I would like to include a special dedication to the life and legacy of Daniel Flier known as Vanessa Vincent, MGMA 1982. The huge loss at Daniel's passing will be felt for a very long time as his affect was significant to so many, including me. Personally, I never fully knew what sort of future I had until Daniel encouraged me to let it unfold with grit, wit, and a sense of self. With a clarity like none other, Daniel spoke, moved, and dedicated his life to seeing people for who they are. He celebrated his circle of people and made many feel understood and seen. As for me and our MGMA family, it is to love like Daniel's that we will commit ourselves. May he rest. -- Tajma
It's PRIDE month and it thrills me to see non-queer people everywhere take notice of our VISIBILITY--the main reason for this special time. We walk in parades, we hold festivals small, large, and humongous, we display the most noticeable colors, and we make noise about it. Those of us that have seen PRIDE month come and go for many years, still get a thrill at its return and even the most cynical know the need we have for VISIBILITY.
One thing I'm going to challenge you to do, as I have for myself, is forget about things that stand in your way of truly enjoying your PRIDE festival. Forget about the summer heat, forget about what others are doing, forget about getting turnt right away, and enjoy a moment of PRIDE for yourself. Enjoy the knowledge that this is intended to be a judgment-free celebration. Concentrate on what it must feel like to experience real joy (perhaps just as it was at your first PRIDE) and see to it that your gratitude is focused on the meaning of the moment. Finally, make yourself visible--with your outfits, your songs, your speech, and encourage others to feel the moment. In fact, insist on others knowing that this is FOR US!
Think of this--it would be a different type of month and feeling if we were able to maintain lives as average citizens with freedoms to live as we like, marry as we like, procreate and parent as we like, and love as we like; but most of our world sees us "alternative," "hedonistic," and "wrong." This notion, however, makes me appreciate and relish how SPECIAL I am. To have people set aside my life because I'm gay is cruel, but conversely, it means I can have things all my own--my style, my language, my hangouts, my chosen family, etc.
This sectioning shows me that exclusivity is not always a bad thing. Personally, it is something that helps me recognize the PRIDE that I possess as a queer individual. It helps me identify and magnify elements of myself that are unique to me and only me. However, for some, it magnifies their loneliness--it feels like separation and although that feeling is valid, it is our job to help those that feel alienated to recognize that they can be seen. And that is why PRIDE month/year/lifetime must exist. To provide hope, perspective, and validate those that feel unloved. PRIDE shows that strength in community is necessary, needed, and wanted.
I hope you'll celebrate your unique Pride this month and when you look back on PRIDE 2022, I hope you'll remember what you did to make it VISIBLE. You'll feel good and you'll encourage your family, chosen and otherwise, to see you for you. And as a wonderful byproduct, you'll help someone realize that they, like you, can have comfort in their queerness.
I'm thrilled to get to celebrate at five (and counting) PRIDE festivals and shows this year:
I hope you'll find me at each of these events so we can have a laugh, snap a selfie, and CELEBRATE PRIDE TOGETHER!
Hello, MGMA Family!
There is no MGMA story that is greater than another. Those of us that have had the humble privilege to win, can tell enough stories to fill a city library! Further, those of us that have not won, have even more stories than that! All the stories, however, have one thing in common--GUTS. All are stories about the GUTS it takes for mounting the great task of putting oneself forward for a life-changing opportunity to serve the LGBTQIA+ community in our state and to be put in a coveted spotlight.
That spotlight, some have found, is not for them. It does not mean those individuals lack what it takes to serve, not at all. It means they have found better ways to exercise their passions--their GUTS--in different spotlights suited for their lives. I used to think I was one of those passionate individuals that would not have my turn as MGMA after just missing the crown, but that changed for me.
It changed when I realized I had not learned all there is to know about my chance at MGMA. In 2009, I competed at MGMA my first time, after much inspiration from Bianca Bliss, Sparkle Iman, and Kyla Breeze. That year, to great shock, I placed first alternate and the cornerstone of my pageant career was planted when I got my ticket to Miss Gay America. My second year competing, I was focused on the MGMA title with fierce fire since placing in the top 10 at MGA. My fire was noticeable, of course, and others that wanted the title fought with everything they had--their talents, their intellects, and, yes, their checkbooks. Most fought fairly, others unfairly. And because of this, the 2010 season would change every aspect of MGMA except for the GUTS it took me to enter a third and final attempt at the crown.
With a new governing board, deteriorating secrets in the past, and a chance at a fair fight, GUTS were what brought our entire MGMA community together again for the 2011 pageant. GUTS were what brought Madison Elise into the competition, and she won! We jokingly called it 'The Battle of the First Alternates' since she and I both held two consecutive first alternate placements and, side note, happen to be competing form the same prelim (Miss Metro). It was a glorious win, not only for Madison, but for MGMA as an institution. Our passionate queen led us into a new era and, personally, she and I had a real blast at MGA and on the road that year. For me, it was another humbling first alternate placement. It was humbling because I was fortunate enough to represent my state at MGA again but also because I had met the end of my MGMA journey.
In 2013, I won my first state title, Missouri Entertainer of the Year and placed in the top four at National EOY. Then in 2019, I had the privilege to win Miss Gay United States and serve as the 15th anniversary national title holder. That time of my life would change it all for me. I understood what it was like to win a national title, I learned so much from the multi-faceted GUS family I gained (I'm still learning from them, by the way), I stepped into a new way to hold my head up, and I had a year-and-a-half reign that was one of the most transformative times of my life.
What I learned from this part of my pageant history is that once you're on the reigning side of a big title, you understand why pageantry exists. It exists to cultivate family and sense of belonging. It exists because those of us that love it, love the GUTS it takes to step out to seek an opportunity and we find that a bigger picture is in the frame. The bigger picture is togetherness and the strength we find in ourselves to get together and be together. A title holder realizes this and takes the very special individuals that make up our communities with them on their reign.
I hope to do this too. I hope that this reign will perpetuate the GUTS it takes to bring people together and know the sense of togetherness. Please be with me this year. Whether you feel the possibility of returning to compete for MGMA, compete for the first time, or become a promoter, please be a part of this family—it is worth it! I will do my best to make it worthwhile for you, for me, and the countless people that love the decades-long MGMA institution.
With gratitude, glamour, and GUTS,