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in the spotlight

Volume 15/Issue 21

by Jay Norris

Drag With A Message Is The Goal
for the New Miss Gay Louisiana America

Twenty-six year old Robert Thompson says he's got a different spin on an old message to America's gay community, and he intends on giving it to them one song, dance and costume change at a time.

Slender-built and shy-smiling, Thompson doesn't seem the type to stand out in the crowd, with the exception of a long, blonde mane neatly tucked in pony-tail. But take another look at the Monroe-based hairdresser after 8pm., and you might see a workhorse of a different color. At less than 30 years of age, and with only seven years in an art, quickly emerging as a profession of its own, Thompson, a.k.a. Sylvia Scarlett, has reached the first summit of a long sought after goal, becoming the reigning Miss Gay Louisiana America.

"This is definitely a profession," he said recently while preparing for the Miss Gay America pageant this Nov. 19-23 in Charolette, N.C. "I wouldn't spend this much money on a hobby baby. It's all profession from here on out."

But while the art of female impersonation can be a steady cash draw for those like Thompson who perfect it, the money is nothing compared to what the message can be, once the entertainer has the full attention of the audience.

"There's a message I'm hoping to get out there to the gay population. It's about AIDS," said Thompson, whose 63-year-old mother died from complications caused by the virus on Feb. 12 of this year. "We all know this isn't just a gay disease, we've heard that for years. But I think a lot of people are slipping with all the new drugs out there, a lot are forgetting just how devastating it can be and we need to bring it back to the forefront."

Thompson is hoping he'll accomplish bringing that message home to the nation's gay and heterosexual communities when and if he captures the top title in November. While the trip to the pageant is the first shot for Thompson, (watchers of these pageants are nearly unanimous in saying a first-time competitor is a long shot at best), Sylvia Scarlett set her sights on winning the crown years ago with the help of his partner of nine years, J.R., and the late Ramona Leger, a former Miss Gay Louisiana and Miss Gay America.

"I'd say my husband is my inspiration. We've both worked for this so hard, but he's the one that keeps pushing me. He has a real respect for it," Thompson says. "If there were anyone else that really inspired me, it was Ramona. She's the one that kept telling me how much work this all was and how you can't let your guard down one minute, if you're going to win it."

Winning it is also a lot more than goal and want-to for most of the contestants entering this year's pageant, and most definitely for Sylvia Scarlett who says she's accepted no money from nightclub owners and friends sponsoring her for the Charolette pageant. According to Thompson, winning the state title came with a steep price tag of $10,000, and not all of it went to makeup and high heels. Nine-months in the making, Thompson has prepared a condensed montage of scenes from themusical Evita, complete with period-dressed Argentine military honor guard which, in his talent competition's final scene, carry Scarlett, dressed as Eva Peron right down to the faux Christian Dior ballgown, onto stage in a specially designed glass coffin. Scenes also include flag twirlers from a professional flag troup hired just for the affair and actors mimicking the roles of the movie's lead male characters.

"I'm really proud of it all," Thompson said. "But we're still rehearsing all the time, anything can go wrong in Charolette."

A chartered plane and one chartered Greyhound bus will escort Thompson, along with backup dancers, hairdressers, makeup artists, friends and supporters to the event come late November.

But for the new Miss Gay Louisiana America, it's a lot more than just the crown Sylvia Scarlett aims and coming home with, despite the near $20,000 cost for the effort.

"If I win Miss America, I would have accomplished my dream, or my immediate dream," he said. "Getting the message about AIDS out to the community, trying to convince them not to give up on the fight, that's my dream too."

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