Style Setter

Pageant power: Gaspar Cruz (l) did hair and makeup for Miss Virginia Caressa Cameron in 2010 for the Miss America Pageant, and she won.
Pageant power: Gaspar Cruz (l) did hair and makeup for Miss Virginia Caressa Cameron in 2010 for the Miss America Pageant, and she won.

Gaspar Cruz designed Miss Greece’s gown to be worn at the Miss Universe Pageant
by Donalevan Maines

Out fashionista Gaspar Cruz “makes it work,” to borrow a line from Tim Gunn, the Emmy Award-winning co-host of TV’s Project Runway.

“You figure it out,” says Cruz, who designed the evening gown that Miss Greece, Anastasia Sidiropoulou, will wear at the Miss Universe pageant, to be telecast live from Moscow at 8 p.m., Saturday, November 9, on KPRC Local 2. (The event is hosted by out MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts.)

Cruz’s success in the beauty industry is mostly self-taught, beginning with his grandmother teaching him how to sew, and Cruz studying glamour magazines, beauty pageants, and Hollywood movies.

However, Sidiropoulou should feel confident, as Cruz is on a winning streak: he also designed the yellow evening gown that Nina Davuluri wore in September, on her way to being crowned Miss America.

The road to crowning glory for many pageant winners begins in Cruz’s home office in a five-bedroom house in the Cinco Ranch neighborhood of Katy. “It used to be the media room,” he says. “It makes it so convenient to prepare a girl when you have everything in one room.”

He’s especially proud of the gown he created for Davuluri, the first Indian-American to win the granddaddy of all pageants. “I’m so in love with that dress,” he glows. “There was not one single sparkle on it.

Cruz designed a necklace for Miss Wyoming 2012 Lexie Madden made out of chains with dangling metal bands and rhinestones.
Cruz designed a necklace for Miss Wyoming 2012 Lexie Madden made out of chains with dangling metal bands and rhinestones.

“I promised her that I would never offend her family or her religion,” he says, explaining that his design gave her a plunging neckline, but a “modesty net” kept her ample cleavage from being exposed.

In contrast, he covered up the contestant he groomed for the previous Miss America competition. Rather than saddle the gorgeous but flat-chested Miss Wyoming 2012, Lexie Madden, with tricks to simulate cleavage in her swimsuit, Cruz hammered out a necklace for her to wear out of chains with dangling metal bands and rhinestones. “It had a Western flair to it,” says Cruz. “Her state board did not want her to wear it. People either loved it or hated it.”

Such “haters” seem to embolden Cruz to reach even further creatively. Madden finished as third runner-up at Miss America—the highest-ever for a young woman from “The Equality State,” and certainly the first contestant to wear a necklace with a swimsuit. (Okay, Miss Kansas might have topped her this year by exposing her tattoos.)

Cruz was born in the Philippines to a mother who is half-Filipino and a Spanish father from Jersey City, New Jersey, who was stationed on the island in the U.S. Coast Guard.

From the age of two, Cruz was reared in San Diego, where he met his partner of fifteen years before they moved to Katy in 2005.

At San Diego State University, Cruz majored in communications and aspired to becoming a television news anchor until he found out that his starting salary would be about $32,000 in the early nineties. “I was already making that much, while in college working in cosmetics,” he says.

So Cruz worked the next six years for Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, a division of Estée Lauder. “I worked with every major retailer, including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdale’s,” he says. “I also worked every major event: the Oscars, the Golden Globes, New York Fashion Week, as well as Los Angeles Fashion Week. What I took away from this experience was how important it was to make a connection with the person sitting in your makeup chair, and that this was the building block on how to build an enterprise.”

That enterprise became Crown Couture, which grew by word of mouth, luring clients to Katy from across the country and the planet.

Among them was Caressa Cameron, who after prior attempts to win at Miss Virginia, wore an evening gown that Cruz designed for her as Miss Arlington. After winning the state title, Cameron flew to Houston for Cruz to do her hair and makeup for her photos at See What Develops in Katy, then Cruz collected $3,500 plus hotel and travel expenses to keep Cameron looking her best during the 2010 Miss America pageant in Las Vegas.

Cameron won the pageant, presaging Davuluri’s success this year as Miss New York.

Lexie Madden was a different type of success for Cruz and Crown Couture. “That was taking a girl who was used to letting her hair dry wet and putting it in a ponytail,” he explains. “It was not dealing with a seasoned pageant girl. She was a total newbie. It was like teaching a baby how to walk.”

Judges at her state pageant saw potential in Madden and said, ‘This could be your big opportunity. If you want to win Miss America, go to Gaspar Cruz.’”

In 2008, Cruz created an international pageant for teenage girls that is held each year in Houston. In its third year, the winner of Miss Teen World was Anastasia Sidiropoulou, who is now a dental student in Europe. She will represent Greece at the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow—a city that causes consternation to many pageant fans because of Russia’s recent antigay crusade against “non-traditional sexual relations.” (The upcoming Sochi Games could also be in peril of protests and boycotts.)

But Cruz says he hopes to attend the pageant and see his work featured on the international stage. “Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, but this
is not about me being gay. It’s not about me at all,” he says. “It’s about supporting a young woman’s dream and what she wants.”

Donalevan Maines also writes about Caleb Smith in this issue of OutSmart.



Don Maines

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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