Regina Blake-Dubois, a Houston drag performer and one of OutSmart’s LGBTQ heroes of Hurricane Harvey, has won the coveted title of Miss Gay Texas America 2018.
She topped a field of 27 contestants in the July 10-13 state finals at The Rose Room in Dallas.
“I was numb for almost 24 hours,” said Blake-Dubois, the alter ego of Ryan Barrett, who works as a stage manager at Houston Grand Opera. “I am still shell-shocked.”
The 2013 graduate of Plano Senior High School was cheered on by her parents and siblings as she competed in her first state pageant.
“It was a little weird,” she said. “They were there all week.”
Blake-Dubois’ family and an enthusiastic contingent of fans from Houston and Galveston joined in the standing ovation that applauded her talent number, “Show Off,” from the 2006 Broadway musical The Drowsy Chaperone. The bubbly showstopper, with four dancers handing Blake-Dubois props such as plates twirling on sticks and a moonshine jug to hum into, was awarded best talent of the night.
Blake-Dubois also won best evening gown and onstage question and answer.
“I love onstage Q&A,” she said. “It requires quick thinking on your feet and the eloquence to put it out there. After hearing Miss Gay America Deva Station give me the question, then repeating it, I took a couple of steps down the catwalk and asked myself, ‘Am I really going to say this? Am I really going to answer this honestly?’”
The question asked Blake-Dubois what she would change about herself if she won Miss Gay Texas.
“I said I would wake up every morning and stand taller and carry myself taller every single day. So far, I have stayed true to those words,” she said.
On Monday nights, Blake-Dubois hosts a show in Montrose called “The Broad’s Way,” now in its second year, at Michael’s Outpost. The show began as a four-week trial run/prize for Blake-Dubois winning the final season of “Dessie’s Drag Race,” which Dessie Love-Blake hosted at the Outpost before the contest moved to Rich’s in 2017.
The Broadway-themed show’s only hitch occurred on the Monday after Hurricane Harvey hit last August. With the performance a washout, Blake-Dubois organized a drag showcase on Facebook Live to entertain those in distress while raising money for relief efforts. Other drag performers joined the live feed, also performing from their living rooms and complementing Blake-Dubois’ show tunes with lip-syncs of songs by Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, and others.
“We were thankfully in a spot where we were not getting damaged too much by the rain,” Thorne-DuBois told OutSmart last year. “But we were seeing people all over the city in situations infinitely worse than where we were.”
“I said, just because the show is cancelled doesn’t mean we can’t do one. We can put it on Facebook and do it in our living rooms,” Thorne-DuBois recalls. “And others can do mini-performances in their living rooms. Plus, people can donate money to charities.”
In addition to raising thousands of dollars for Harvey relief, the effort made national news and showcased Houston’s flourishing drag scene on social media.
As a teenager in the Dallas area, Blake-Dubois had only seen drag performers on TV when she ventured one night into the city’s Oak Lawn gayborhood and beheld men dressed as women at The Rose Room. “It was very eye-opening to see,” she said. “It was such an amazing experience. It was a full, glamorous fantasy.”
Before moving to Houston for college, Barrett had portrayed Chad in High School Musical and an Asian character in Thoroughly Modern Millie, but he quickly figured out that he didn’t have the sensational singing voice it takes to perform on Broadway.
“Roles backstage suited me well,” he said.
But then came an opportunity to lip-sync, in drag, to Britney Spears singing “Toxic,” at a UH karaoke night. “I felt really boujee because I had bought a really high-quality wig online,” said Blake-Dubois. “The trouble is, I didn’t have a single bobby-pin in, and I didn’t glue it on, so it came flying off.”
Despite the setbacks, she said, “It was a blast.”
Just four years later, Blake-Dubois and her first alternate, Chloe Knox, also of Houston, will represent Texas at Miss Gay America October 3-6 in St. Louis, Missouri.