Beauty pageants and the LGBT community have had their ups and downs. I’m sure there have been some openly supportive contestants, but none as vocal as this year’s Miss New York, Claire Buffie — the first Miss America pageant contestant to run on a “pro-gay rights platform.”
We’ve had some real gems, in the form of 2009 Californian Carrie Prejean, that year’s Miss USA winner, who announced that she supported “opposite marriage” — whatever that means — in addition to last year’s villainous Miss Beverly Hills, whose declarations that god would bring death to homosexuals lost her the official sponsorship of the City of Beverly Hills, but won her new BFFs in the form of National Organization for Marriage and Fox News. Clearly, these things are controversial, but finally, there’s a contestant that I can be excited about.
Meet Jenelle Hutcherson, an out hair stylist and LGBTQ youth mentor, in the running for this year’s Miss Long Beach pageant. The 25-year-old is not only challenging the inherent heteronormativity of beauty pageants, but is planning to wear a tux for the evening attire portion.
A part-time volunteer and mentor for the Mentoring Youth Through Empowerment (MYTE) Program at the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, Hutcherson’s entry in the pageant is about bringing visibility and a “realness factor” to the pageant to accurately represent the diverse women in the Long Beach community and redefine our standards of beauty. Receiving endorsement from the Board of the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, Courage Campaign and the NOH8 Campaign, Hutcherson hopes to “make caring about your community ‘cool’ again.”
Check out Jenelle’s Facebook page to learn more about her platform. For Jenelle, it’s not about the tiara; she says, “It’s about getting up on that stage and standing up for what I care about.” Let’s hope she continues her pageant run all the way to Trump’s contest and makes the vapid, unrealistic standard of beauty, opposite-marriage supporting pageant winner a thing of the past.