U.S./World: Miss Gay America pageant system has launched foundation

Beyond the Carolinas

NEW YORK, N.Y. — The Miss Gay America pageant co-owners Michael Dutzerand and Rob Mansman have announced the launch of the Miss Gay America Excellence Foundation.

“We are forming the MGA Excellence Foundation to mentor LGBTQ youth and work with youth centers to provide supportive, self-affirming, highly positive experiences,” Mansman said. “Most of the people in the Miss Gay America organization can relate to growing up being bullied or being different. We’ve all faced rejection and struggled to find ourselves,” Dutzer added. “As we tour the country for nearly two dozen preliminary state and regional pageants throughout the year, we want to reach out and offer support to youth centers in areas we visit in any way we can — from donations to fundraising to motivational personal appearances by our titleholders,” Mansman explained. “Eventually we would like to raise enough money to issue grants to youth organizations and provide scholarships,” he said.

From its inception, Miss Gay America has always been far more than a competition, the organization shared. “It is a family. Those participating are embraced by a strong sense of fellowship, support, and mentoring, often forming lifetime friendships, which for some, go back decades.”

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“For me, I was homeless, I had absolutely nothing and I didn’t have much family,” said Justin Natvig (a.k.a. Miss Gay North Carolina 2015 Vivian Vaughn). “I was craving structure, and I found that in the Miss Gay America system. They practically raised me. I never imagined that I’d be here looking at my life thinking whoa, you’ve changed yourself from a homeless teenager into a University of North Carolina grad, Miss Gay North Carolina America 2015, and now am making a difference and helping people. For that, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to this system.”

Natvig not only works for an organization that ships humanitarian relief cargo around the world as his day job, but is chair of North Carolina’s Crape Myrtle Festival.

For over 45 years, giving back has been a key tenet of the Miss Gay America pageant — even in early days, when gay money was considered tainted. Jerry Peek, who founded the Miss Gay America pageant in 1973, says that as much as he wanted to give, it was a different era. His initial–and subsequently only–attempt to give to the March of Dimes was rebuffed.

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Miss Gay America 2017 Suzy Wong will be directing the promotional efforts of the Excellence Foundation. She has worked with many LGBTQ organizations and allies, including #expresslove, Palm Springs Pride, the HRC, Save the Children, The Victory Fund and Time Out Youth.”

Last summer, Dutzer and Mansman contributed $5,000 to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation — and made her the first ever honorary Miss Gay America.

“Throughout LGBTQ history, drag queens have been at the heart of proactive LGBTQ culture, from politics to charity. One would be hard-pressed to find a fundraising event without a drag queen leading the charge. From beating volunteers out of the bushes to headlining major charity events, drag queens are the undeniable heroes of LGBTQ society,” the foundation said.

info: mgaexcellencefoundation.org.

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Posted by Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen is QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director. She can be reached at specialassignments@goqnotes.com and 704-531-9988, x205.