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Miss America’s secret weapon: a gay entourage

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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.

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1 Comment

  1. Peter the Saint

    February 10, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    And some people have the “personal view” that a woman should legally not be allowed to work outside the house (Virginia Gov. McDonnell). And others have the “personal view” that an african-american woman should still not be allowed to marry a caucasian man – even though ERA & laws promote equality. Ugh. Maybe the gay majority at pageants should just stop asking.

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Bars & Parties

Disco Funk Brunch at Crazy Aunt Helen’s

Tara Hoot and DJ Phil Reese perform

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Tara Hoot and DJ Phil Reese (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Drag queen Tara Hoot and DJ Phil Reese perform at the biweekly Disco Funk Brunch at the LGBT-owned Crazy Aunt Helen’s on Sunday. For future showtimes, go to crazyaunthelens.com. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

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Blade’s summer closing party set for Sept. 17 in Rehoboth

Benefits journalism scholarship

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Rehoboth Beach Museum, Joe Maggio Realty, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

The Washington Blade’s 15-year tradition of hosting a summer kickoff party in Rehoboth Beach was disrupted due to COVID restrictions. In lieu of that May event, the Blade is hosting a summer closing party on Friday, Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. at The Pines (56 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del.). 

Tickets are $20, which includes two drinks and appetizers. The event benefits the Blade Foundation’s Steve Elkins Memorial Journalism Fellowship, a 12-week program in which an LGBTQ student journalist covers stories of interest to Delaware’s queer community each summer. 

All COVID safety protocols will be followed, including a requirement that attendees furnish proof of vaccination to gain entry. 

If you are unable to attend you can make a donation to the Blade Foundation at BladeFoundation.org. Sponsors of the event include Delmarva Power and The Pines.

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Rehoboth to close out summer with SunFest

Series of events to replace long-running Sundance due to pandemic

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This year’s Sundance in Rehoboth is renamed SunFest and will look different from this scene in 2019 due to the pandemic. (Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

SunFest will feature a week of live performances, dances, and a live auction, sponsored by non-profit LGBTQ+ center CAMP Rehoboth.

The weeklong festival runs from Aug. 29 to Sept. 5 and is a change from the annual SunDance that CAMP Rehoboth has sponsored since 1988. This transformation began last year when the event was forced to go digital due to the coronavirus and the in-person events scheduled this year are important, according to development director and co-coordinator of SunFest Anita Broccolino.

“We love that community feel and the in-person makes all the difference in the world for us. Not being able to do it last year just reminded everyone how important we all are to one another,” Broccolino said. “I think that bringing back these events this year is just huge for us and it will be extra celebratory as a result.”

The festival begins with a 5k race and online auction opening on Sunday. Monday night features a give-back event at Iron Hill Brewery while Tuesday’s agenda is still to be determined, said Broccolino. Diego’s will host a Studio 54 give-back dance party on Wednesday and Thursday is the Port 251 women’s give-back. 

Live performances featuring the Skivvies, Randy Harrison and Diane Huey are scheduled for Friday night and Jennifer Holiday will follow with a performance on Saturday night, both at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center. The festival closes out Sunday with auction pick-ups and Fun in the Sand and Sun, according to the CAMP Rehoboth website.

This event is also important to the organization’s contributions to the community, said Broccolino.

“The essential services we provide for free to the community, which is a huge amount of health and wellness activities, as well as arts programming, a lot of youth programming and the community counts on us for those things. We never stopped during COVID, we made as much as we could virtual, but we took quite a hit not being able to raise those funds and awareness of the programs,” Broccolino said. “We invite the entire community to come celebrate with us and make it to Rehoboth Beach, and let’s make it joyful, and wonderful and make sure we’re living up to the standards of all the people who helped found CAMP Rehoboth and live up to their legacy and beyond.”

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