First time we hit the road for a pageant trip, Arnold wasn’t a contestant. He was going to be a back-up dancer for Dee Ranged, a friend who was a contestant. Arnold’s job was to dress as a penguin, if I remember correctly. He seemed to be really looking forward to this. We drove up to one of those towns in Ohio that starts with a C, to attend the pageant. Arnold packed a nice picnic lunch for us (would you expect anything less?) and we were on our way. This was also my very first time to take pictures at a pageant. I was enjoying it, and starting to feel a real creative stir, but I was also really technically stressed. To shoot in that crazy lighting, dodging people, and by trial and error learning how to take pictures that were very different from jewelry on models and product shots, all with much more control involved. Editing so many pictures….shot in such weird lighting….all while I was trying to be very polite and discreet….and at the same time, figure out my fairly complicated camera, which I quickly realized I didn’t know squat about. It was a stretch. And, I am sorry I didn’t keep any of the penguin pictures. Little did I know I would really have liked to have had one for this little piece.
The pageant was The All American Goddess Pageant. The year might have been 2010. The woman who ran it and also was performing onstage during this photo was Candi Stratton, whose gender at birth was male. She told a story about how she got into pageants, after transitioning. She basically realized that drag performance is just what she loves and understands. Her energy was very refreshing, and her self-confidence was impressive. She came in for an afternoon practice looking like a woman who going to work..hard. Then she appeared in the evening looking like this photo.This particular pageant is open to anyone who works through the system to compete, regardless of what their gender identity is. It is just about doing great drag.
We had fun staying at some little interstate motel. I’m sure you’re dying to know….we always shared a room. Arnold is one of the easiest people to share a room with and remain completely modest that I have ever taken a trip with. He also doesn’t snore. Now, the make-up in the bathroom thing sort of keeps him from being perfect. Arnold spent most of his daytime hours working on the penguin costume. I could see how much he puts his heart and soul into everything he does.I spent most of my day trying to figure out how to photoshop these pictures and I admit, I was pleased with some of these first attempts. This, in fact, was my very first drag pageant photo. That strange double-exposure effect was a happy accident. I only had one chance at this shot because security made me move from that perfect spot.