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The Return of Miss Gay Greenville

by Aaron Lucier

A historic event came back to life in Greenville last month.

On the weekend of June 22-23, the 27th Miss Gay Greenville America Pageant was held at Limelight. Neither featured on Toddlers and Tiaras nor part of the traditional pageant circuit, not many people know about Miss Gay Greenville America, a full-scale pageant for female impersonators.

Limelight, the new gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered-friendly nightclub in Greenville carried on the Miss Gay Greenville America tradition, begun in 1978 by its predecessor, the Paddock Club. Here the pageant was a mainstay for 25 years, sending as many crowned Miss Gay Greenville Americas on to compete for the title of Miss Gay North Carolina America – sixteen of whom took that crown as well. In 2007, a short-lived club in the same location held the pageant.

The revival of this event at Limelight connects the club to the history of its location and establishes it as the social hub of the gay community.

As the first Miss Gay Greenville America Pageant in five years, 2007 winner “Nicolette Starr” was finally able to hand over her crown to a new Miss Gay Greenville. “Nellie Bottoms”, one of few, but dedicated contestants in talent, evening wear, and personal interview categories, took the crown as the new Miss Gay Greenville, with “Felicia Monet” taking First Alternate.

 “Nellie Bottoms”, aka Jesse Jones, grew up in Plymouth, NC and considers the Greenville area his home. Jesse was not sure he wanted to do the pageant at first. Motivated by his ability to give back to the new club and the local community, he threw himself into preparations.

To prepare for the competition, Jesse spent weeks coming to Greenville from his home in Raleigh to work with his team of dancers, choreographing and practicing his performance piece, a mash-up of “Good Morning Baltimore” and “Welcome to the 60’s” from the musical Hairspray. Having fun is always Jesse’s goal when performing, and he finds his best entertaining happens when he’s well prepared with a fully-choreographed piece. 

When asked what the best moment of the night was, aside from being crowned Miss Gay Greenville, Jesse said it was the feeling after he completed his talent performance of “knowing all the weeks of preparation had paid off.”

After Jesse competes in the Miss Gay North Carolina America Pageant, he plans to retire “Nellie Bottoms” from the pageant circuit. He looks forward to focusing on other aspects of his life such as his professional career as a cosmetologist. 

Limelight will be hosting several benefit shows for “Nellie Bottoms” to help defer some of the costs related to competing in the Miss Gay North Carolina America Pageant. The next benefit show will be at Limelight on July 7, 2012.

Watch for the comeback of Miss Gay Greenville in carrying on the tradition of being crowned Miss Gay North Carolina America at the state pageant August 9-12 in Charlotte.

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