Hell’s Kitchen resident and event designer Michael Collins is about to take on almost 50 drag queens in a competition to win the title of Miss Gay America — but he needs costuming.
We accompanied Collins on a quick shopping trip Wednesday as he prepares to represent New York in St. Louis on Oct. 3-4 under the stage name Andora Tetee. Visiting Hai Trim & Feathers in the Garment District, Collins picked out some gorgeous trim and brightly colored feathers for Andora Tetee’s glamorous costumes.
The Miss Gay America Pageant is the world’s first and longest-running female impersonator competition. Unlike other pageants, it’s strictly men impersonating women. Body augmentations below the neck are not allowed, meaning the men must rely on the skills it takes to impersonate women using padding, clothing, wigs and makeup.
This year’s theme is “Fantastical Creatures,” and Andora is going to be a fierce fairy with eight backup dancers to match.
He’s designing all the costumes himself, including a lazer-cut headpiece, and for his eight backup dancers.
Representing New York is a huge deal for Collins, who competed in the Miss Gay America pageant 10 years ago. Now more financially stable, smarter and with years of experience behind him, he was ready for a win when he went for Miss Gay New York America in March, he said.
“I’m representing the fashion capital of the world, and I feel that I have to go as a fashion icon,” he said.
On Wednesday he picked out vivid purple feathers and blue, shimmery trim for the dancers’ bow ties.
“This place has all the best trims and the best sparkly [items],” he said.
Collins knew he could pick up designing and costume construction because he’d been pretty handy as an event planner and designer.
He started working on his costume immediately after he took the crown at the Miss Gay New York pageant — knowing he’d want to do something he’d never seen before in drag.
“I wanted to change my clothes as many times during my six-minute talent as possible,” he said.
Those who win Miss Gay America get $50,000, a year supply of cosmetics, custom garments from Catia Lee Love and Scott Marchbanks, a one-week stay in Key West, Florida and a lot more.
They’ll also travel and raise money for organizations close to their hearts. Collins said that if he wins, he wants to work with gay, bi and transgender youth because they need the support.
“I’ve always worked with gay youth,” he said. “I think it’s very important that everybody feel accepted. It was very hard for me when I was younger. If I can make it a little less hard for somebody else, that’s great.”
Although it’s a lot of work preparing for the competition, Collins said he’s got all his “ducks in a row” and is excited to go to St. Louis.
“I feel like I’m bringing my ‘A’ game,” Collins said. “I really want to show America what I have. Let’s see what the outcome will be.”