — Pennsylvania
Miss Drift Wood (Garrett Olthuis) — Pennsylvania
Dominique Powell St. James (Michael A. Blackmon) — New York
The CauseThough it’s a hell of a lot of fun, Miss’d America has a serious side, too. Since it began, its goal has been to raise money for charities that support the LGBTQ community. To date, that has added up to more than $450,000 in donations. And this year they will continue to add to that number.
But beyond monetary donations, a high-profile event like Miss’d America serves another purpose, as well.
“One of our goals with Miss’d America is to continue to strive to make sure Atlantic City is a welcoming place for LGBTQ people to come and visit,” Helfant explains.
What’s New?With an abundance of time to prepare for this year’s Miss’d America, there have been a few significant changes made, one of which is the venue itself.
“After being dormant for a year, it’s moving from Soundwaves to the Etess Arena, so that’s a big change for us,” says Helfant, noting the new venue means a larger space with more seating options for guests.
Speaking of guests, this year will also feature a performance from Grammy-award winner Thelma Houston, who scored a No. 1 hit record in 1977 with her recording of “Don’t Leave Me This Way.”
“In years past, we have had musical guests that have been a feature of the show, but we haven’t had anybody with a really strong box office value. They have all been great, but this year we wanted to come back with a bang, so to speak, so we booked Thelma Houston.”
But perhaps the most significant change is that now, for the first time, the transgender community is permitted to enter the competition. This had been a source of contention in the past, even leading to several former contestants speaking out against the pageant for refusing to allow transgenders to compete.
“The way the rule is now, it states that you must have been male at birth. What you are now is not relevant to being a contestant. You just have to have been born male,” Helfant explains.