The Miss Gay Texas America Pageant's second preliminary night featured more dramatic performances by drag queens from across the state.
Last night, the pageant organizers corrected many of the technical glitches from the first evening of the pageant. For example, the soundtrack to Monday night's evening gown competition was the Anita Baker song "Sweet Love" on repeat.
The loop of the classic R&B hit was charming at first, but it slowly began to wear on the crowd as the evening gown competition stretched past the one-hour mark.
On Tuesday night, the DJ had a more varied soundtrack for the evening gown competition. Pageant host Chanel LaMasters noted the change.
"Oh we actually got a mix for the gown category tonight!" LaMasters said to the crowd. "Last night Anita Baker sang for four hours! It made me wake up with an attitude -- I didn't want any of her sweet loving anymore!"
The judges also took a more proactive role in keeping the show on track by flashing lights at LaMasters whenever the contestants were ready. This prevented the show from reaching Monday night's five-hour show length.
The Charity Queen
One of the contestants who returned for Tuesday night's show was Stephanie Fishe, a drag queen from San Antonio.
Fishe started performing drag four years ago during events for her bowling league. She now performs to raise money for a food pantry run by Metropolitan Community Church of San Antonio.
"I don't do paid drag. All of my work is for charity," Fishe said. "Any funds that I earn from this pageant will go to the MCC Food Pantry. It's affiliated with a religious organization, but they do not proselytize. They will give food to anyone - no questions asked - and I think that's important for my community."
Miss Gay Texas America is Fishe's first drag pageant. She started preparing in April, and said that she benefits from the pageant's strict prohibitions against plastic surgery "below the neck."
"This pageant is all about maintaining the female illusion," Fishe said. "Pageants that allow fillers and surgery tend to benefit the girls who have money. It's hard to compete against breast implants and a plunging neckline, so the ban definitely helps me in this competition."
Like many of the other competitors, Fishe also noted the backstage civility between the pageant contestants.
"You hear a lot about the deviousness and cattiness at other pageants, but they don't tolerate that here," Fishe said. "You have to be on your best behavior, which is one of the reasons why this pageant is so prestigious. We don't take shots, curse, or smoke in public. This really is the gay version of 'Miss America.'"
Behind the Scenes
Many of the Miss Gay Texas America contestants have highly choreographed performances with backup dancers.
One dancer at Tuesday night's show was 28-year-old Lauren Eslao, who has danced in drag pageants for more than 10 years. Eslao got her start in drag pageant dancing while working as an instructor at "Beyond Belief Dance Company" in Mesquite, which is owned by drag performer Alyssa Edwards.
"It's really fun to perform," Eslao said. "I perform at least one pageant every year."
Eslao says that the practicing time for pageant backup dancers can vary dramatically depending on the contestant.
"Sometimes we practice for three months and other times we have to learn routines on the day of the pageant," Eslao said.
This year Eslao is dancing for two contestants: Athena O'Hara and Violet S'Arbleu. She is impressed by both contestants and declined to predict who will win the crown on Friday.
Eslao says that her favorite drag pageant moment was when Asia O'Hara won the Miss Gay America title last year.
"Asia really deserved it," Eslao said. "She doesn't act entitled and works her butt off for everything that she has."
Rebuilding the Premiere Texas Pageant
One of the most memorable moments of Tuesday night's show was when pageant director Joe Hoselton introduced Asia O'Hara, the current titleholder of Miss Gay America.
Hoselton choked back tears while telling the crowd how Asia O'Hara represented a comeback for the state's presence in national pageants. The Miss Gay Texas America Pageant experienced a severe decline after years of inconsistent promoter support and attendance. It was during this period that Hoselton took charge as the director of the pageant and worked with the current promoters to rescue the event.
"One year we only had three girls competing," Hoselton said. "We took this pageant from three contestants to 30. Now we are the biggest state pageant in the system and we have a national titleholder. We are working on building the Texas pageantry system further, but I am amazed by what we have already achieved."
On July 21st, the past pageant winners will perform a "Review Show." The event is 18+ and the cover is $15.
The top 10 contestants will compete on Friday, July 22nd at 9 p.m. Cover for the finale is $20.