[Ed. Note — This writer was the host of the Charlotte Eagle’s Miss Pride Charlotte

This year’s Pride Charlotte festival was a success — with as many as 12,000 attendees or more, no one can doubt it. But two weeks before the festival, the Miss Pride Charlotte Pageantry System didn’t manage to escape controversy or questions.

On July 10, Pride Charlotte crowned Felicia Monet 2009’s Miss Pride Charlotte. Two weeks prior, the pageantry system also crowned its first-ever Mr. Pride Charlotte, Howard Hung.

“The Pride Charlotte Pageantry System was designed to help us find quality performers who are well spoken and entertaining to represent Pride Charlotte at events both in and around North and South Carolina for the next 365 days. This year’s winners truly represent Pride Charlotte’s standards,” said Michael Woods, promoter of the Pride Charlotte Pageantry System and secretary of the Pride Charlotte planning committee.

Despite the crowning, the Miss Pride Charlotte Pageant’s judging results sparked debate and questions among a number of the drag queens who competed this year. The most alarming result from the judging was that the winner, Felicia Monet, representing the title Miss Scorpios 2009, won every contest category — Interview, Presentation, On-Stage Question & Talent Competition.

“It doesn’t happen — nobody wins every category, unless they’re perfect,” said Shane Kindley who performs as Jessica Raynes Starr and who won second runner up and alternate in the pageant. “There had to be some other motive to her winning.”

Kindley is not alone. The third alternate runner up Bryan Tipton, who performs as Sierra Santana, has performed for 18 years and has competed in nearly 10 pageants, winning four pageants including Miss Charlotte Pride 2004 before the organization changed its name, ownership and leadership to Pride Charlotte in 2006. She reiterated, “I believe in this community and in the importance of drag…but it is not common for one contestant to win every category especially with so many contestants. Something went foul in the judging.”

Several contestants noted that since the beginning of Pride Charlotte and the pageant in 2006, the Miss Pride Charlotte winners have been routine drag performers from The Scorpio. The first runner up this year, Charlotte Damone, also performs regularly in the cast at the club.

According to Denise Palm-Beck, the current board chair of the Lesbian & Gay Community Center and a member of the Pride Charlotte planning committee, Scorpio was one of the largest Pride Charlotte event sponsors this year, along with Chasers Adult Entertainment Club, its other business property.
Palm-Beck was unaware of the past winners having a connection to Scorpio and denied any connection between the winners and the sponsorship.

“I think that is a dangerous assumption to make,” Palm-Beck cautioned. “Nothing was done under the table and it sounds like sour grapes from a few contestants…we tried very hard to make the pageant fun, fair and equally entertaining.”

Palm-Beck said she didn’t know how often a contestant wins all pageant categories. “The probability is like going to Vegas and winning a slot machine,” she said.

Donald O’Shields, the owner of The Scorpio and Chasers, commented, “We are proud to be the main sponsor of Pride this year. It is an important event for our community. I believe Pride Charlotte did the best they could with the pageant and has learned a lot.”

But, like other contestants and audience members, O’Shields acknowledged the difficulty in one contestant to carry all the pageant’s contests.

O’Shields said Scorpio was not involved with the operation of the pageant and Pride Charlotte’s use of the bar facility was considered an in-kind donation to the group.

Prior to the festival at Gateway Village on July 25, both Kindley and Tipton had disassociated their name with the Pride Charlotte Pageantry System. Tipton refused to perform at Pride Charlotte and declined his prize winnings. Kindley said he ultimately chose to perform in the spirit of Pride, but still has concerns over the contest and its results.

Pageantry audience member Brian Coones said he shares a similar concern from the July 10 pageant night.

“I agree Felicia Monet is talented and maybe even deserved to win, but I truly can’t wrap my mind around one person winning every category,” Coones said. “I was there, I have been in the drag world for some time and I can’t believe Felicia won every category. I mean it seems shady — many in the audience left immediately after the winner was announced.”

The Pride Charlotte Pageantry System confirmed that there were five judges and two auditors. None of the judges were to have any connection to any specific bar or performer. One judge was chosen from the Pride Charlotte planning committee and judges in the final pageant could not have judged in any preliminary. As customary, the Pride Charlotte Pageantry System gave each contestant copies of their judging sheets following the pageant.

Kindley and Tipton expressed their concerns about the judging the night of the pageant to pageant committee members. Both, along with other performers, went as far as to compare individual score sheets and concluded that the results were “highly suspect.” According to Kindley, one contestant requested a meeting with the pageant committee to discuss the concerns. Woods did not confirm or deny any complaints being expressed.

“Any contestant who would like to question their judging results should look at the comments made by the judges on their score sheets and review the video of the pageant,” Woods said.

