By Laura Latzko, August 2016 Issue.
After three consecutive years as first alternate to Miss Gay Arizona America, Savannah Stevens earned her crown in a tiebreaker June 26 at the Tempe Center for the Arts.
The only other tie in the system’s history, according to Daniel Eckstrom, MGAA pageant promoter, occurred in 2004 between Celebrity Starr and Veronica Halliwell for first alternate.
As part of the 2016 pageant, a qualifier for Miss Gay America, 10 contestants competed in male interview, solo talent, evening gown and talent categories, and the
top five went on to onstage interview.
To determine whether Stevens would finally be crowned or end the night with first alternate honors for the fourth time, the top five contestants came back onstage to answer an additional question.
The judges’ final scores revealed Stevens was the winner and Tempest DuJour was this year’s first alternate. Both contestants will advance to the national Miss Gay America 2016 pageant, which will take place in October in Memphis, Tenn.
Stevens, also known as Chris Zizzo, has been perfecting the art of female illusion for 15 years, and is best known for her impersonations of Cher and Reba McEntire.
Echo Magazine caught up with Stevens at the pageant and here’s what she had to say:
Echo: What were your thoughts and emotions during the tiebreaker?
Stevens: When we were standing backstage, all of the contestants were all so tired and ready to call a winner ... It came down between me and Tempest DuJour, and I was trying to stay calm and confident. It was really, really hard because I wasn’t completely in love with either of my onstage question answers. I was like, “Oh my God, am I going to be first alternate again?” When Daniel said on the microphone, “The next Miss Arizona, also the winner of talent,” I was like, “Oh my God, is it me? Is it really me?” He said, “contestant four,” and it was all basically a blur from there.
Echo: What did it mean to you to win the title doing Reba McEntire as your talent?
Stevens: It felt great. I just enjoy Reba McEntire. She’s a diva to me because anything she does turns to gold. For me to be able to emulate her is just an honor … even though there are other categories that do determine the winner … talent is something that not only I enjoy but my team enjoys and the community enjoys as well.
Echo: How did you become involved with the Miss Gay America system?
Stevens: The very first time I ever saw a drag show was at a placed called Pookie’s. I saw Barbra Seville and Phaedra, and Barbra Seville was Miss [Gay] Arizona at the time. I just saw how she performed, how she spoke to the audience and just how much people were drawn to her and looked up to her. That was the very first time that I ever learned about the system and drag queens, for that matter. In 2002, I went to the Miss Gay Arizona America Pageant. It was the year that Angela Dodd won Miss Gay Arizona America, and I met my very first national titleholders. It’s something I’ve always remembered ... The energy in the whole room was just so uplifting, and it was just so great that I was just like, “Oh my God, I just have to be part of this.”
Echo: What plans do you have for your reign?
Stevens: With the recent Orlando shooting tragedy, I want to bring a chapter of the Matthew Shepard Foundation to Phoenix. I want to bring the Matthew Shepard Foundation more into the public eye here in Phoenix to raise awareness for hate crimes.
I also want to put together a Miss Gay Arizona America workshop, both in Phoenix and in Tucson. Anyone who is interested in competing in the system can come and learn more about the system and what they are looking for in the Miss Gay Arizona America and Miss Gay America system.
Another thing I want to do as Miss Gay Arizona America is ... to travel, not only around the state, but around the country to other preliminaries and be a very visible Miss Gay Arizona America …
Echo: What do you think it takes to be a titleholder in the Miss Gay America system?
Stevens: To be any titleholder, you have to be humble. You have to be kind. You have to be willing to adapt. You have to be willing to grow. You have to be a well-rounded entertainer and adult. You have to be approachable. You have to be likeable. You have to do the job before you have the job. Before I was Miss [Gay] Arizona, I had been doing the job of Miss Gay Arizona by attending the city preliminaries as first alternate. I feel that you need to surround yourself with the job and do the job as if you already have [it].
For more information on Miss Gay Arizona America, visit missgayarizonaamerica.com.