This is my final USofA Integrity Newsletter column. I’m sitting on an airplane trying not to cry my eyes out in front a random group of strangers. I have so much I feel like I want to say and share with you all and I am finding myself in a moment of being speechless, a moment of silence, as I reflect on what this year and this journey has been.
What does it mean to me to be Mr. Gay USofA? What does it mean to be a symbol of integrity? Let us take a look back on what I thought it meant then, and what it means to me now.
I think as people, well in the pageant world, we have this idea of what we think it is to be a national titleholder. When you asked me a year ago, what does it mean to you to be Mr. Gay USofA? I would have simply answered: To promote the USofA brand, attend your preliminaries, stay in contact with your contestants and celebrate your win throughout the year. One of the things I mentioned in my interview that I wanted to bring to the male division was visibility and unity amongst all systems.
This ideology became a quick reality and spread like wildfire soon after winning. I was fortunate enough to not only attend but be booked at several national walks and systems across the country. I remember the first walk at Mr. Renaissance when I text Craig saying I didn’t know what to do because my heart was beating out of my chest and I wasn’t ready for this. Of course Craig immediately replied with words of encouragement and love. Something I am so fortunate to have received throughout my entire reign. This style of promotion and visibility was something I hope can continue on to the next Mr. Gay USofA’s. Not only was this a great tool to reach new contestants and audiences, but it really sets a standard of admiration and respect for the USofA system. Some places I have traveled to did not even know what this system was and now hopefully we can continue to foster those relationships and build the brand and legacy that has been such a success.
I was fortunate enough to have 15 preliminaries this year! Something I am extremely proud of and another one of those things I remember saying to myself, wait how am I going to get all these days off work lol. Something I was not prepared for was the abundance of love and respect I received in every city. It is truly an out of body experience and something I will cherish forever. I have said this before and I will continue to say it, the best experience I had during this year was the amazing people I was able to meet and get to know throughout my travels. I am so thankful for the friendships and bonds I was able to make that will continue on for a lifetime. I want to thank everyone for the many laughs we all shared all year long and hopefully I was able to make everyone smile at least one good time whether during my silly antics in the dressing room or on stage. Above all, I want to thank all of the qualified gentleman for not only being so much fun to work with but truly inspiring me each day to do better and be better as a leader for you guys and set the example in my own unique way. From the preliminaries, to the promoters, and especially to the contestants, the fans, and audiences, you are what makes this year so memorable for anyone who is fortunate to win this title. Please do not stop the coveted family style bonds and relationships that you have built because it is much appreciated. It really is the root system and foundation on what USofA has been built upon.
If you asked me today what it means to be Mr. Gay USofA I would enthusiastically tell you it is EVERYTHING, a complete life changing experience that you literally get to hold the reins and navigate your journey. You may not necessarily know where you will end up or what life experiences you will face, but in the end you will have definitely grown as a person and an entertainer.
What does it mean to be the national symbol of integrity? Although in interview this four syllable word has so many varying meaning, I have learned that integrity is more than just an action or verb. Integrity is a lifestyle and a way of living. This year I have gone through several emotional states from love, the heartbreak, to anger, happiness, and even sometimes being sad. When put in a seat like this you get the decision to wake up every day and put all your worries on the back burner and just be thankful for what todays experiences may bring. Being that example and upholding a positive attitude and being assertive was not always easy but definitely helped me grow as a person. I am thankful for everyone who just put a dreaded microphone in my hand and taught me that public speaking is not as scary as I always thought. Whoever is to follow in line, remember you have a choice to be a beacon of inspiration and guidance, motivating and uplifting, and most importantly a loving and caring person in our community. Find the good in every situation and be genuine about it. I am forever a changed man for the better and I owe a lot of it to the growth and experiences I was blessed to have had this year.
I know this is not the typical “goodbye” column, and don’t get me wrong I have many of thanks to give but those will come closer to my celebration week. I will give a big thank you to everyone who has been a part of this year, booked me, sent me words of encouragement, a funny meme, let me annoy you on snapchat and poke you a thousand times over on FB, and most importantly provided continuing unconditional love. Every person I came in to contact with be it face to face or on social media, is a moment never forgotten. So thank you, this year is for you guys. I will see you all at the Royal Kings Ball, October 18-20.
Cheers to the best year of my life!
Live, Laugh, Love,
Mr. Gay USofA