By Laura Latzko, October 2018 Issue.
In recent years, the art of female impersonation has been heating up in the Southwest, particularly in terms of Arizona’s representation at the Miss Gay America pageant.
Last year, six Arizona queens (plus two more with local ties) qualified for the national stage in New Orleans.
With the combination of two state prelimi nary pageants and local queens earning their ticket, there will be a strong showing of Arizona talent at the 2019 Miss Gay America Pageant Oct. 3-6 in St. Louis.
This year, Savannah Stevens will return to the national pageant as first alternate to Miss Gay Nevada America 2018; Claudia B. will return as first alternate to Miss Gay Arizona America; and Dextaci will return as first alternate to Miss Gay Western States America 2018.
Newcomers, making their debut appearance on the MGA stage, include Fifi Dubois, Miss Gay Western States America 2018 and Adriana Galliano as Miss Gay Arizona America 2018.
The second time was a charm for Galliano, who first competed in the system in 2012, and on June 17 at Tempe Center for the Arts she won the prestigious title as Olivia Gardens stepped down.
According to Daniel Eckstrom, Miss Gay Arizona America (MGAA) promoter, this pageant system has become more modern and diverse in recent years – with a pool of contestants ranging from newly emerging queens to more established performers.
The Arizona pageants, he said, have always been cutting edge and diverse.
“A lot of the Miss Gay America prelims are in the Midwest or [on the] East Coast. We are so far away, so we kind of do our own thing,” Eckstrom said. “I think you see that year after year at [MGAA] … the contestants are doing something [different], whether it’s bringing a plane onstage or coming out of a pot in presentation.”
According to Eckstrom, Galliano fits with the new direction of the pageant system.
“I think they will love her at Miss Gay America because she’s different. She’s fresh. She’s new. She’s young. She’s pretty,” Eckstrom said.
A Crowning Moment
At the moment of her crowning, Galliano said she was overwhelmed with emotions, and it took her a few seconds to realize that her name had been called.
“When they are announcing the placement, you just black out. You don’t even listen,” Galliano recalled. “I’m like, ‘Wait, who won?’… I went there prepared. I did my best. When they say your name, you just feel this beautiful emotion. I cried because it was very emotional.”
Since that moment, Galliano stepped into the role with spice and grace as she prepares to represent Arizona on the national stage, where she and the aforementioned queens will compete for the coveted crown.
A Symbol of Sisterhood
Galliano first competed for Miss Gay Arizona America in 2012. She has also gone to nationals as a dresser for Barbra Seville, a former Miss Gay Arizona America and Miss Gay Western States America.
It’s the sisterhood of the MGAA that Galliano said drew her into the system from the very beginning.
“I fell in love with the system,” Galliano said. “Right here in my hometown, it is a loving system. I love how they respect each other.”
Galliano attributes her experiences competing on the Miss Gay USofA Newcomer national stage three times with her growth as a performer.
“I’m very thankful … because I learned a lot,” she said. “It was a great experience, and I made a lot of friends and connections … I think the main thing I learned through these years is to become a professional entertainer.”
Being a titleholder within the MGA system means being a “symbol of excellence.” For Galliano, this means being the best version of herself.
“Be a mentor, not just [an] entertainer, not just a good person,” she said. “Be who people look up to.”
Made For The Stage
At the MGAA 2018 pageant, 10 contestants competed in male interview, talent, presentation, evening gown and onstage interview (top five) categories.
With a background in fashion design, Galliano has always considered evening gown to be her strongest category. She designs elaborate gowns and costumes for herself and for other queens, as well.
Galliano said her future goals include being more creative in the presentation category. At MGAA, she revealed a white orchid ensemble with flowers ascending into the air above her petite stature. For nationals, she’ll be designing a “Fantastical Creatures” look.
To see Galliano perform a talent number, a spectator would never know she’s had no formal dance training (outside of a local charity dance competition).
“I guess it just comes in my blood,” she said. “As a Latino, I just know how to dance … I like to move [and] entertain. That’s just me. I just love being onstage.”
At MGAA, she performed to a dance mix of “Copacabana,” a Spanish and English version of “Fever” and the Miami Sound Machine’s “Conga.”
Naturally, she plans to bring a dance-focused talent number to nationals as well.
“I’m going to do what I love to do: dance,” she said. “I think that’s what talent is all about.”
Realeza de Arizona
Throughout the year ahead, Galliano hopes to be a positive role model who inspires more contestants to become involved in this pageant system, especially Latino performers.
“I’m very proud of my Latinos, and I’m proud … that I got to do this contest, and I got to win,” she said. “I’m also really excited to represent – not just my Latinos, but my state – at nationals.”
According to Eckstrom, having Galliano and Geo Johnson as Miss and Mr. Arizona America will help to foster greater diversity in the Arizona system. (For Echo’s interview with Geo Johnson, visit phoenix.outvoices.us/geo-johnson.)
“They are both part of this community that’s so big in Arizona … Sometimes, I think we don’t celebrate the Latino community enough in the Miss [Gay] America system,” Eckstrom said. “I’m so that happy that they are the faces of Miss and Mr. Gay Arizona.”
When she’s not fundraising, rehearsing or designing new costumes, Galliano can be found hosting her new Sunday night show, “Latin Explosion,” at Charlie’s or performing with the cast of Elements each Friday at BS West.
For more information on Miss Gay Arizona America, visit missgayarizonaamerica.com.