The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Cat Foster

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.

Miss Egypt is crowned Miss Gay Uni­verse; run­ner-up Miss Saint Lucia (cen­tre)

and third-placed Miss France (right) share the joy.

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