Palm-Beck said the committee had reviewed the pageant and concluded everything was fair. “After a careful review, there is nothing to indicate by the score sheets that the outcome would have been any different. I don’t know what else you can do.”

O’Shields questioned the knowledge and experience of those organizing and judging the event.

“I think it is safe to say that Pride Charlotte knew nothing about pageants or picking judges,” he said. “Frankly there are people on the panel who should not have been judges. I don’t know their qualifications and it is important to have quality judges.”

According to Kindley and Tipton, many of the contestants will not participate again next year and question whether their sponsor bar would do so either. Kindley cites not only the judging bias but also the amount of time, money and energy spent on the pageant.

“I feel like we should stand up for what we believe… this event was supposed to bring us all together,” Kindley said. “When Felicia was crowned the audience immediately left…the place emptied out. The community knows it was wrong.”

Pride Charlotte is a project of the Lesbian & Gay Community Center. This year the Pride Charlotte planning committee unveiled a new Pride Charlotte Pageantry System along with a revised set of rules in hopes of garnering a diversity of contestants and greater participation by several local bars and establishments. This year six establishments held preliminary pageants leading up to the Miss Pride Charlotte final pageant competition including Hartigans Irish Pub, Hide-A-Way, Petra’s Piano Bar, Liaisons, The Scorpio Lounge and the Charlotte Eagle.

“I’m really sad for Charlotte. All these talents from all the bars coming together in such a great way and then for the pageant to end like this. It’s not going to help when they ask people to compete next year at all,” Coones said.

Despite any questions or controversy, O’Shields stands by his mission to support his community: “We have a long history of drag. We respect it and our goal is to support Pride in our community.”

— Shane L. Windmeyer is a freelance writer for Q-Notes. He is recognized as a local and national leader on LGBT issues. He also performs camp drag as Buff Faye, who recently made RuPaul’s Top 25 in her Drag Race Online Competition. More information online at www.shanewindmeyer.com or www.bufffaye.com.

7 replies on “Pageant raises questions”

  1. I was in the audience the night of the pageant. It is sad that Q-Notes has nothing more to write about than something like this instead of the real issues affecting the LGBT communities here in Charlotte and throughout North and South Carolina.

    I also went back and watched the video of the pageant. If you look back at it you can see why the judges chose the person they did to win the pageant. When it came to the Creative Fashion category (which was left out of the article)…Felicia Monet is the only one who did something that was “fashionable”. Everyone else’s outfit looked like a costume. During the On-Stage Question portion of the pageant, no one other than Felicia answered the complete question. There were 3 parts to each question and most of them only answered 2 parts of the question. Felicia was the only contestant to answer all 3 parts of her question. As far as talent goes…every contestant gave out of steam midway through their talent. Felicia was the only contestant who kept all of her energy constant throughout her talent as well as worked the ENTIRE stage. Yes, Brandi Andrews did a great job with her talent, but she failed to work the entire stage. Most of the time she was at the back of the stage.

    What is really sad is that this article only pointed out the negative aspects of the pageant. It failed to point out how smoothly the pageant ran, the quality of the entertainers that they had perform, and that Pride Charlotte provided a fantastic prize package to the contestants.

    It seems funny to me how only 2 of the 8 contestants are quoted in this article and it comes across as them being bitter that they didn’t win the huge prize package that Pride Charlotte offered to the winner.

    Personally, I believe that the right person won the pageant. I am pleased to see that we have someone that knows the community as well as the bars. The LGBT community is not only about the bar, it’s about more than the bar and I’m proud to have someone that knows the whole community to represent Charlotte throughout the Carolinas. Now, can we move on to something more important and solve the problems of our community?

  2. It also strikes me as interesting as to how the person writing the article is from the bar of the 3rd alternate to the pageant. Not only that, it mentions that all of the past winners of the Miss Pride Charlotte pageant, the current winner and the 1st alternate are all regular performers of the Scorpio. It fails to mention that the 2nd Alternate, Miss Jessica Raynes Starr, is also a regular performer at the Scorpio. Hmmm….should that seem funny to anyone, yet she is one the girls complaining throughout the article????? I love how people want to point blame at something they didn’t put the time and effort into when they only made themselves look like a fool with their responses and performances during the pageant. To be honest, I don’t think any of the girls should have won talent. They all did a number. I felt like I was watching just another performances. Howard Hung’s opening number….that’s what I call talent. It took alot of thought to get that together.

  3. This makes me sick. It isn’t bad enough that local Charlotte politics are bad, now we are reminded that it’s also right here in our faces in our own gay community. Leave it to a bar like Scorpio to play the corruption card as the owner hides behind vague and generic statements and a heavy Pride Charlotte endorsement. Scorpio is hardly an example of what a gay bar should be. Just listen for the hip hop and gangster rap when you get near the entrance. Hardly a glowing example to compare to other citites who actually play gay dance music. There’s also the airport security metal detectors and pepper spray incidents to break up straight people fighting on any given night. We applaud the writer of this article for exposing what is definitely a dirty deal. These contestants have the right to complain and challenge the results. Hopefully they will not let this go. Remember, just because you throw money into sponsorship does not mean it gives you the right to throw the contest! Our community deserves better treatment.

