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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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Want to dance for a good cause?

Artists Mercedes and Desto host a queer party

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(Image via Eventbrite)

“Herses- Purse Frist Extravaganza” will be on Friday, May 3 at 9 p.m. at 1835 14th St. N.W. This will be an evening of dancing and performances, hosted by HAUS of Bambi Award-winning Performance Artist, BUMPER. Refreshments are also available for purchase.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased on Eventbrite.

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Support HIV research with a drag show

Tara Hoot, Evry Pleasure, TrevHER to perform

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Tara Hoot performs at Cherry Sundays on Sunday, April 7 at 11 a.m. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

El Techo will host, in partnership with Cherry Fund, a special edition of “Cherry Sundays” on Sunday, April 7 at 11 a.m. 

This event is a one-day fundraising bottomless brunch. There will be performances by Evry Pleasure, Tara Hoot and TrevHER, with DJ Lemz. All tequila shot purchases will be donated to the Cherry Fund.

The Cherry Fund raises money for LGBTQ non-profits whose primary goal is to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS with prevention, treatment and education, and mental health services.

The event costs $45, inclusive of bottomless brunch on margaritas, mimosas, Bloody Marys and Tecates.

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Bars & Parties

MAL kicks off Jan. 11 with Bootcamp

Mid-Atlantic Leather begins with party at Bunker

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MAL Weekend kicks off next week. (Image courtesy of Bunker)

Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend arrives next week with a kickoff event Thursday, Jan. 11 from 10 p.m.-3 a.m. at Bunker. Organizers at Kinetic promise a surprise drill sergeant who will whip you into shape. Joshua Ruiz DJs the event. This event is for VIP pass holders only; visit kineticpresents.com for details.

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