Kristian Martin, who won the Miss Gay Arkansas America 2012 pageant performing under the stage name Veronica Duvall, can't believe his year with the crown is almost up. "It just seems like a couple of weeks," he said a few days before the 2013 pageant, which is set for 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, at the Argenta Community Theater.
Martin's been busy since winning the pageant: "Most people think winning the title makes you a figurehead. But it really is a lot more involved. There's so much behind the scenes: You have to secure different venues [for the pageant and related events]. Be a mediator for any problems. Do customer service and ad sales. Be choreographer. Be someone to listen and critique. On top of that, you have to make sure you look the part every time you're on stage.
"During the year, you are the representative of the state of Arkansas. That means traveling to all corners of the state and outside the state."
All of that does not translate into big money. "Being Miss Arkansas is sometimes construed as a get-rich-quick deal. But I didn't get involved in the art of female impersonating for the money. I did countless gigs for charity this year." Among them, dates with Renegades for a Cause, Arkansas AIDS Foundation, Helping People with AIDS and the Northwest Center for Equality.
Martin, who works as entertainment director for Miss Kitty's in Little Rock, said that he thinks the general population is becoming more accepting of the idea of female impersonation as an art form.
"There are headliner shows in Las Vegas that are top of the line. On a local scale, more people are coming in each and every weekend to see what we're doing."
Unlike other pageants, Martin said, Miss Gay Arkansas America allows a wide range of performances during the talent portion of the event. "Some contestants will dance. Some will sing live. Some will do a comedy routine. Some will do an impersonation of a celebrity."
On Saturday, Martin, or rather Veronica Duvall, will relinquish her crown to one of 10 hopefuls: Chloe Jacobs, Miss Gay Little Rock; Diedra Windsor Walker, Miss Gay Little Rock alternate; Brooklyn Bisette, Miss Gay Heart of the Ozarks; Rosa Turell-Andrews, Miss Heart of the Ozarks, alternate; Liyah Doingme Alize, Miss Gay Central Arkansas; M'Shay Victoria Foster, Miss Gay Central Arkansas, alternate; Eden Alive, Miss Gay Newcomer; Queen Anthony Gerard, Miss Gay Newcomer, alternate; Tyler Rane, Miss Gay Fayetteville, and Michelle Montana, Miss Gay Fayetteville, alternate.
Miss Gay Arkansas America is decided on four categories. The interview portion is the afternoon of the pageant and is not open to the public. The interview can net the contestant up to 150 points based on general appearance, personality and ability to communicate and answer content.
Pre-judging in evening gown attire with an onstage question begins at 7 p.m. The evening gown portion is worth up to 150 points and contestants are judged on suitability of evening gown and hairstyle; presentation, including modeling techniques, poise and smile, and general appearance, including makeup, shoes, gown condition and accessories.
The pageant itself begins at 8 p.m. with each contestant performing a solo talent of no more than three minutes in length. This portion of the pageant is worth a possible 100 points, and includes the contestant only, with no back-up dancers or onstage props. It's judged on choreography, appearance, quality and entertainment value. Probably the most anticipated part of the evening is the last event — the long talent. This portion of the contest can be no more than seven minutes and always features an amazing array of props, dancers and talent. The long talent is by far the most point-heavy single portion of the pageant, with a possible 300 points on the line. It's judged on showmanship and set design, choreography, physical coordination and stage presence, quality and value of presentation as entertainment.
The first Miss Gay Arkansas America was Norman Jones, owner of Discovery and Triniti nightclubs, who, as Norma Kristie, entered and won the first Miss Gay America pageant in 1972 in Nashville. In 1975, Jones assumed control of the contest from the original owner, and eventually sold the pageant in 2005. Jones is writing "My Life, My Pageant, My Crown," a book about the pageant that will be available via normakristie.com.
The latest Miss Gay America, Sally Sparkles, will make an appearance at Saturday night's event along with former Miss Gay Arkansas title holders Zia D'Yor, Shawn Tyler Andrews, Kamrin Mikaels, Debbye Taunts and Kelly Cruise.
Tickets, $25 for general admission and $40 for premiere seating, are available at the door or online at missgayarkansas.com.