“The major social issue of my generation is the LGBT civil rights movement, and it has my support 100 percent,” says Miss Texas, Ivana Hall, an advocate for HIV/AIDS education and resources.
The 23-year-old college student from Cedar Hill stated her support for LGBT rights on the résumé required of each contestant in this month’s 93rd Annual Miss America Pageant. “I was upfront about it,” says Hall. “I’m not afraid to be me.”
It’s a sign of the times that in January 2011, Miss New York 2010, Claire Buffie, made national news by championing the cause of LGBT equality with her community service platform. Only eight fellow state titleholders agreed to tape “It Gets Better” anti-bullying videos directed at young gay victims.
In contrast, Hall’s call for equality seems simply an extension of her experience as the niece of a gay uncle who battled HIV/AIDS for twenty-two years before dying in 2007 at the age of forty-two. “He was in and out of the hospital and often couldn’t acquire the medications he needed,” she explains. “He didn’t have insurance because of what was considered a pre-existing condition. At times, he had to come and live with us.”
Hall’s mother is Nicole Dalrymple, who in 1989 was Miss Denton County, a local pageant that wasn’t held again until Hall was crowned its winner five years ago. “So many gay people who participate in pageants have become my friends and my family,” she says.
Among Hall’s activities promoting her platform “HIV/AIDS Education and Resources: Each One Reach Out to One” has been working with DIFFA: Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS. Its group of architecture, fashion, interior design, photography, and consumer product design professionals comprise one of the country’s biggest supporters of direct care for people living with HIV/AIDS and preventive education for those at risk.
In addition, Hall speaks to young people at schools, spreading a message of “respect yourself and the differences in others. I stress that as the key to living in a functional society,” says Hall, who majors in government with an emphasis in political science at Texas Woman’s University. “I would like to be a campaign manager, then a political staffer, and eventually run for political office myself.”
To advance to the Miss Texas Scholarship Pageant this summer, Hall won the title of Miss North Texas, singing “Habanera” from Georges Bizet’s 1875 opera Carmen. “I sang it in English at my local, then I learned it in the original French for the state pageant,” she explains. “I feel that it embodied me. Carmen is a very bold character—a very bold woman who goes after what she wants.”
In the talent competition at Miss America, Hall sings the Peggy Lee standard “Fever” with a nod to the Big Band sound of her father and grandfather, who were musicians.
The current Miss America, Mallory Hagan, was crowned in January, so her reign is cut short by the pageant’s return from Las Vegas to its original home of Atlantic City.
Prior to the televised finals, contestants from each state as well as Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands compete in swimsuit, evening wear, talent, and on-stage question in preliminary competitions on September 10–12.
Chris Harrison of The Bachelor and Lara Spencer of Good Morning America host the two-hour finals as a panel of celebrity judges, including out entertainer Lance Bass, determine who will be crowned Miss America 2014.
Donalevan Maines also writes about Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical in this issue of OutSmart magazine.