M-SPIFF ’08 – ‘Pageant’

While the promoters of Miss Teen USA used the gaffs of their contestants – slips, falls and unfortunate answers to questions about maps – there is still a pageant that’s all about style, grace and flair, at least according to its promoters: Miss Gay America.

‘Pageant’

A&E Rating: 5/5 stars
Directors: Ron Davis and Stewart Halpern
Screenings: April 26, 9:30 p.m., April 30, 9:00 p.m., St. Anthony Theater, 115 Main St. NE, Minneapolis, www.mspfilmfest.org

The trials and tribulations of the female impersonator pageant, impersonator because no female hormones or surgical enhancement is allowed, is captured in the heart-warming documentary “Pageant.”

As one of the promoters said, does the person have to be gay? No, (long pause), but it helps.

In the film, we meet five female impersonators, from as young as 25 to as old as 41. Two are professional female impersonators, doing shows or traveling the road to perform, but they all have the same dream: to be Miss Gay America.

Carl Glorioso, 25 at the time of shooting, becomes Victoria DePaula. Victoria is his favorite woman’s name and DePaula is a tribute to Paula Abdul. He owns a landscaping business with his mother, and is also a cosmetologist. His mother and little brother are supportive of him, though his brother is a little embarrassed by the title, specifically the “gay part.”

Victor Parker becomes Victoria Parker, nicknamed Pork Chop for five nights a week when performing in a Nashville nightclub. With various pig memorabilia through his house, Parker said Miss Piggy is his idol – mainly because she’s had a steady man for more than 30 years. Parker, similar to his idol, is not your typical size 2 beauty queen, wearing a size 20 and attempting to open the competition to more voluptuous competitors. His quote on the “Pageant” Web site reads, “Watch out America, bigger is better.”

Robert Martin is a 35-year-old wellness coordinator at Walt Disney World, and accompanying him to the pageant is his best friend and dancing partner, Jake Fisher. Their story is probably the most touching in the documentary, and as Jake said himself, it’s cruel fate that Jake is straight or that Rob is a man. If either were reversed, the pair would be partners.

David Lowman is the oldest of the drag queens at 42, but he’s been a professional female impersonator for 20 years. His alter-ego is Coti Collins, but he can do a dead-on Reba McEntire. He even toured with the country star in the ’90s.

Last, but not least, is Anthony Brewer, the flight attendant from California. His husband and 12-year-old son cheer him on from the audience as he performs as Alina Malletti.

Their stories are told, beginning at their homes as they prepare for the pageant. The stereotypes about drag queens are true, at least when it comes to style. The more sequins, color, makeup and costume jewelry the better. These men arrive with trailers of stuff to participate in this competition – wigs, dresses, shoes and even large props for their talent segment, which is known more as being a production with elaborate sets, costumes and background dancers.

The big question is: Do any of them have the talent, the grace and the beauty to be Miss Gay America?

The strength is in the interviews, revealing much more about these people than you’d ever see on stage. The movie comes with the realization that these people are so confident in themselves and being who they are that they are more well-adjusted than the rest of us, simply because they’ve been forced to defend their sexual orientation and their choice to be a female impersonator to a wider world. In fact, that’s the advice you keep hearing, from man after man: Stay true to yourself and the rest will follow.