Miss Originality Pageant Raises Funds for Local Charities
One of Atlanta's most anticipated female illusionist pageants, the Miss Originality 2012, did more than crown a new queen on Friday night, Nov. 9 at the Jungle Night Club. It also showcased and raised money for two local charities: LGBT Youth Organization Lost-N-Found, and Pets Are Loving Support.
"Other pageants should pattern themselves after this one," said winner Trinity Bonet of the pageant's mission to give proceeds to local LGBT charities. "This is what is needed in our community."
Eight contestants competed in four categories to take home the crown. From answering questions, walking the runway, showcasing their talent and performing the ultimate lip sync, the competition was stiff as the contestants displayed their unique styles. But after hours of competition and entertainment throughout the evening, the moment everyone had been waiting for finally arrived -- naming the winner.
A surprised Bonet of Atlanta took home this year's title of Miss Originality. When her name was called, she not only looked surprised but also gingerly collapsed to the floor with her fellow sisters coming to support her up to be fitted with the crown and sash. Miss Originality 2011, Myah Monroe crowned Bonet.
Monroe wowed the crowd throughout the evening with her well-known, high-powered performances and dancing. According to Monroe, the Miss Originality Pageant opened several doors for her professionally.
"Do your best to respect the title of Miss Originality," was Monroe's advice to Bonet. "If she cannot do the job, take it back from her, and I'll do it yet again."
Bonet, who performs at the Jungle Night Club on Monday nights with the Stars of the Century cast, said she decided to compete because she wanted to cross into a different arena and reach different audiences. She is originally from Miami, but has been living in Atlanta for the past seven years.
The first runner up for the evening was Phoenix of "Ru Paul’s Drag Race Season 3" and the second runner up was Necole Love Dupree. The winner received $1,000 cash, $500 went to the first runner-up and third place won $300. Bubba Dee and Chip Kelly of David Magazine hosted the event, which last year, raised $2,700 for charity. Proceeds from this year’s pageant were not yet available at press time.
Although she didn’t place, Kryean Kally of Atlanta said she enjoyed participating in the pageant. It was Kally’s first pageant, and she said it was a great chance to gain some experience. Her performances often highlight women’s rights issues. She began performing androgynous and for the past three months has performed as a drag queen.
Like Bonet, Kally, who is originally from Calhoun, GA, said she was drawn to Miss Originality because of their reputation for giving back to the community.
Sharon Needles, this year’s "America’s Next Drag Superstar," was the guest judge and entertainer. Needles was the perfect fit for this year’s pageant theme, "Apocalypse," as she is drawn to the unique, and her work is often controversial.
Joining her at the judges desk were Evelyn Mims, associate producer of Atlanta & Company (11 Alive News); Rick Westbrook, founder of Lost-N-Found and Rapture Divine Cox of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence; Kevin Bryant, executive director of PALS; and Brian Sharp, Atlanta Police Department LGBT Liaison officer.
Mark Jackson and his husband Tom Schloeder of Brushstrokes developed the Miss Originality Pageant about 20 years ago, but took a break before bringing it back last year.
"We wanted to find a way to both raise money for charities and to promote the amazing diverse community of female illusionist we have here in the South," said Jackson. "By hosting a pageant with charities as the benefactors, we hopefully help raise the public awareness of charities we strongly believe in and the public sees a great show as well."
In the past, the proceeds of the pageant went to Atlanta Pride. But after joining with David and Gayborhood to stage this annual event, Jackson said they mutually decided to give the proceeds to charities that help those in the community on a more direct personal basis.
Proceeds to Benefit Homeless Youth Organization Lost-N-Found
Proceeds from the Miss Originality Pageant will benefit local charities including Lost-N-Found, Inc., the only organization that takes in North Georgia’s LGBT homeless youth. The organization is operated entirely by volunteers and funding comes directly from the community.
"We’re the new kids on the block, and we’ve only been around for a year. We found out that the homeless queer youth are not being taken care of. We have a lot of work to do," said Founder Rick Westbrook at the pageant.
On Nov. 5, in order to raise awareness about homeless youth, Westbrook climbed atop a U-Haul truck parked in front of the Brushstrokes Sensory Overload store located on Piedmont Avenue, and stayed there for 48 hours.
Westbrook battled the cold chilly nights and rain, taking the opportunity to record video messages that were posted on the organization’s Facebook page. Westbrook’s heart was warmed when various people stopped by to talk to him, and left donations.
His vigil ended a day before the Miss Originality Pageant, where a portion of the proceeds would be given to Lost-N-Found. According to Westbrook, they have helped over 100 youth, aged 18-25 with a 60 percent success rate of getting them back with their families or set up in an apartment.
"We’re doing what we can do, and we’re doing it now," Westbrook said of the need.
Lost-N-Found operates a 24/7 homeless LGBT youth hotline; meets face to face and on the street to ensure that the youth have roofs over their heads, clothes and food; operates a six-bedroom house in Atlanta; evaluates the youth by a mental health professional; tests the youth for HIV, STDS and connecst them with other agencies if they need additional medical attention; helps them obtain lost or stolen birth certificates, driver’s licenses or state ID cards; and offers to set them up with GED training/testing.
But the group wants to do so much more. A town hall meeting was held on Nov. 7 at the Philip Rush Center to give an update on Lost-N-Found. During the meeting, Westbrook and the group’s board members spoke of some of the youth they have helped and those who have slipped through the cracks. Lost-N-Found serves a large portion of the transgender community.
Although they had a humble beginning, Westbrook said they have received a great response from the community. Currently, all six beds in the house are full, as they have been since the house opened.
Lost-N-Found is looking ahead for next year and to the future, and would like to open an active drop-in center somewhere in the Midtown or old Fourth Ward area. There are also plans to focus on an active outreach program; conduct Latino outreach; foster an exit program; and pursue grant money.
"We do it more economically than anyone else," he added. "We’re not in it for the money; we do it because we have to."
You can help by donating goods and service, from gift cards to local stores, to furniture, house wares and linens, food, office supplies and cash. If you are a doctor, mental health professional, a handyman or willing to help kids move, your services are also in need.
PALS, the other local charity benefiting from the event, is also in search of donations of pet food (Pedigree for dogs and Whiskas for cats) and is looking for office volunteers as well as a food delivery driver.