Chip Brown and his partner, Scott Freda, have achieved their dream by helping someone else achieve theirs.
The two gay men recently assisted 22-year-old Caressa Cameron of Fredericksburg, Va., as she worked toward becoming the latest woman to win the Miss America crown. Brown and Freda, who started the Miss Arlington Scholarship Organization nine years ago in keeping with their love of pageants, worked with Cameron as the Miss Virginia champion prepared last month to compete for the Miss America title.
A member of the Miss Virginia and Miss America families, the Miss Arlington Scholarship Organization previously helped three women take the Miss Virginia title. Cameron is their first champion to win the Miss America contest.
Cameron, an HIV/AIDS education advocate, was notably asked during the Miss Virginia finals about her views on Proposition 8, which ended same-sex marriage in California. She told the pageant audience that she believes marriage should be between a man and a woman “because of my religious background, but I don’t believe we should legislate against gay marriage. One doesn’t de-solidify the other.”
Brown talked with DC Agenda about Cameron’s answer to that question, the road to the Miss America competition and his interest in the pageant industry.
DC Agenda: How did you and your partner, Scott, start the Miss Arlington Scholarship Organization?
Chip Brown: Basically I took a bunch of my friends from the softball team I was on at the time here in town; we were sponsored by JR.’s and put them on the board of directors. So for years we were a committee of nine gay guys. Since then we’ve added two girls to the board.
Agenda: After being in the pageant business for nine years now, what do you personally do to assist these young women?
Brown: We help them with their platforms, we take care of the paperwork, we do mock interviews and we help them shop for outfits. Every year, I take Miss Arlington to Texas and I buy her a dress or have one made by a dressmaker in Texas.
Agenda: What has been your experience attending the Miss America pageant, since you have sent three women to compete for the crown?
Brown: Well, it’s really fun! I go every year and my partner and some of the other board members go whenever a Miss Arlington has won Miss Virginia. When Caressa won, it was so surreal. I was speechless and so happy for her. The fact that her platform was [focused on] HIV/AIDS really helped educate so many people.
Agenda: What were your thoughts when Caressa Cameron was asked about Prop 8 in the Miss Virginia pageant?
Brown: She is very well spoken and very intelligent. Caressa is not only book smart, but she’s street smart as well. She knows when someone is trying to catch her with a question like that because she doesn’t believe anyone should be discriminated against no matter what her personal religious beliefs are.
Agenda: You get the rare opportunity to see the background goings-on for these pageants. How heavy is the gay involvement in the industry?
Brown: The presence is very large. I can’t put a percentage on it, but the numbers are very high. There are a lot of women who are present helping these ladies, but the men — most of the men who are present — are gay. Gays seem to be very accepted in the Miss America pageant hierarchy regardless of how sometimes those involved with the pageant are conservative. For the most part, they are very socially liberal and accepting.