By Laura Latzko, November 2016 Issue.
Arnold Myint’s experiences as a figure skater, “Food Network Star” cast member and restaurateur have all shaped who he is. In early October, he added Miss Gay America to his resume.
Suzy Wong, Myint's drag persona, was crowned Miss Gay Western States America in Phoenix in May, went on to compete in for the national title in Memphis for her fourth time and won.
Wong is the third Miss Gay Western States America to go on to win the prestigious title. Two other female impersonators from the Arizona-based regional system – 2006 regional titleholder Luscious and 2007 first alternate Mikaila Kay – have gone on to win at the national title.
Echo caught up with Wong following her appearance at AIDS Walk Arizona to find out more about her and her eclectic resume.
Echo: Congratulations! What was the journey to Miss Gay America like?
Wong: For me, my family is a big support. I know not everybody has the same blessings as I’ve had, having such an unconditionally supportive family. They were all there when I won. The last time my whole family was there was 20 years ago when I was at U.S. Nationals in my hometown of Nashville, and I got a standing ovation after skating in the big arena for the first time … It was a great climatic moment for all of us, and to be able to share that with them personally, on an intimate level, in such a non-intimate setting, was quite surreal. I could hear my mom the whole time I was competing, over the crowd ...
Echo: How would you describe your persona Suzy Wong?
Wong: Suzy Wong was first developed as a spokesperson for my restaurant in Nashville called Suzy Wong’s House of Yum. I’m a chef by financial trade. I became Suzy Wong a few months after we opened … I rediscovered a love of being onstage through her … I love doing a lot of community outreach. I love fundraising and advocating for charities. Suzy Wong is just an extension of that, not much different from me as Arnold, other than the fact that she’s in beautiful hair, gowns and heels. I was talking to one of my friends that I’ve kept in touch with after being on the Food Network, and she was saying how Suzy Wong is the softer side of Arnold and affords me that little heartfelt voice that oftentimes men or people in a masculine setting … don’t get to have.
Echo: Tell me more about your talent number.
Wong: It’s something that really resonates with me. For me with my performance background, I really like creating things that are signature to me as Suzy Wong … I’m not the type of queen you’d see impersonating someone as much as me performing something that was written for myself. It was personal in that and a homage to my family background, my Asian heritage.
Echo: What first drew you to the spotlight?
Wong: Ever since I was 5 years old, I’ve been onstage. I always loved the spotlight. I went to a really progressive school in Nashville that really advocated for the arts. Throughout my youth, I performed. I toured. I was always in talent shows. I was always auditioning. The love of that is already built in. It has to have been sparked by my parents, who drove me to ballet class. It started with them, and I feel lucky that I rediscovered it through a profession that you wouldn’t expect.
Echo: What can you tell us about your culinary calling?
Wong: My mother is a restaurateur and chef herself. I was raised in this, and my father is a professor. He kept the same hours as me and was an amazing cook, even though my mom was the chef. He was the one who would wake me up in the morning to the smell of food … I always had a relationship with food in a way that was very comforting and warming … I’ve been pretty much everywhere through my skating travels, and all of my journals have been about food. If you ask me about a city, I can tell you what I ate [and] what I drank.
Echo: How has the publicity from your other career endeavors helped to prepare you for the role of Miss Gay America?
Wong: I’ve been on television before, but this season, I had a lot of air time and did a lot of prep, PR, a lot of interviews. I think that really prepared me because I openly communicated the fact that I am a female impersonator. I openly expressed what I do, and it has helped me solidify my persona and character.
Echo: What are your plans for your reign?
Wong: The new owners this year, Michael Dutzer and Rob Mansman, took over a legacy, and I’m the 46th Miss Gay America. I feel that there’s an opportunity here to refresh the pageant system in the eyes of sister pageant systems and within the LGBTQ community … I just want us to build the recognition and make us relevant in our own community as well as in the straight community … I want to establish and reinstate a sense of community, family and support among each other.
Echo: Are there any causes or organizations you hope to work with as the national titleholder?
Wong: I love children, and I see a need for support in the LGBTQ youth … Being that my family is very active in community outreach, I started a foundation myself where I do food volunteering and concessions. All this year that I would make from tips and fundraising efforts is going to go into one big pot, and every city that I go to, I’m going to select an LGBTQ youth community center or organization and in another hat put all of those names. At Miss Gay America 2018 in New Orleans, I will draw one of those organizations’ names out, and they will receive all of the money.
For me, the reason that I’m doing that is I’ve witnessed my mother during tragedies in Thailand, where she’s from, just taking money to Thailand to give directly to the source … For me, even if I could buy one computer for one youth center where kids can print off applications or explore the Internet, or I can buy a set of brushes, a mirror and some makeup so a future aspiring Miss Gay America has a chance, it’s something that I feel I can [do to] make a difference.