Is This the First Gay Miss California?
BY Diane Anderson-Minshall
January 05 2012 4:34 PM ET
Her late-night post on Facebook said it
all. “So history has been made,” Jenelle Hutcherson wrote after becoming
the first openly lesbian contestant in the Miss Long Beach (California)
Pageant. “No crown and sash tonight, but doors opened that will never be shut
again, many new friends and a whole new respect for the pageant world and what
guts it takes to get up on that stage. On to Miss California USA!”
Hutcherson, a 26-year-old master hairstylist who works at Den Salon in
the California coastal town of Long Beach, was the center of a media whirlwind
surrounding the pageant, and unlike previous pageant attention when it comes to
LGBT issues, this wasn’t because of a gaffe. Everyone embraced the woman who
sports a Mohawk, five tattoos, and piercings. Her press photos feature her
with a No H8 motto and duct tape, and true to butch form, she made history by
doing something else: wearing a tuxedo instead of a gown in the formal part of
The attention and hard work wasn’t for naught. Even before
the pageant began, Donald Trump, who runs the Miss California USA Pageant, had his
office phone Hutcherson and invite her to compete on the statewide level. She
didn’t even pause before accepting the challenge. The Bakersfield native, who
is also a mentor at the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, will carry her message of
love, tolerance, and ending bullying to the Miss California Pageant, to be held this
weekend at Palm Desert’s McCallum Theater. And whether she wins or not, she’ll
make history. Even better? Besides those hundreds of new LGBT fans, her mother
and stepfather (her dad died of AIDS when she was in grade school) are among
her biggest supporters.
The Advocate: So many queer folks were excited to hear about your
run for Long Beach. What was that like?
Jenelle Hutcherson: So many, I couldn’t believe it! It has been a humbling
experience; I did this because Justin Rudd left me no reason to not participate
but also because I could be myself. I, of course, have naysayers on both sides,
though. You cannot make everyone happy. If anything, I did this for me, to make
me happy. Turns out a whole bunch
of other people thought it was a great idea too.
Did you wear a pantsuit instead of a
gown? What was the reaction?
I wore a tuxedo. I bought a basic suit and tailored and added the tuxedo
embellishments and my own style to it. The crowd went wild — absolutely
What got you into pageantry to begin
It was decided over a random conversation with pageant director Justin Rudd. I
asked how I could get involved after he told me about last year’s event, which
was coming up at the time. And I was thinking hair, did he want a salon
sponsor? To my surprise he ... said
if I wanted to join I could. My wild hair and tattoos would be just fine. The
only question for me at that point was that I’m not wearing a dress — it's not
happening. Justin asked what I felt comfortable in and I said a tux. Justin’s
reply was a shocker, one I will never forget. He said, “OK.” Justin believes
his pageant to be fashion forward and accepting of all.