Miss Gay Illinois State 2017 takes place at Chester Street Bar Sunday


Taylor Wegner

Contestants on stage at the Miss Gay Illinois State Pageant 2017. The pageant took place Sunday at Chester Street bar in Champaign.

By Taylor Wegner, Staff writer

Contestants flock from numerous areas of Illinois, including Kankakee, Danville, Springfield and Chicago, to attend an annual pageant in central Illinois: Miss Gay Illinois State.

For the past three years, the Miss Gay Illinois State pageant has been held at Chester Street Bar in Champaign. The 2017 pageant winner was announced after a series of performances Sunday.

Marcus Wilder, whose stage name is Ceduxion Carrington, is currently the show director for drag shows at Chester Street Bar. Wilder said there are numerous logistics that must be in order for the pageant to run smoothly.

Danny Calexus, Wilder’s “drag daughter” and current pageant owner, began curating this event in the Champaign-Urbana area about three years ago, after noticing that drag performers did not have an appropriate platform to practice their craft.

Prior to her involvement, other members of the drag community ran similar pageant competitions at Chester Street, such as the Miss Chester Street pageant.

Calexus, also known on stage as Calexus Carrington, had a long history of performing in pageants before taking the position as the pageant’s owner. She explained her reasons for continuing to facilitate this vital experience within the Champaign-Urbana community.

“I started this because there wasn’t a pageant scene in the area,” Calexus said. “I wanted to provide performers with the opportunity to participate in pageants because I understood what it did for me.”

Wilder elaborated on how Miss Gay Illinois State is a state-level pageant, though most pageants have entry levels. Wilder said it doesn’t take them to a national title, but it has a prize package where contestants can win a crown, jewelry and show bookings.

These bookings occur several times per year at a set fee in which contestants are able to entertain, Wilder explained.

Later in the year, Miss Gay Illinois State is followed by the Mister Gay Illinois State pageant, which Wilder described as the same thing, only for male performers and male impersonators.

Two male performers took part in this year’s pageant. Their stage names are Kato Barr Mann and Bo Daschuss. Each performed several dance and lip sync routines.

Mia Schott, whose stage name is Mimi Vancartier, was last year’s pageant winner. She discussed how she choose her makeup, accessories and attire for last year’s pageant.

“There’s a set look for pageantry. It’s gotta be big,” Schott said. 

With regard to the judging criteria and personal style choices, Wilder elaborated on how each system is different.

“For the most part, I believe it’s a blend of (the) Miss Gay USA pageantry system and (the) Miss Gay Continental pageantry system,” Wilder said, “where you’re judged on an evening gown and that requires your fit, your hair, your jewelry, your accessories (and) how well you model.”

The voluminous hair, sparkling gowns and dramatic makeup worn by each contestant were all testaments to Mia Schott’s assertion.

This year’s contestants included Ceduxion Carrington, Gigi (Giselle) Mayona, and Dymond Champagne Calloway, who performed in that order.

The contestants completed a series of three demonstrations. First was a lip sync and dance routine.

These routines were followed by an evening gown display and Q&A. Wilder explained that the questions are meant to judge how eloquently contestants speak and how well they can answer the questions.

This year, contestants were asked to explain what the proudest moments in their lives were and how this had shaped the person they are today.

Wilder, in a vibrant lilac, sequined gown designed by a Chicago fashion designer, said her proudest moment was finally being able to fully accept herself as she was. 

She explained the importance of self-confidence and said that the pageant is a great way to get your name out there. 

Last was the talent demonstration portion of the pageant, which had the largest point system.

“Talent can be almost anything you want, within guidelines, from lip syncing, to singing live, to whatever your talent is,” Wilder said. “Usually you have a seven-minute time limit to complete that.”

Accompanied by two back-up dancers, Wilder performed a compelling dance routine. The routine, which started out with a robotic theme, transitioned into voguing, another style of dance.

After the three performances and demonstrations, the judges voted for the winner of the pageant.

When the votes were all added up, Dymond C. Calloway was announced as Miss Gay Illinois State 2017.

Wilder was the runner-up for the night.

“If no one else is going to love you, you have to make sure to love yourself,” Wilder said.

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