By Laura Latzko, October 2017 Issue.
In late July, Tucson-based drag king Romeo White packed up his pageant best and set out for Louisville, Ky. His destination: the national Entertainer of the Year 2017 pageant. His goal: to bring the national King crown home to Arizona.
White earned his ticket to the national pageant by being crowned Arizona Entertainer of the Year (EOY) King 2017 at the state-level pageant, which took place March 4 and 5 at Aqua Nightclub in Phoenix.
Wearing a crown within Arizona was nothing new to White, who has earned Mister King of the Desert USofA MI and Mister Tucson Pride titles since he started performing drag in 2010. (Read Echo's Arizona EOY interview with Romeo White from May 2017 here.)
But, after taking a few years off, his third time on the national stage was not only the charm, but proved to be more meaningful than ever before (he previously competed in the national Mister USfoA MI pageant twice as first alternate).
During the national pageant, which took place July 25-29, White competed against one other contestant in talent, presentation, creative evening wear and onstage question.
Not only was White crowned EOY King 2017 July 26, but he also made history within the EOY pageant system. Together he and Cass Marie of Madison, Wis., made history by becoming the first transgender individuals to win in the EOY King and Femme divisions, respectively.
Shortly after earning their new titles, White and Marie were subjected to some backlash. The negative reactions, White said, made their victories somewhat bittersweet, but also motivated them.
“It’s one of those things where you wish, as a society, we were much further along, especially in the pageant and LGBTQ communit[ies],” he explained. “The judges felt she deserved it more. The judges felt I deserved it more. So, why are you personally attacking us? It doesn’t sit well, but it’s one of those things where she and I will prove throughout the year why we were selected as the best candidates.”
Because of the scenario he and Marie went through, White said that others are starting to see them as role models.
“There’s definitely people who look at us and do put us on that pedestal now because they look at this as [something we] have overcome,” he said, explaining that people are viewing the situation as, ‘This is how these two have reacted to this. This is how they are carrying themselves.’”
Despite the issues he initially faced as a first-time national titleholder, White is fully committed to representing and growing the EOY pageant system.
“It, to me, feels like it’s underrated in all divisions,” he said. “I’m just hoping that this year, we get to shed some light on exactly why we’re all so passionate for it, and it definitely sparks interest in other people.”
What drew him to the system was the fact that the system’s entertainers are encouraged to bring their own personalities and talents to the stage.
“The Entertainer of the Year system is so fantastic because you can really be yourself,” he explained. “There’s no cookie cutter look that they are looking for.”
White stands out in the drag king community because of his geeky, sexy persona. At nationals, he did a talent number with two dancers and a shuffle bot to a mix of LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It.”
And when he’s not on the stage, the performer keeps busy with his day job and family. But he continues to serve his community through drag. Being able to raise money for local organizations and put smiles on people’s faces, he said, is what continues to drive him.
“When you get a message from somebody, and they say how much this performance touched them … or you inspired them to do this, that is what gives you the drive to keep doing it,” White said. “You could be dead-tired from working 10 hours and then still have to go and drive two hours to do a show until 1, 2 o’clock in the morning; drive two hours back home; then get up and go to work the next day. Then, you get that message from somebody and it makes it all worth it.”
Follow Romeo White through his reign as Entertainer of the Year King 2017 on Facebook at facebook.com/kingarizonaeoy.
Q&A with Romeo White, Entertainer of the Year King 2017
Echo: What drag kings are you inspired by?
White: Gunner Gatlyn, Nikki Kidd and Freddy Prinze Charming.
Echo: One of the biggest things you want to work on?
White: Not everyone feels I am approachable…Apparently, I look angry if I’m not smiling or laughing. I definitely want to work on making it where people can come to me, and it doesn’t just have to be pageant-related, drag-related or trans-related.
Echo:What have some of your favorite costumes been?
White: Spiderman vest and tie for Mister BS West step down. Pink cheetah print vest and shorts for EOY talent. Gray jacket with hand-painted blue, aqua and purple hand-painted squares, made by Richard Cranium for EOY onstage question and crowning.
Echo:What are your favorite songs to perform?
White: Tim McGraw’s “My Little Girl,” which I performed for my daughter during a Mister Arizona USofA MI Pageant. Boy band songs such as the Backstreet Boys’ “As Long as You Love Me” and seductive tunes such as The Weeknd’s “Earned It.”
Echo:What creative goals do you have for your reign?
White: I don’t want to repeat anything … I really want to show different things, and a lot of my outfits are going to be designed by Richard Cranium … Definitely that’s one of the things I want to work on this year is having all brand new stuff.
Echo: What would you like to show the world during your reign?
White: As a titleholder, you can be fun. You can be goofy and be 110 percent yourself and not feel like you are going to be judged.