For pageant queen Claire Buffie, equality is a family affair.
by Donalevan Maines
For the first time in the 90-year history of the Miss America Pageant, a contestant is championing the cause of LGBT equality with her platform.
Even more surprising: she’s not alone! Miss New York, Claire Buffie, has enlisted eight fellow state titleholders in the pageant that’s as American as apple pie to appear in a video compilation of messages in support of gay rights.
Eleven additional contestants who don’t appear in the message that’s posted online contacted Buffie to say their schedules kept them from taping a message but that she has their full support.
“The door is always open to add to the video!” said Buffie, a straight ally who counts among her closest friends her older sister, Sarah, who is a lesbian, and one of her roommates, Matt Rensker.
Fellow contestants who taped messages include those from the District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
The titleholders who nevertheless sent words of encouragement to Buffie were the contestants representing California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia.
OutSmart spoke with Buffie in December, on the day that her competition evening gown, a Jovani, arrived from Regalia Magnificent Apparel in Florida. Often, it’s that moment, when a state titleholder slips into her gown for the first time and sees herself in the mirror, that she says to herself, “I really can win this thing!”
Buffie says, “I just smiled.” The moment she started to believe that she could win Miss America had come two months prior when, on October 14, the Empire State Pride Agenda feted her at its fall dinner with the 2010 Douglas V. Jones Leadership Award. Dinner hosts were Sarah Jessica Parker and Andy Cohen, and speakers included New York governor David Paterson and U.S. senator Chuck Schumer.
“The channel through which I chose to be a leader is pageants,” Buffie explains in her killer acceptance speech at http://missny2010.blogspot.com. You’ll want to immerse yourself in Buffie’s blog because it is packed with amazing appearances that she has made on behalf of LGBT equality. Then compare it to blogs of other contestants, who show pictures of themselves waving in parades.
At the 2008 Miss Indiana preliminary to Miss America, Buffie placed third behind Katie Stam, who went on to became the first Hoosier to win the national crown.
Buffie declined the opportunity to take over as the lame-duck Miss Indiana (the honor ended up going to the sixth-place finisher) partly because she had already moved to New York City and partly because her dream was bigger than a state crown.
“I felt that I would be settling, not so much for myself,” says Buffie, “but cheating the opportunity. [LGBT equality] is the civil rights movement of my generation,” a cause that she wants to champion as Miss America from sea to shining sea.
Referring to the community-service platform that’s required of every Miss America contestant, Buffie says, “This isn’t paperwork. This is my life.”
Three other Miss New Yorks have won the Miss America title amid controversy and progress: Bess Myerson, the first Jewish winner, in 1943; Tawny Godin, who boldly advocated progressive ideas, in ’75; and Vanessa Williams, the first black winner, in ’83.
In June, Buffie scored swimsuit and evening gown trophies on her way to winning the Miss New York title on her second attempt.
Since then, she has been perfecting her talent presentation, a hallmark of the Miss America competition. Buffie will dance to “Bye Bye Blackbird” in an act that she promises will entertain with Bob Fosse-inspired flourishes.
Finals of the 90th annual Miss America Pageant will be broadcast live from Las Vegas on ABC-TV, January 15, beginning at 8 p.m.
Meanwhile, fans can cast votes for their favorite contestants by going to missamerica.org. Not surprisingly, the Miss America Organization hasn’t adequately explained how this online poll might affect the outcome of the pageant.
Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.
Miss New York Talks about Bullying
“In college I didn’t date a lot, and I had short hair, and I had a lot of very close friends who are gay. People made fun of me and spread rumors, and I was called some really nasty names. It was more of a social and emotional thing. Bullying doesn’t have to be traumatic. It’s still bullying. I specifically remember being at a party and I gave my boyfriend a kiss. Someone said, “Look at the dyke faking again.” I thought, “Really? Did you really just say that?” It gave me the opportunity to relate to being bullied because of the perception that I was gay. Look at Billy Lucas, the boy in Indiana who killed himself. He never came out. He was bullied by kids who thought he was gay. Was he gay or not? We’ll never know.”
AN END TO HUNGER, WORLD PEACE, AND LGBT EQUALITY
Miss New York 2010, Claire Buffie, has chosen LGBT equality as the focus of her social platform as she competes in the Miss America Pageant.
This year, the pageant is expanding its interactive spirit by inviting viewers to vote via texting and Facebook to help pageant officials determine the Top 15 finalists.
“Not only do I hope to have the great state of New York behind me, but also the entire LGBTQ/A community,” Buffie said in a statement to the press.
To support Buffie, text “MANY” to 24470. Then log on to missamerica.org/Videocontest to view and vote for her video. Fans may also “like” her video at http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=692462272905 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AoBvpF9GW4&p=5E70361E9BA9B04B. Individuals may only vote one time each way per account. Voting closes January 14, 2011, 1:59 a.m. CST. Only votes cast through one of the official voting methods count.
The pageant airs on ABC (abc.com), January 15, 10 p.m.
In Other Pageant News
No less than three former OutSmart cover subjects appear in installments of RuPaul’s Drag Race, now in its third season on Logo. Following a special “Casting Extravaganza” which introduces 12 new drag contestants vying for the top illusionist’s spot, Vanessa Williams (OutSmart September 2009) leads the panel of judges in the January 24 season premiere. In “The Queen Who Mopped Xmas,” contestants create fashions using thrift store finds and holiday decorations.
The following week’s episode, “Queen in Space,” finds legendary comic actor Lily Tomlin (OutSmart September 2007) judging contestants’ attempts to shoot two sci-fi movie trailers. Former Battlestar Gallactica and Caprica star Alessandra Torresani appropriately aids Tomlin in the judging.
You’ll have to wait ’til April 4 for “Jocks in Frocks” when Margaret Cho (OutSmart September 2010) judges the queens’ ability to transform manly athletes into girly girls.
Other non OutSmart-related notables joining RuPaul and the queens in upcoming episodes include Bruce Vilanch, Chloë Sevigny, La Toya Jackson, Eliza Dushku, Sara Rue, Johnny Weir, Wayne Brady, and many others.
RuPaul’s Drag Race premieres Monday, January 24, at 9 p.m. on Logo (logotv.com). —Nancy Ford