"Here he comes, Miss America." Huh?
Unlike most Miss Universe-type beauty contests hosted by Miami Beach's Fontainebleau Hilton Resort and Spa, the "Misses" at next Monday night's Miss Florida National pageant, at the hotel's Club Tropigala, can't really be addressed as "Miss," or even "Ms."
"Our aim is to elevate female impersonation to the status it deserves, as an art form," explains pageant co-director Gerardo Loret De Mola. The six-year-old event is not about the in-your-face genderbending familiar to fans of cutting-edge Euro-American drag of the past dozen years, with "ladies" in full evening gown and full beard, for instance. Instead, according to both De Mola and 1997's grand-prize winner Daisy DeadPetals (Ken Calabria), it's about "illusion, the illusion of being a real woman."
Meaning, first off, no bathing suit category. "Many contestants haven't had surgery," De Mola explains. "We do want to be fair." Scoring is thus limited to creative presentation, talent, stage interview, and evening gown. This last category conjures up the illusion that real women, given a few spare bucks, would blow them on a Dolce & Gabbana dress. "I spent maybe $5000 on last year's contest," DeadPetals admits cheerfully. As Miss FN, he received $2000. Noncash prizes, valued at roughly $13,000, range from the festive (a cruise to Costa Rica) to the practical (makeup, hair styling, and Ultra Shave).
The most important category in the contest is talent, which, unlike in female beauty pageants, does not involve baton-twirling but rather audience appeal, skill, and risk factor. No kidding. While filming his talent category entry, a parody of Madonna's Truth or Dare movie, the intrepid DeadPetals explains, "I was attacked in a cemetery by a dog!"
That risk is not anticipated at this year's event, but major excitement is not precluded. In addition to a playful production of Cinderella titled Daisyrella, starring DeadPetals and featuring Joan Crawford (more or less) as the wicked stepmother, the pageant "will possibly have a pig," reveals De Mola. A live one. Okay, so maybe that's not as formidable as the two live camels at Radio City Music Hall's annual Christmas pageant (they require their own union clean-up squad), but it's bound to keep audience members on the edge of their seats, especially those in the front rows.
"One of the contestants, you see, bears an uncanny resemblance to Eva Gabor, so she has decided to go with a Green Acres theme. I shouldn't say anything more," De Mola demurs, "or I'll spoil the surprise."
The Miss Florida National pageant takes place at 8:30 p.m. Monday, November 16, at Club Tropigala in the Fontainebleau Hilton Resort and Spa, 4441 Collins Ave, Miami Beach. Tickets range from $30 to $150. Call 305-535-1400.