Murray Hill’s Miss Lez Pageant Rocks Williamsburg
New York City’s genderqueer and lesbian community is gearing up for "Murray Hill’s Annual Miss LEZ Pageant 2013" at Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory on Aug. 18. For the past 12 years, the pageant has upturned the concept of "beauty," as representatives of the lesbian nightlife scene vie to outdo their competitors.
"Each year, I make it a point not to know anything about what the contestants are going to do...this way, I’m just as surprised as the audience," said host Murray Hill, the self proclaimed "hardest working middle-aged man in showbiz."
This year’s lineup of contestants includes Miss Hot Rabbit (Angelica Rodriguez), Miss Rebel Cupcake (Fan Cy Feast), Miss Hey Queen (Bryn Kelly), Miss Spincycle (Molly Dykeman), Miss Prime (C. Atkinson), and Miss Wildcard (Dio Ganhdih). Recent years’ events have seen a growing diversity in contestants, including, as host Murray Hill describes them, "queercore, boi, shim, intersex, gender variance, womyn, trans, and F to F trannies."
Among the contestants is performance artist Andrea Alton, better known for her deranged, Cheetos-scarfing, skirt-chasing crossing guard persona Molly "Equality" Dykeman. She noted that she hoped Cheetos would finally sponsor her, saying, "I’m looking forward to seeing a bunch of beautiful ladies onstage and off. And I’m also looking forward to seeing titties. Last pageant, I saw a lot of titties. And I’m pretty much guaranteed to get laid whether I win or lose."
Dykeman hoped to combine the swimsuit and talent competitions, but felt Stonewalled by the contest’s production limitations, noting that, "I’ve been taking aqua Zumba at the Y. But Murray was unwilling to put a pool onstage, so I can’t do my naked water dance."
Much like a typical beauty pageant, the Miss LEZ Pageant has contestants competing in the categories of platform, swimsuit, evening gown, interview and talent. Judges include Michael Musto, JD Samson, Glenn Marla, Jincey Limpkin, Merrie Cherry and Yetta Kurland.
"This year, we have a new judge, Merrie Cherry, who is leading the way in the alt-drag-queer scene in Brooklyn, along with Michael Musto who has been a judge every year," said Hill, who noted that bribing the judges is acceptable and expected behavior.
Come what may, on the day of the event, the competition will be as stiff as the cocktails at this notoriously raucous party venue. Judges were not deterred by the prospect of desperate, talented lesbians vying for the crown.
"I don’t know how I’m going to choose between JD Samson, Glenn Marla, Yetta Kurland, and Jincey Lumpkin. No, wait, those are just the judges!" said Musto. "This thing is going to be off the hook, as the kids say. It keeps topping itself every year -- sort of like a horny twink, but with lotsa lesbians."
Make no bones about it, nothing is typical about these contestants, their talents or their performances. In 2010, Miss Rebel Cupcake Drae Campbell won, running on a political platform of "Do Ask, Do Tell."
And that year’s Miss Congeniality winner, Afro Titty, said, "When I came out at 13, my NYC public school guidance counselor gave me a copy of the Village Voice," she said. "In it I read about Miss LEZ 2002 (then Miss LES). I never thought that 10 years later, I would be competing for the title."
From its humble beginnings as the Miss LES (Lower East Side) Pageant in the basement of Fez’s Time Café, where the rumble of passing subway cars often drowned out contestants’ answers, the Miss LEZ Pageant has become something of a nightlife legend. At the least, host Hill no longer has to introduce himself from the wings.
Special guests at this year’s event include performances by lesbian rap duo Zebra Baby, and drag king Goldie Peacock. Music comes courtesy of DJ Lauren Flax, and last year’s winner, Miss Sophie Urista, will give her final performance before handing over the crown.
"I haven’t been this excited for Miss LEZ since I competed as Miss Choice Cunts in 2010 and lost to Drae Campbell, who manifested the lifting of DADT in her platform in a creative, funny and skillful way... no biggie. The energy of this show, which sells out every year, is incomparable," said Peacock.
In addition to bragging rights, prizes include $100 in cash, a sash, a dollar store tiara, and a Hitachi Magic Wand, "The Cadillac of Vibrators," donated by Toys in Babeland. The Miss Congeniality prize will also go to the contestant who was nice, but didn’t quite make the grade. But at this pageant, everyone, from contestants to audience members, is a winner.
"The Miss LEZ pageant really celebrates the incredible diversity within the queer scene," said Hill. "It’s one giant lez party that everyone is invited to. The audience is guaranteed to laugh, be in shock, get turned on and even shed a tear!"
The 12th Annual Miss LEZ Pageant will be held at 7:30 p.m. on August 18 at the Knitting Factory, 361 Metropolitan Ave. in Williamsburg. $12-15. For more information, call 347-529-6696 or visit bk.knittingfactory.com.