I was excited to visit Colorado last month. Over 30 local LBGT publishers from around the country convened in Denver for our annual conference. In addition to reuniting with these colleagues from across the country, I was excited to see Dylan Rush again. My final night in Denver I went to Charlie's Denver with fellow publisher Jerry Cunningham who was one of the judges for the Miss Gay Central States pageant at Charlie's. Now I had been to Charlie's Las Vegas many times before, but what a difference it makes walking into a non-smoking gay bar.
In all my years, I had never been to a drag queen pageant, so I was excited to see what all the fuss was about. During the introduction of the judges and promotor, emcee and reigning Miss Gay America Suzy Wong also introduced Champagne Bubbles from New York in the audience.
During one of the breaks I went over and introduced myself to Ms. Bubbles and a week later we had a chance to talk.
QLife: That was a chance encounter meeting at Charlie's. Were you there to support the pageant?
Champagne: I just went out there. because my friend was out that night. I wanted to go out and visit with my buddy and it happened to be the same weekend as Miss Gay Central States America. I walked in the door, we were looking at some jewelry. One of the former title holders asked my name, I said "Stephen" and she said, "Wait, you're Champagne Bubbles!" I thought "how does she know this!" and my girlfriend leans over and whispers "You're a celebrity! Everyone knows who you are!" Kind of? I don't know... I'm just me. I'm just a small little drag queen from New York City.
QLife: Doesn't that in and of itself make you a celebrity? You're competing in the pageants.
Champagne: A drag queen from New York City? There's like 8,000 of us here.
QLife: We're fortunate to be able to interview so many of the RuPaul queens before the season airs. It's fascinating to talk to them when their social media is so small, then watch it jump when the cast is announced and again when the season airs.
Champagne: It all gets thrown at you like BOOM! You get a ton of press and PR thrown in your face and if you don't know how to manage it you get thrown to the wolves. I've been getting a lot of friend requests from friends I don't already know. Now I'm hearing all this buzz about myself like "She's the wildcard!" I'm going through what all the other girls are going through, stressing out, wondering how I'm going to pay for all this. working two jobs and managing all of this at the same time. But people are excited I'm competing again.
Katya was judging one of the competitions and comes up to me after and says "Champagne, I'm so proud of you for not giving up. I was afraid you weren't going to compete again because I ripped into you."
I said to her, "Look do I look like a person that doesn't have a backbone? And do I look like I'm not going to be standing on my two feet after YOU rip into me?" Then I pulled out my phone and looked for the gown that she ripped into me for, and said "Look at me now! I took all of your edits into consideration"
She goes, "Gimme a high five! Attagirl! Now apply it toward nationals."
QLife: Tell me a little more about the MGA pageant system.
Champagne: Miss Gay America's has been around for 47 years. Their motto is "Boys are boys, and female impersonation is an art." In order to compete, you have to be a boy "from the chin down."—I like to say 'tits to toes'. You can't have any breast enhancements, hormones, body enhancements, plastic surgery that wouldn't be done on your face. They really capitalize on that female impersonation. They'll be crowning the 47th Miss Gay America this October.
QLife: If you win, what are your responsibilities?
Champagne: Your responsibilities are to represent the brand and the former winners, take what the platform is and work with the promoters and the owners on what they want to do with the system and how they want it to grow and be more successful. You go back out there and get more people involved to make it the best system out there. It's one of the only pageant systems that only allows men and based on female impersonation.
And while I still enjoy champagne–and booze in general–but if you have a crown on your head you can't be intoxicated.
QLife: When did you first start doing drag?
Champagne: About 4 1/2 years ago on a dare. I got dared by one of my good friends because she was having a "boob-voyage" party before her breast reduction and we were out sporting our ta-tas. One of my friends dared me to go as Jessica Rabbit. So I got the red dress and the auburn wig and purple gloves and just walked into the party.
I was involved in a pretty bad relationship and it was right after that when I started this journey. I discovered who I was. There was this creative energy and outlet that I wasn't channeling correctly. Once I became a drag queen and coming into that character, My really close friends said, "Now that we see you embracing this character, we're so happy. We always knew who you were, but now we see Stephen. because you are embracing this Champagne Bubbles character."
QLife: What are your upcoming shows?
Champagne: I'm a Lips girl. My permanent shift there is Sunday brunch. Miss Fire Island is September 9th The next benefit show I have coming up is on September 17th at Therapy on 52nd street at 5:30 right after my Lips shift. I have Tina Burner, The Countess Mascara, Jackie Cox, and Sutton Lee Seymour.
Miss Gay America Pageant will be held October 4th - 7th at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans.