By Laura Latzko, June 2017 Web Exclusive.
In just the first few months of this year, pageantry has become a bigger part of Eva Angelica Stratton’s life than ever before. Three weeks after capturing the title of Miss Phoenix Pride (read the full story here), she was crowned Miss Gay Arizona USofA Newcomer 2017.
The pageant, which took place April 9, resulted the first major state title for the drag performer and earned her a trip to the eighth annual national competition, which will take place Aug. 1-3 in Dallas.
Originally from Michigan, Stratton has only been living in Arizona for about two years. But, with more than a decade of performing under her belt, she’s won numerous titles in Michigan and Arizona.
In past years, Stratton has competed to the national Miss Gay USofA Newcomer Pageant as second alternate to Miss Gay Michigan and second alternate to Miss Gay Diamond of the Desert. And, last year, she made it as far as the top five.
Echo caught up with Stratton to find out more about her background as a performer, moving her drag career to Arizona and what the title of Miss Gay USofA Newcomer title mean to her.
Echo: What does it mean to you to be the Arizona titleholder this year?
Stratton: It means a lot to me because I’ve never been able to be Miss Michigan, and that was my home, So, to be Miss Arizona, it’s just further stamped that this is home for me, and it’s always going to be home for me.
Echo: What initially interested you about the USofA Newcomer system?
Stratton: I was immediately drawn to it because it allowed new entertainers to a national stage to play on the same playing field at everyone else. Doing pageants can already be intimating. Competing in a national pageant is even more extreme. For me, I was always intimidated to go to a national pageant and stand up to other entertainers who have competed and been successful at nationals or even won a national title previously. The USofA Newcomer system ensures that all of its contestants are on an equal playing field and molds them to have a successful national career.
Echo: How do you feel you have grown within the USofA Newcomer system?
Stratton: As an entertainer, I have grown immensely since being part of the USofA newcomer system because I truly believe in who I am as an entertainer, and I’m not comparing myself to any national titleholder. That has allowed me to be more comfortable with who I am onstage and has allowed me to be more confident in who I am as an entertainer and pageant queen.
Echo: With the number of titles you've earned, how were you able to compete at the Miss Gay USofA Newcomer pageant system?
Stratton: The Newcomer [pageant] is for a national level. It’s not necessarily a newcomer locally. It’s more of if you are a newcomer when it comes to national competition. It’s just to make sure I’m not competing against a five-time national titleholder my very first time at nationals because that’s a little intimidating.
Echo: So, you haven’t done any other national pageants?
Stratton: I’ve only done USofA Newcomer. The very first time you enter a prelim, you have three years from that day to try to win it. After your third year is up, you have to move on. It’s kind of like a prep.
Echo: What made you decide to do Miss Gay Arizona USofA Newcomer title this year?
Stratton: This is what I’m born to do. That’s who I am … That’s when I’m at the best that I can be. To be completely honest, I didn’t know that I was going to win Miss [Phoenix] Pride this year. I just didn’t know, with me being so new to the community, if I was ready to be their Miss [Phoenix Pride]. And I was. I am. I knew that I was still going to go to [USofA] Newcomer my last year. If it wasn’t my last year, maybe I would have taken the year off and just focused all of my attention on one, but I have an amazing Mister [Phoenix] Pride. I have an amazing support system at home.
Echo: In what ways was the Miss Arizona USofA Newcomer Pageant more competitive the your previous experience in Michigan?
Stratton: It’s a different kind of mindset. It’s a different motivation, a different end result you are looking for. Being Miss Arizona, I want to represent my entire state ... at a national level … If I was to win nationals, I would be the first would be the first [national] trans titleholder of our system. To represent all of my transgender sisters would be an extreme honor.
Echo: Are there things you’d like to accomplish as Miss Gay Arizona USofA Newcomer?
Stratton: Essentially, being a national titleholder and being Miss Phoenix Pride, you are representing the organization. You are representing that community. You have job responsibilities and requirements as the commander in chief. Being Miss [Phoenix] Pride, I’m representing the entire Arizona LGBTQ community. If I am crowned Miss Gay USofA Newcomer, [I'd be] representing the entire United States LGBTQ community … I think that being Miss [Phoenix] Pride is going to ensure that I can be a great national titleholder.
Echo: Being new(ish) to Arizona, are people in the community starting to get to know you more?
Stratton: I think in the past few months people have really started to get to know me … I think that I’m opening up a lot more. I think that I’ve grown a lot as an individual, and I think the community is starting to see that as I’m letting them in.