Crowning achievements: Meet Miss and Mister Phoenix Pride
By Timothy Rawles, May 2020 Issue.
Just because Phoenix Pride has been postponed until
November doesn’t mean the community is going to let the glitter settle. The
event has been rescheduled for Nov. 7-8 to help flatten the curve of the
coronavirus, but its ambassadors are rising above the pandemic to prove yet
again nothing can keep the community down.
and Tyra Marie are Mister and Miss Phoenix Pride 2020, respectively. They will
represent not only the annual celebration, but the entire community. This year
might be the most difficult one in recent memory, but both are up for the job,
they have overcome personal obstacles themselves, so they know the importance
of placing a light at the end of the tunnel.
identifies as gay and is originally from Lake Havasu City, Arizona. When in
drag he prefers the pronoun “she” so we will respect that in this article since
this persona is how she will represent Miss Pride Phoenix.
Phoenix, Owen, is originally from Fort Myers, Florida, but grew up in Williams,
Arizona, a small historic town just west of Flagstaff. The town is probably
best known for tourism, especially the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel.
couple have known each other for about three years, and both have a deep sense
of community which comes in handy during this restrictive time of
shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders. The challenge is unlike anything they
have had to endure, but they are no strangers to giving of themselves in order
to help others.
worn many crowns. She is a former Miss Gay Phoenix America, Miss Gay Arizona
America, Arizona Entertainer of the Year and Empress XIII of the Imperial Court
of Arizona. She is also an Arizona State University graduate.
reign as Miss Gay Arizona America 2013 I raised over $8,000 and as Empress XIII
of the Imperial Court of Arizona I helped raise over $62,000 for various
non-profit organizations throughout the state,” she explains. “In 2019, I
created the Tyra Marie Hispanic Scholarship Fund that awards scholarships to
students of Hispanic descent who demonstrate a strong academic record,
financial need and that are planning to pursue their undergraduate or graduate
degree at an accredited U.S. college or university.”
a religious Hispanic family, Tyra says there was never any talk about sexuality
in the house. The topic was ignored, considered taboo, so she did what most
closeted men and women do, she hid her feelings to keep the peace.
bullied throughout elementary school and once I got into high school, I was
lucky to have the protection of my cousins,” she recalls. “They would get into
fights with anyone that would say anything to me. This is where my parents
finally started to realize that I was different.”
constantly tormented in school, it was her mother who became an inspiration and
said to defend herself and report the persecutors. “She also encouraged me to
be better than my bullies and show them I would always be the bigger person. I
did just like my mother encouraged and in 2001, I graduated top of my class and
got accepted to Arizona State University.”
comes from a religious family, but his story is completely different than that
of Tyra’s. He came out in his mid-twenties and in doing so his life changed
actively involved in church and went to bible college before coming out,” Owen
says, “There were a lot of hard times of dealing with self-doubt and the
internal struggle of letting others down.” He says coming out cost him lots of
friends and family. “Everything I knew got flipped upside down. However, just
like a Phoenix, I rose from the ashes and will continue to do just that
throughout my life. That is one of my favorite analogies in life as we all go
through several Phoenix moments throughout our lives, just like the current
situation we are in with the coronavirus.”
does not have a relationship with his parents anymore and has lived on his own
since he was a teenager.
the LGBTQ community is often a stand-in for men and women who have been
ostracized from their blood relations. For Owen, becoming Mr. Phoenix Pride
brings with it a sense of family that he wouldn’t otherwise have. He says the
community put in a lot of hard work to make him Mr. Phoenix Pride and he is
both humbled and enthusiastic.
brings me great joy and excitement that I get to reign through such a time as
this, where everything is different and nothing is the same. It requires
reigning in a new and creative way. I have always considered myself a uniquely
creative out-of-the-box thinker. This time requires that more than ever.”
sentiments are shared by Tyra, who says being crowned is a dream she’s worked
hard for and she carries with the utmost reverence. “I wanted to follow the
footsteps of formers for whom I have lot of respect and admiration. I have
always been a community ambassador and I know being crowned Miss Phoenix Pride
puts me in a position to continue to help our community.”
to stay at home and away from the public goes against what the LGBT community
stands for. Both Tyra and Owen are following those orders but remain united in
finding ways to ease the panic of isolation to their allies.
month they participated in an online virtual Pride which featured live drag
performances, DJ sets and community discussions.
Both of them
are lucky enough to be employed by companies that allow them to operate
remotely. Owen works in digital media and e-commerce marketing. He says he and
his roommate had a health scare last month.
my roommate were actually sick with all the symptoms (of coronavirus) for
several days. However, we have both tested negative for COVID-19 and are well
into our recovery now.”
personal time, Tyra and Owen enjoy exercise and the outdoors. Tyra works on her
gowns and goes for long walks with her dogs while Owen says he keeps up a
steady workout routine.
As for this
year’s Pride festival, they say it’s going to be like no other in the city’s
history. Not only will it be a milestone celebrating 40 years, but it will also
be an example, maybe even a template, on just how the community will come
together after this global crisis ends.
will be memorable in so many ways,” says Tyra. “We will be coming off a dark
time in our history so it will be a time to reunite and celebrate humanity.”
He adds that this year the entertainment and events will still bring out the
crowds, but the power of unity, love and freedom will take centerstage just
like history has done before in times of uncertainty.
“In many ways I think it may feel like some of the original festivals; just our queer community coming together to be queer out loud in public,” Owen says. “I cannot wait to see love embraced and joy overwhelm our community all at the festival in November. Just talking about it brings the biggest smile to my face.”