Decades from now I hope that I shall be one of the 100 or so audience members to proudly recall the defining moment in Saint Lucia’s history when the first Miss Gay Universe pageant was held here. And it was fabulous!
The event on the night of Friday 4th December, when it finally got under way some 90 minutes late, was a shambles. I was reminded of a kindergarten production with nervous performers, an excited, rowdy audience, malfunctions, mishaps and general mayhem. But, just like a parent watching their child perform, I was gushing with admiration. Gay people were striving to be recognised and accepted here. And were having fun doing so!
The pageant took place at the Golden Palm Events Centre. The stage was bedecked in white voile with shimmering black and silver drapes and was bordered with mini plastic palm trees. At moments there were flashing lights (at other times barely enough illumination or else it was blinding); a smoke machine was used, evoking the atmosphere of a 1980s low-budget pop video; all that was needed to polish off the kitsch was a revolving disco ball hanging from the ceiling. But the lovely contestants compensated for that with much twirling, colour and pizazz.
The seven beauties vying for the title had chosen to represent the countries of Jamaica, Brazil, Egypt, France, Canada, U.S.A. and Saint Lucia. After an amateurish opening dance routine and a flamboyant solo song, we were treated to the swimsuit section. Each lady appeared in a short mackintosh coat (and shades) which was discarded to reveal the same monokini. So this part of the competition was down to body and style and, I tell you, there are plenty of female tourists and locals at the beach here who could learn a thing or two from our strutting peacocks about good body proportion and poise.
Next came the costume section with the femmes fatales doing their take on carnival attire. The skyscraper heels caused a few foot wobbles and Miss Canada, with her slim physique, revealed her ‘enhancements’ when her top kept slipping down but dignity and decorum otherwise reigned.
The talent segment revealed that the ladies may not all have been blessed in that field but it mattered little as the stories that they related, reflecting their struggles and the discrimination that they had endured, were powerful. For me, the most memorable moment of the night was when Miss Canada, experiencing further trouble with her outfit, threw off her wig and tossed aside her dress to reveal her glorious, natural self, thankfully still with underwear. Bravo my dear!
The seductive sirens clearly loved sashaying across the stage in their evening-wear. Whilst the gowns smacked of tawdriness, the contestants obviously felt as if they were as good as the competitors in the Miss World pageant. You were all bolder and sassier!
The question and answer session was the most solemn part of the night, all of the questions relating to rights of LGBT persons and how to overcome discrimination. However, this contrived segment was embarrassing for those contestants who could not remember the rehearsed answers which they were supposed to deliver in an off-the-cuff manner. Still, the audience was supportive, if somewhat loud and raucous.
I was impressed by the national pride exhibited by many audience members who rooted and cheered for the beautiful Miss Saint Lucia. It struck me as farcical that gays and lesbians were happily proclaiming their Lucian status in a country where the law and some people discriminate against them because of their sexual orientation.
Way after 1 a.m. the results were finally announced. The overall winner was the lovely Miss Egypt with Miss Saint Lucia as runner-up and Miss France in third place. But everyone was a winner in some form or fashion – each contestant for having the courage to appear, the organisers for turning the idea of the event into a reality, and the LGBT community for this huge step forward in raising awareness of its existence and the need for recognition and acceptance.
Proclaimed a jubilant Sharmacq Leon, the main organizer of the pageant: “I think that the event was very successful. I was very impressed that we had a straight crowd at the pageant that outnumbered the gay community; that means we are actually going places . . . And I think the message of human rights really went out tonight.”
Sharmacq Leon deserves congratulations for his team’s hard work in pulling off the feat of staging this competition (and for his alter ego’s stage performances on the night). I propose him as a STAR person of the year for being upfront in his efforts to conquer prejudice and for promoting rights denied to Saint Lucian citizens for no good reason in this day and age.