Holding the event in a casino is just one indication of how the Miss’d America Pageant has grown over the past 20 years from a spoof into a mature and more widely accepted event.
“It really has matured and become more professional because now that’s what the audience wants,” said Gary Hill, co-founder of the pageant, which will take place at the House of Blues in Showboat Casino on Sept. 21, the Saturday following the Miss America Competition.
“It started out as a spoof of the Miss America pageant, and was held the night afterwards,” Hill said in a phone interview. “The original concept was fashioned after Miss America and attracted those involved with it, such as hair designers, judges, costume designers.”
The event attracts a mixed audience and has done so for several years, Hill said. But the focus is to showcase this event as one that is friendly to the gay, lesbian ,bisexual and transgender communities.
“As New Jersey and the nation, hopefully, reach more equitability for marriage ... it becomes easier for corporations to support events like the pageant, “ Hill said. “With (the Defense of Marriage Act) DOMA being repealed nationally it’s really an interesting time.”
In addition to the actual pageant, there is going to be a web series on YouTube’s Gwist channel following some former pageant winners and current contestants, Hill said. This kind of exposure and media is a change from the pageant’s beginnings.
From the spoof event in the 1990s, it has become a big charity event, raising more than $200,000, and increasing its fan base to various surrounding states, Hill said.
The winner of the Miss’d America Pageant, a female impersonator, wins a monetary prize that serves as a stipend for representing the pageant at trade shows, charity events and pride parades, Hill said.
High production costs and increase in the number of contestants has caused financial concerns for the volunteer event, Hill said. It used to be very local, but there is now more responsibility, and the cash prizes need to be substantial.
Miss’d America has become the signature event for the LGBT for the past three years and is becoming a signature event for Atlantic City, said Joel Ballesteros, president of the GLBT Alliance and director of LGBT marketing for Resorts Casino. “We were really honored when the Atlantic City Alliance put a clip of Miss’d America in their ad campaigns.”
Overall the idea is to create a more welcoming and comfortable atmosphere for the community, an endeavor which has already been taken on by the Caesar’s Entertainment group, Hill said. They have already shown that in Las Vegas and are picking up the lead in Atlantic City.
Tickets for the pageant can be found on Ticketmaster.com. Contestants will be judged in swimsuit, talent, evening gown and the judges' interviews.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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