News » Local

5 Questions with Miss Gay Arizona America Nevaeh McKenzie

Wednesday June 22, 2016

On June 26, the Tempe Center for the Arts will be the setting for Miss Gay Arizona America, the state preliminary competition for the Miss Gay America, the oldest, longest running, and most prestigious female impersonator pageant system in the world. (Established in 1972, 37 years before "RuPaul's Drag Race.")

The June 26 pageant will honor the current Miss Gay Arizona America 2016, Nevaeh McKenzie and feature an appearance by the reigning Miss Gay America 2016, Asia O'Hara of Dallas. This year's theme is "Sparkling Diamonds: A Night at the Moulin Rouge."

Ten contestants will compete in five rigorously judged categories for the Miss Gay Arizona America crown: Male Interview, Solo Talent, Evening Gown, On-Stage Interview, and Talent (big production number).

The Miss Gay Arizona America pageant will set the state winner on a path to compete for the title of Miss Gay America 2017 in Memphis, TN this October.

Meet your reigning Miss Gay Arizona America, as she answers five questions in anticipation of her step-down on June 26:

Nevaeh McKenzie has been doing female impersonation for six years, entering various competitions for the last four years, and this year became the first Miss Gay Arizona America ever to place Top 5 at Miss Gay America-the oldest, longest running, and most prestigious female impersonator pageant system in the world.

In addition to being the reigning Miss Gay Arizona America, she directs and hosts her own weekly show, High Heels & Halos at Charlie's in Phoenix and is the hostess for the popular Elements: Drag Show every Friday at BS West in Scottsdale. She is a former kindergarten teacher, is currently a case manager at law firm and will shortly begin a new career as a manny (male nanny), which kicks off with a trip to Europe this summer. [continued next page]

What got you started doing female impersonation?

I was going to the bars, but I'm not really a big drinker, I just liked going out with friends and dancing. My friends noticed my dancing abilities (when I was born, my family said I could dance before I could walk) and everyone told me you're small, you're tiny, you can dance and you got a pretty face, why don't you do drag? I didn't want to do it at first, but Barbara Seville, who is a legendary drag queen in Phoenix, had a newcomer contest and after a few weeks of peer pressure from her, I entered and won. After that, my career in female illusion just skyrocketed and it's been a joyride ever since.

What has it meant to you?

Not to sound cheesy or corny, but for me - and I know this is true for many of the Miss Gay America title holders - it's been a spiritual journey. I didn't come from a really accepting family. Being Latino, the machismo thing was huge in my house. To have a gay son, my Dad just didn't know how to handle it. I didn't feel like I could grow if I stayed. I needed to be independent. So, I left home at 19.

When I first stated going out, drag became this outlet for me to let go of the anger and to feel love from a community. Since then we've had to grow and learned. My family supports me and has been to a few shows, but they're in Gilbert and I'm in Phoenix and with all the shows that I do on the weekends, we don't see each other as often as we'd like.

Female illusion and the Miss Gay America system saved my life. It pushed me and gave me the opportunity to be what the Miss Gay America pageant refers to as a "Symbol of Excellence" in my community, but also to bring out the excellence in myself and be who I was meant to be.

Did you take what you gained from being in the Miss Gay American system and apply it to life outside the system?

Absolutely. I use it every day. There a phrase you only hear in the Miss Gay America system, "You always wear your invisible crown." And to me that's huge. I apply the discipline and professionalism I experienced in the Miss Gay America system to my daily life, not only being Miss Gay Arizona America, show hostess and show director on a weekly basis, but also in my work at the law firm, where maintaining a very high standard of professionalism is crucial.

Many Miss Gay America title holders are heavily involved in charity work. You have a pet charity. Tell us about it.

The #FitFish campaign started about a year ago, but being Miss Gay Arizona America kicked it to another level. It started during my weight loss journey, people started noticing my weight loss and muscle tone and commenting, "Oh, girl you're fit!" "You're fish!" (Drag queen term for a drag queen who looks like a real woman)"You're a fit fish!" We are selling tank tops and proceeds to ShapeUp.org, which is a wonderful organization that helps fight child obesity. A lot of the Miss Gay America title holders wear them. We're looking to expand to hats, sweatpants and all types of gym gear. Right now it's my little baby, but it'll be a teenager soon. [continued next page]

You placed Top 5 in Miss Gay America 2015. Should we be rooting for you to be the next Miss Gay America?

Yes! But, I'm taking a year off. I won't be entering this year, however, I plan on coming back full force next year. Being Miss Gay America has been an absolute dream of mine. Arizona has been such a great community to have behind me. Everyone is so willing to help out with everything. When I competing to be Miss Gay Arizona America, if it was money, or construction to build set or whatever I needed, they stepped up for me. I've been so overwhelmed with the support and love that I definitely want to keep that going and come back and get that crown!


Nevaeh McKenzie on Facebook: www.facebook.com/nevaeh.mckenzie
Miss Gay Arizona America 2016
June 26, 2016
4:00 PM
Tempe Center for the Arts
700 W Rio Salado Pkwy
Tempe, AZ
Tickets: $22.50 at https://tca.ticketforce.com/ordertickets.asp?p=2583&backurl=default.asp
www.missgayarizonaamerica.com