  4. I belive that in every pageant there will be queens that are bitter. it is hard for a queen to win all areas but there were also 5 judges all differant backgrounds and they did not know each other. the scores were fair and some judges hated some and some loved some just all in all felicia won the average vote when the scores were taken and added up. i want to give props to pride charlotte for the pageant b/c it was the first year it was done the way a pageant should be. we have to take in to consideration that it takes time to get it perfect but i think it was handled very fair.

  5. Well, I think you’re dead wrong. I’m not a drag queen but I was there and I have seen enough cheating in my time to see what went down. I agree with what Steve H said above. Those of us who have been in this town all our lives know how the owners of Scorpio have played dirty for years, so this is not surprising. They want everybody to think they are such a powerful force in Charlotte, but sadly that’s just a delusion that can only be the result of some kind of dementia. They say they are doing good things, yet trash and slander other gay businesses whenever they can. Scorpio should be proud now! They are back – as Charlotte’s biggest thug bar! As far as the pageant, it was poorly done and the results will not be forgotten as it has driven doubt and mistrust throughout the community – all thanks to Donald down at the hip hop bar. Way to go Scorpio!

  6. Hi. I hope I can interject something worth while into this disagreement. I am a Drag Queen/ Transgender also. Some of you know me and some don’t. I might not have a dog in this particular hunt, but I might have a solution for future pride events. I am a member of the Triad Pride Committee for Greensboro, Winston Salem, Burlington, High Point and surrounding area’s. We have much the same problems as any other pride committee. We have financial, Venue and sponsor issues as well.

    To the point Scorpios was one of the main sponsor of pride, it was very evident to me. I was one of the speakers at Charlotte pride. The stage I was speaking form had a large banner with Scorpios name in large print. It did not take much thought on my part to realize that. A Pride event takes money to run. I saw no admission gate; it was free to the attendees. The budget for such an event is quite large. Believe me this event cost a lot of money, that had to come from somewhere and Scorpios was just one of them.

    I am not going to sit here and say that Scorpios and the judges were shady, I don’t know. I could not get in, and the parking lot was shut down. The club was full. So I went to some other clubs in the area they were crowded also, but I got in. Here is the solution as the best that I can come with. Have the Miss Charlotte Pride Pageant at a neutral venue. Such as an Arena, Public Building or Hotel Ball room. The Westin would work very well for this. Have the Pageant 2 or 3 weeks before Pride. This would not interfere with the clubs making money on pride night. The judge’s panel should be made of experienced Drag judges. I would recommend five judges made up from the club owners, manager or a cast member from each bar, with only one judge from each bar. I know the club owners are saying they will loose revenue. Not in my opinion on the night of the pride festival they will be crowded anyway pageant or no pageant.

    I don’t claim that this is the best solution but it’s a start. The Charlotte Pride Committee did a great job, the controversy surrounding Scorpios and the pageant is in the past. I am sure this was not the intent of the Pride Committee or Scorpios to have drama in the community; all it does is hurt everyone and everything.

    Just my 2 cents worth.

    Janice Covington

  7. To the previous comment: I AM a drag queen too and I DO live in Charlotte. Your suggestions and advice are not bad, but don’t you understand that they had the choice to do these things, but did not. They didn’t for a reason, and it’s disgusting. What is so hard to understand?

    Your comments are partially interesting, but it’s apparent that you are missing the point here. Why should Scorpio not have their logo emblazened all over a plastic banner, or 20 of them at Pride? They paid for sponsorship, so they got what they wanted. So did the other sponsors. There is a budget for Pride honey, but for God’s sake don’t be so pathetic that you think all the money comes from Scorpio! The problem is you can sponsor all you want, but don’t use it as a corruption tool and throw the contest right in front of everybody watching. If you’re not from here, then you don’t know the whole story with Scorpios and the past they have of playing dirty and greedy. This was all nothing but their plan from the start.

    I read the comments here and I can say first hand that I have worked for these guys and I know how they are. Saying that you couldn’t get in the parking lot because it was ‘shut down’ is ridiculous. Who cares? Too bad the whole place wasn’t shut down. So you missed out on a sham. That’s right! A club that gets people to go through the door based on lies. Thug music and thug atmosphere. It’s fitting I suppose, to go right along with the thug way the place is run and managed.

    The controversey surrounding Scorpios is NOT in the past, but going on right now! Don’t dare to dismiss things you have no real concept of. Also, how in the name of God do you know the intent of Scorpios? All they have done is ‘hurt everyone and everything’!

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