She’s beauty and she’s grace. Now, she’s the new face of the Miss Gay America pageant. Dessie Love-Blake, the Galveston-based female illusionist, was crowned as the national pageant winner.
Love-Blake represented Miss Gay MidWest America, a pageant where she clenched the top spot in November 2023 to earn her berth at the national competition held in Little Rock, Arkansas. Once there, she rose to the top of the judges’ score sheets to cement her place as the nation’s best drag superstar. She’s the first person to bring the title home to the Houston area since the well-known Tina Turner impersonator Hot Chocolate in the early 1980s.
“When they called my name as the winner, it was surreal. After that, everything just kind of turned into a blur,” Love-Blake recalls. “I didn’t go to bed that night until about 5 a.m., and then I woke up the next day and drove back home. I have been responding to emails, chats, texts, Facebook messages, and Instagram messages ever since.”
The blur might continue for a few more weeks, as expected following all the hoopla and hurrahs surrounding any national title winner. But this moment is not Love-Blake’s first time in the spotlight. She won the Miss Gay Texas title exactly 10 years ago, which delineates this journey as a decade of ambition in the making.
Believe it or not, drag is a career she accidentally fell into. This former real-estate agent and radiology physics teacher’s entrance into drag has an unexpected origin story.
“I started performing drag in June 2011,” she says. “I was in a gay bowling league, and they had a charity called the Bowler Beehives. They asked me to do drag as part of the fundraiser, but I had never seen a drag show. I had to research and watch drag shows, and I was instantly hooked. I did the fundraiser, and from there, my drag career snowballed. I started working for money and doing pageants and competing, and that’s how this all came to be.”
From bowling whiz to dazzling beauty, the slinky enchantress makes it all look effortless. For that, she thanks her husband, Clay Gore, for his help in maintaining her career. They are a team: he creates costumes and she serves as the front-facing end of the brand. It’s a job that requires their full attention.
Love-Blake’s first title came with a jarring reality: there are certain expectations for a reigning queen to travel and promote the pageant system to contestants, be it on a local, state, or national level. “Once I won Miss Gay Texas, the title was such a demanding job for me that I had to make the jump and leave my full-time job,” she says. “Luckily, it worked out and everything took off. Two years later, in 2016, Clay was able to leave his corporate job, and this is what we now do full time.”
Love-Blake lip syncs; Gore sews. It’s been a winning combination that has allowed the couple to enhance their goal of raising charitable dollars through the art of female illusion.
With that community-minded spirit, Love-Blake has started contemplating the future and how she wants to use her status for philanthropy and place-building.
“I would like to use the title to raise money and do a lot of fundraising. My platform is going to be The Trevor Project,” Love-Blake says. “I also would like to do some outreach, since this is an election year, to get the vote out. I want to work to not only promote the Miss Gay America system, but I also want to use this title to do good.”
Of course, Love-Blake will also have some official duties that are required by the Miss Gay America system.
“I’ll travel to all the preliminary pageants, verify the score sheets, and make sure everything is running the way it’s supposed to run,” she explains. “And at the same time, I will have to keep in constant contact with promoters and contestants all over the country to make sure everyone’s needs are met. I have to be professional, polished, and on point for 365 days. It is a tiring but rewarding job.”
Love-Blake is hoping that the hard work will pay off when she hands the crown to next year’s winner, and hopefully she’ll also leave her own mark on the Miss Gay America pageant system in the process.
“I want to be known as one of the best to ever hold this title,” she says. “That means I will help grow the Miss Gay America system, be the kind of person who connects with everybody across the country, and go above and beyond for fundraising. Those are the things that I want to step up and do to make sure that I’m remembered as a well-rounded, impactful queen.”
If anyone can live up to those standards, Love-Blake is choice number one. She is no stranger to the business of running a drag empire, having hosted the Dessie’s Drag Race competition for up-and-coming drag talent. Simultaneously, she has managed a busy schedule of appearances between her home base in Galveston and many of the queer spaces in Houston.
While not trotting around the country representing Miss Gay America, Love-Blake can be spotted at any of her numerous bookings, including Tuesdays at JR’s Bar & Grill, Thursdays at South Beach, Fridays at Rich’s, and various other appearances throughout the month, including Eureka Heights, Electric Feel Good, and Katy Vibes.
Her wealth of experience has given her a platform to advise future pageant contestants as well as new talent.
“My advice would be to find people who have been where you want to be and ask their advice,” she says. “They know what they went through to get there, so they’re the best ones to offer you the advice on where you want to be.”