A new documentary is showcasing the vital role of pageants in the lives of some transgender, gender-nonconforming, and nonbinary people.
The Queens follows contestants Tiffany T. Hunter, Alexis Gabrielle Sherrington, Sunny Dee-Lite, and Naysha Lopez as they pursue their dreams of becoming the next Miss Continental, a prestigious international female impersonation pageant in which many trans women also found community. In fact, Miss Continental was founded in 1980 by Jim Flint as a trans-inclusive alternative to pageants like Miss Gay America, which excluded these contestants from competition.
In addition to glamour, the resilience of the contestants is on full display. In this exclusive nine-minute clip debuting below on The Advocate, Karen Covergirl of New York City discusses her battle with liver cancer — and how she pressed on with the competition in the face of it.
“I have liver cancer. I don’t know when I might be able to do this again,” Covergirl says. "That’s why I’m doing it now, when I have the opportunity to do it. I’m not in remission, so I figure, put my health on hold for a minute and let me have my dream, and this is my dream.”
Sadly, Covergirl passed in 2017 and did not live to see the release of The Queens, which also depicts how AIDS, police brutality, and more issues impacted contestants over its 40-year history. The documentary shows the power of the pageant as well as the cutthroat competition behind the scenes.
The exclusive clip also features interviews with Jasmine Masters of Los Angeles (and RuPaul's Drag Race fame), UnShante DeFoxx (now known as Ashauntee DeFoxx Black) of Dallas, Fontasia L’Amour of Long Beach, Calif., and Stasha Sanchez of Atlanta.
The Queens, evoking productions like Paris Is Burning, Pose, and Miss America, was a critical hit on the international film festival circuit; it was nominated for Best Documentary three times.
The documentary also features many Drag Race cameos, including Naysha Lopez, Manila Luzon, Jasmine Masters, Nina Flowers, Roxxxy Andrews, Alyssa Edwards, Ginger Minj, and Brooke Lynn Hytes. Dominique Jackson, who portrays Elektra Abundance on FX's Pose, can also be spotted at Miss Continental under the name Tyra Allure.
Nearly a decade in the making, The Queens was produced by independent nonprofit filmmakers The Reporters Inc. Proceeds from rentals and purchases of The Queens will be utilized to fund the completion of Guilty Until Proven Innocent, a documentary series about wrongful convictions.
Watch the trailer below. And rent or purchase The Queens via Vimeo on Demand through The Reporters Inc. website.