Miss Gay USofA Jenna Skyy, aka SMU's Joe Hoselton, on the End of a Happy Reign
The outgoing Miss Gay USA Jenna Skyy.
Courtesy Miss Gay USofA Pageants
It's Friday night at Station 4 and Jenna Skyy is dressed and ready to perform. She is drinking an Angry Orchard and "tribbling" -- a term she uses to describe mingling.
A young man gropes her ass, but she is polite.
We sit down to watch the beginning of the drag show. The emcee is doing a bit where she asks two straight men to kiss for a $100 shot of tequila.
Skyy whispers to me, "The punch line is that there's no such thing as a $100 shot of tequila."
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About 15 minutes into the show, Skyy excuses herself to head backstage and get ready. She is third in the lineup and needs to change from her black dress and blond wig to a leotard and red wig.
By the time Skyy is on stage, the crowd is drunk and eager to pass out $1 bills to the reigning Miss Gay USofA. As she is dancing and lip-synching to Nicki Minaj's "Starships," it's easy to see why she is the national titleholder.
The day before, Skyy was Joe Hoselton, director of graduate admissions at SMU's Meadows School of the Arts. He sits in his office surrounded by pictures from his pageants. On the back wall are several framed degrees, and below is a professional headshot of Skyy.
He has shoulder-length blond hair and his office is neat. He recalls telling his mother about his plans to do drag.
"It was hard enough on my mom when I told her I was gay," he says. "I remember the first thing I said was, 'Just because I'm gay doesn't mean I want to be a woman.' And it's funny because even at the time I didn't understand what I meant."
But for Hoselton it's not a gender issue. He views it as a chance to perform -- something he's been doing since high school.
He says his views on drag began to change when he met one couple. After knowing the two men for a few weeks, they showed Hoselton their spare room, "the dungeon," as it was calle. A little apprehensive, Hoselton walked into the room to find feathers, wigs and heels. The two men were involved in drag.
"[One of the guys] was atypical of what I assumed would be a drag queen," Hoselton says. "And it made me think. Not so much about doing it, but I realized I had a severe misconception about what a drag queen was or what they are."
In January 2005, after a night of playing with makeup, Hoselton decided to go out in drag. He remembers people asking for pictures, but laughs now thinking that just because they wanted pictures, doesn't mean he looked good.
But a few months later, he competed in his first pageant and won.
And in May 2014, he was crowned Miss Gay USofA, one of the highest titles in drag pageants. It's something Hoselton has dreamed about since he began doing drag.
"It wasn't disbelief. It was more..." he pauses. "I'm trying to find the right word for it. From the very beginning when I would compete, I would picture what it would be like to win. So I've always sort of daydreamed about that moment when they call your name out."
He had goals for that pageant, as well. He wants to earn a perfect score in talent; he wanted to win in the evening gown portion; and he wanted one person to shout Skyy's name before the winner was announced. All of those things happened.
"It was like watching my fantasy, my daydream, unfold right in front of me, so it was surreal and awesome," he says. "And I can't even say unimaginable because I imagined it. And it was just sort of surprising to stand there, thinking, 'This just happened.'"
"It's like, I don't know. If I could give birth to a child and picture what that child was going to look like and they placed the child in my arms. It felt like that. It was just an amazing experience."
In a few weeks, however, Skyy will hand over that title to another drag queen.
"I really don't want to give it up," he says. "There's just something amazing about being a titleholder. You feel totally in the moment. You feel totally relevant. You're in the moment. It's no longer a memory, but it's something that's happening, so I'm not really ready to not be in this moment, but I was very ready for all the travel to stop and that ended about two weeks ago."
It's been a year of traveling and working for Hoselton, both as Miss Gay USofA and as director of graduate admissions. While some pageant-related trips led him near an ocean, he was oftentimes working remotely on a laptop for SMU.
That can be just one of the downsides of being Miss Gay USofA. Dressed in full drag, Skyy tells me about the mean Instagram comments she receives, the memes made using her face, and the guys referred to as "starfuckers" -- people who are only interested in dating Hoselton for Skyy. She and other drag queens also received hate from GLAAD for starring in the movie Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives.
But it seems that it's a small price for Skyy. While the other drag queens are backstage perfecting their makeup, Skyy is embracing every moment in the spotlight before she hands over the title of Miss Gay USofA in a few weeks.
"Interesting enough, I'm walking for my master's degree [in music education] the week before my step-down starts, so it's sort of this culmination of all my great achievements. It was a great year for me," Hoselton says, laughing.
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