Nashville’s Suzy Wong crowned Miss Gay America
Forty-four years ago, the Miss Gay America pageant was born right here in Tennessee. In 1971, Jerry Peek opened the Watch Your Hat & Coat Saloon, one of the South’s earliest LGBT dance and show bars. The following year, Peek founded Miss Gay America and the first pageant was held in his Saloon.
Founded four decades before the advent of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the Miss Gay America pageant is now the world’s longest running and most prestigious female impersonator competition. To date, over 10,000 men from over thirty states have competed for the Miss Gay America crown.
Over the years, the pageant has been held in many locales, but last year it returned to Memphis, where it was again held this year. And on Sunday, October 9, Nashville native Suzy Wong was crowned Miss Gay America 2017, becoming the 44th Miss Gay America
Suzy Wong is the alter ego of Arnold Myint, the Nashville based chef and restaurateur and of Bravo’s Top Chef and Food Network fame. She is also the primary spokesperson and business partner for Suzy Wong’s House of Yum in Nashville, from which her persona was created.
A devoted philanthropist, Suzy has used her talents as an emcee and personality to give back to her community. Contributions include hosting the red carpet at Nashville Fashion Week, as well as working with NOH8, The Human Rights Campaign, Nashville Pride and 10,000 Degrees (a non-profit vowing to financially assist 10,000 people on their quest to higher education). More recently, she was at NYC Pride with Absolut Vodka for the Trevor Project, Palm Springs Pride, and hosted a monumental birthday bash for the infamous Lady Bunny.
Shortly after winning the crown, Suzy answered a few questions from O&AN about what the win means to her and where she goes from here!
How does it feel to bring the crown home to Nashville?
Winning the crown, I feel such a sense of accomplishment; especially since my mother, father and sister were there for that magical moment. I think by winning, I am bridging a huge social gap. I've always been who I am and never compromised that for any setting, be it in chef’s coat or heels, and I've experienced nothing but support from my community. It's quite encouraging and I hope I am a positive example of unity. Nashville is already a community of amazing female impersonators, like former Continental Brooke Lynn Hytes and reigning USofA Aurora Sexton. I'm honored to contribute to the roster.
What do you plan to do with the platform the crown will provide?
Through the years, Nashville has given me great opportunity to work with nonprofits on a local level. I have a passion for fundraising and am honored to have this title so my voice can reach a broader market. During my reign as MGA, I will be traveling quite a bit. The money I earn through efforts during my tour will go to a local LGBT Youth Organization which will be selected by random draw at my step down next year. My goal is to inspire youth and nurture their passions, whatever it may be. Hopefully my contribution will provide a learning annex and make a difference in someone’s life.
How do you feel being a pageant winner will influence your culinary fusion of drag & food?
We all have a commonality through food. Both food and drag are passions of mine and at the end of the day everything I do seems to interconnect. My biggest thing is calling on my surrounding resources for a greater cause. If I have a singer friend, a chef, a queen, whatever, at some point, I will join the forces for charity. As far as drag & food? Well, check out Suzy Wong’s House of Yum for Drag n’ Dinner or Drag Brunch: that pretty much sums it up [wink].
For more about Suzy Wong visit suzywongbna.com. Find out more about Miss Gay America at missgayamerica.com. Photo by Daniel Rinehart