After more than a year of shut-downs - including all things wild and weird that once helped Asheville, North Carolina earn the title of quirkiest town - one of it’s more unique events is back. The Miss Gay Latina pageant will be held Nov. 20 at the Diana Wortham Theater. I photographed backstage at the 2019 pageant, featured in these images and the last one before pandemic closures.
Miss Gay Latina started as a small drag event in 2008 organized by founder and producer Elio Gonzalez who was born in Cuba and has lived in Asheville for many years. The pageant evolved over the years into a more inclusive event open to any performer, regardless of sexual orientation, nationality, or gender identification. The event has gained attention outside of this western North Carolina town of 360,000 and now includes national title holders competing. The pageant almost always sells out. At this last event, designer and Project Runway finalist Garo Sparo served as a celebrity judge.
I was excited about photographing backstage instead of the actual event. Watching the performers apply makeup and change into elaborate and beautifully-designed costumes was fascinating. The work and dedication put into preparing for the event was evident like Sunny De Lite's bright yellow ensemble that included a bird and feathers. Sunny De Lite was crowned Miss Gay Latina 2019.