BY JEFF SKINNER
(Photos courtesy of Jeff Skinner; featured image: Roller skating through Stonewall Columbus Pride 2018.)
This is the first Drag Talk of 2019, but I can’t say goodbye to 2018 just yet — not without recapping my year as Miss Southbend.
2018 wasn’t just another year for me; it was extremely special. Last January, I told myself that I would have the complete package to compete and slay! And that is what is exactly I did.
It was January 18th. I was in my drag mother’s house and I looked in the corner at where everything was packed and ready to go. I thought to myself, “You’ve prepared yourself, and now it’s up to you.” For the next 10 days, I mentally prepared myself to compete against other drag queens to be the next Miss Southbend. I focused on myself, making sure I knew my self-worth. Why did I focus on that? Because Coti Collins, a friend of mine, once said to me: “Don’t let anyone determine your self-worth.” All my life I have been one to second-guess myself, but that wasn’t going to happen at the Miss Southbend competition.
Then it was pageant day. I woke up refreshed; I ate a healthy breakfast (and by healthy, I mean cereal). I had to be at registration by 4:45 p.m. I did my makeup, got dressed and hit it to Southbend. I got there around 4 p.m. I went to the bar where I sat out my “Lynn For The Wynn” cards and I had a drink with the patrons.
That night, I competed in Presentation, Gown, On-stage Question and Talent. Presentation was themed “a night on the red carpet.” My gown was flawless; it was a rhinestoned gown with rhinestone fringe on the bottom. It shined so brightly that I think it blinded half the audience. For Gown, I wore a beautiful blue rhinestoned gown, with three different shades of blue rhinestones. For Talent, I did the song “Where’s The Bathroom” from the TV show My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It was a funny talent that was clean. One thing I learned that night is that you don’t have to be the best — you have to be consistent.
After competing, I put on a beautiful nude gown and I lined up for crowning. Of course, I was so nervous! I was competing with some of the best queens in female illusion, but I collected myself and got on stage. They started by announcing the winners of each category. Connie, the MC, said “Presentation winner, Jennifer Lynn! Gown winner, Bianca Bouvier. On-stage Question winner, a tie between Jennifer Lynn and Daray Lorez. Talent winner, Daray Lorez!”
In my head, I was low-key FREAKING OUT! I thought to myself, “Wow, this is a pageant!” It was too close to call from the categories, so I had no idea. Then they did placements! Bianca, second alternative. Daray, first alternative. And the winner: JENNIFER LYNN!!!! After winning, I had to get my plaque for winning Presentation replaced, because when Connie called my name as the winner my jaw and plaque hit the floor!
Over the next few months, I got to crown the Southbend Royal Court. Saying goodbye to the queens and kings that were there for my crowning. That was difficult, but I was excited to crown them and get our new 2018 Southbend Court. It all started with Mr. Southbend. We said goodbye to Isaac Ishmael, and hello to Adonis Vayne. For Miss Southbend Classic, it was our first competition so we said hello to Coco Kane. Miss Southbend Newcomer came next, where we greeted my little mini-me, Mimi Sharp. Then it was Mr. Southbend KING, and we said hello to Austin Lee.
Now that we had our Royal Court, it was time for the biggest weekend of the year! Columbus Pride in June, a.k.a. Pride Month! For me, it was a very busy weekend. I had just started my new job here at True Media and I was representing Miss Southbend, but it was so worth it! I asked my friend Que Jones if he could make me something big and poofy for Pride and that’s exactly what he did. It was a beautiful rainbow gown and I participated in the parade while on roller skates. How extra is that?! Connie told me, “Oh, Jennifer, you’re really going to hurt yourself.” I said, “Connie, it’s all about living on the edge!” Then of course, I started singing “Edge of Glory” by Lady Gaga. I had to be at the festival to perform immediately after the parade. I remember going to the tent and feeling a bit overwhelmed. It was super hot; my emotions were at an all-time high. I was happy and am proud of all the things that I got accomplished that day.
The truth is, Pride is a special time of year. For me, I was proud to be in the spot that I was in. It was the first time I was ever proud of myself and my accomplishments. Later that night, I was in a show at Axis with Virginia West and other friends for Dragapoloza. After Dragapoloza, I went to Southbend, where I hosted the Southbend Pride Night show.
After Pride, my job as Miss Southbend wasn’t over. I still had shows to host and something even more exciting for me was about to take place. The title-holder walks! This year was really the first year all state pageants in Ohio opened it up to all “title-holders.” It used to be just “state title-holders.” I remember asking all the pageant systems if it was okay, and they all said the same thing: “You have been a great title-holder, so of course you can do the walk!” That is a huge compliment to me. I would like to say that I worked hard, but honestly, I was just doing what I felt was right.
In November, my year began to slow down. I decided to do “No-Shave November” to spice things up and that worked! November was rough. If you read last month’s Drag Talk, you know what I mean. I remember being at Miss Ohio Gay Pride and doing my final title-holder walk. People were rude and saying distasteful comments, but my guard was up and my skin was thick. I raised my voice; that I am not proud of, but one thing I will not stand for is a bully.
I’m writing this in December, and I have one month of my reign left. I’ve still got a lot of events to get accomplished — my birthday, Christmas and ringing in the New Year! My reign is not over yet, but here are a few of my final thoughts as a reigning queen:
You can’t always impress everyone. You are the author of your own book. Don’t be afraid to go outside of the box and do things that are not the normal. Take a risk; sometimes it might just pay off. I know for me it has. When I won Miss Southbend, I didn’t have a plan or agenda. My favorite Motto is YOLO. You only live once. This year has proven to me that this is true. You only live once, so as the great Lady Gaga once said, don’t be a drag, just be a QUEEN.
Laughter & Love,
Jennifer Lynn Ali
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