Game of Thrones

By Laura Latzko, June 2016 Issue.

Nearly two months have passed since Naomi St. James and George “Geo” Johnson were crowned Miss and Mister and Phoenix Pride 2016, respectively.

As soon as Geo and St. James settled into their new roles, Echo Magazine caught up with this year’s royalty to find out more about their journey to their respective thrones, what these new titles mean to them and what plans they have for their reign.

Miss Phoenix Pride 2016 Naomi St. James

Having performed at venues across the Valley for the past decade, including four years as a cast member of BS West’s the Elements Show, Naomi St. James is no stranger to the stage or the spotlight.

The resume of this self-proclaimed “pageant queen” also includes six trips to Miss Gay USofA, which landed her in the top five twice and top two once, and three previous appearances in the Phoenix Pride pageant.

Echo: What made you decide to compete in the Miss Phoenix Pride pageant again this year?

St. James: People who know me know that I’m a pageant queen. Over the years I have had so much help from the LGBTQ community to help achieve my dream of becoming Miss Gay USofA. So after deciding to take some time off from competing at a national level, I wanted to take this time to give back and say, ‘thank you’ to everyone who has supported me through the years. Being Miss Phoenix Pride gives me the opportunity to be utilized in many fundraisers that give back to the community.

Echo: What do you hope to accomplish as Miss Phoenix Pride 2016?

St. James: Everywhere I go, I [want to] make sure I represent the Phoenix Pride organization and educate the community about the Pride Scholarship. Since I am the first trans female to be crowned, I would like to help the trans youth plan for their future and be someone they can speak with about anything. When I transitioned my whole family turned their backs on me, and I want to be there for people so they don’t have to face finding who they are alone.

Echo: In what ways have the skills you’ve gained throughout your career prepared you for this role?

St. James: There are really no skills that make anyone a great titleholder. What makes someone’s reign successful is being able to connect with people off stage. Throughout my years of performing, although it took me awhile, I realized that anyone can dance, do the splits [and] be entertaining, but not everyone can be humble and have a personality outside of the stage. That is what will make me be a great Miss Phoenix Pride.

Echo: Are there any communities you would like to work with more during your reign?

St. James: Being transgender, I know that sometimes we are outcast or sometimes mistreated by the community. I couldn’t tell you how many times some bar employees at certain establishments were rude or made it seem I wasn’t welcome because it was primarily a gay or lesbian bar … Being Miss Phoenix Pride, I want to help bring everyone, as one community, together and not just be considered a community within a community.

Echo: Are there any causes or organizations you hope to work with as Miss Phoenix Pride?

St. James: Well, for sure the Pride Scholarship Fund, which is the core [of what] this title is representing. Being able to help the LGBTQ community go back to school to better themselves is very important to me. Leaving home at 15, I had to give up any scholarships I would have received, because I had to drop out of high school in order to work to survive. I was always a great student and my goal was to attend college, but I had to put that dream on hold until I was much older.

Echo: As a titleholder, you will be seen as a role model in the community. What type of role model do you hope to be?

St. James: Honestly, as crazy as this sounds, I don’t want to be considered a role model. I don’t want people to follow in my footsteps, as I’m not perfect. I want to be a voice to the youth, to help them learn from my mistakes, life and hardships to make their lives much easier than mine was. If I can help influence someone to not do the things I have done and help guide them to making better decisions for themselves, I would consider my reign a great success.

Mister Phoenix Pride 2016 George “Geo” Johnson

You might know him as Mr. Gay Arizona USofA 2010, Mr. American National Star 2014, Mr. West Coast Continental 2015 or Mister AZ Drag 2016. Now, as your reigning Mister Phoenix Pride 2016, George “Geo” Johnson is bringing his background as a dancer to a new stage.

When he’s not our raising money for the Pride Scholarship Fund, Geo is performing with Desert Dance Theatre, Dulce Dance Company or with other male entertainers as part of The Rock’s monthly installment of The Gentlemen’s Club.

Echo: What made you decide to compete in the Mister Phoenix Pride pageant this year?

Geo: Being a bio male in our community and holding this title, it’s a big responsibility, but I intend to be a good role model in our community, and I will do my best to leave a good legacy behind. Our community is about being inclusive. Our acronyms themselves are the LGBTQ community. So, if we are about being inclusive, it only makes sense that we include everyone in our community, whether you are trans, whether you are bi, whether you are a queen or whether you’re a male entertainer. I think it just makes sense that everybody should have the opportunity to represent our community. It’s been a dream of mine for a few years – since before it was actually allowed.

Echo: In what ways have the skills you’ve gained throughout your career prepared you for this role?

Geo: I think my whole career of being a performer and competing in pageants has helped me become a better leader in the community, [and] understand that you are a role model, whether you want it or not … I want to be a better person, I want to do better things and by helping my community. I feel like [this] is exactly where I belong, [this] is exactly how I can do better for others.

Echo: I’ve noticed the way male entertainers are perceived has been changing in recent years. What do you attribute that to?

Geo: I think what was happening was there hadn’t been male entertainment in Arizona, so it’s very obscure. It’s not like it is in Texas or back East. When people would hear “male entertainer,” they would associate it with “stripper”… It almost became a challenge – to me and a few of the other guys – to show them what it really is. As a male, sometimes you will sing live and sometimes you will lip synch. … I do try to incorporate a high kick or split in there – things that I’ve learned from my dance career. It’s the same with costuming. I try to make sure my costumes don’t look like something I’ve bought off the rack but look like something that’s meant to be onstage.

Echo: Are there any communities you would like to work with more during your reign?

Geo: I would like to be able to close a little more of the gap between everybody else [in] our LGBTQ community.

Echo: What do you hope to accomplish as Mister Phoenix Pride?

Geo: Definitely to get out there a lot. I was talking to Edward Castro from about performing at different Prides outside of the state; he’s going to try to help us perform in San Diego. And I’m talking already with Dani Logan from Phoenix Pride about getting me and Naomi to perform at San Francisco Pride … I feel like if we get out there and we get to know people there, we’ll also have them come here.

Echo: As a titleholder, you will be seen as a role model in the community. What type of role model do you hope to be?

Geo: To me, it just means to be a good person and be there to help others. To leave a positive impression on people, whether it’s just by simply being able to say “hello” to someone or donating your time to perform for free.

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