On October 4th the new Mr and Ms Gay Vancouver, Aedan Saint and Celestial Seasons, were crowned in a ceremony by the outgoing monarchs. In a couple of their first official interviews, Aedan and Celeste talked to us about the pageant, themselves and what is in store for them over the next year. First up is our interview with Aedan (we will feature our interview with Celeste next week).
What motivated you to participate in the Mr and Ms Gay Vancouver pageant?
Vancouver is a vibrant and culturally diverse city yet has a very small town feel to me – as well as a sense of inclusiveness that I’ve not found in other cities up and down the West Coast of North America. When a former Ms. Gay Vancouver titleholder found out a bit about me after meeting several times at different social events, she talked nostalgically yet glowingly about the pageant and the long line of titleholders in Vancouver and all they’d accomplished over the years. I was intrigued, looked into the process and the Rhinestone Phoenix Charity Foundation as a whole. I found a whole set of like minded individuals that had been pioneers for GLBT community for human rights and did so with style and humour. It was an easy decision to get involved and participate in furthering their cause – and have a great time doing it.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Growing up in a farming and ranching community in the Western United States with conservative parents in a ‘military family’ had its challenges. Believing there was something beyond the attitudes and opinions of a small town, I did what most kids did – got the hell out of Dodge!
Los Angeles, San Francisco, Maui, and Seattle were my stops along the way – finally coming to live here in Vancouver. I’d hoped to find myself, my place, my friends and those who I’d eventually call ‘family’. In my travels I’ve been blessed with many opportunities for adventure from the ‘towers of academia’ attaining degrees in sports medicine, to ‘the streets at 4am’ as a trauma paramedic, all while continuing my loves of motorcycle riding and martial arts.
Tell us about the Rhinestone Phoenix Charity Foundation that runs the pageant.
The Rhinestone Phoenix Charity Foundation is a not for profit organization overseeing the Mr., Ms., & Miss Gay Vancouver titles and activities of the titleholders.
This year, Ms. Gay Vancouver, Celestial Seasons and I have chosen the very same charity – A Loving Spoonful. A Loving Spoonful is is a volunteer-driven, non-partisan Society that provides free, nutritious meals to people living with HIV/AIDS in Greater Vancouver. Every week, all year round for over 19 years, Loving Spoonful volunteers deliver approximately 1200 frozen meals and over 250 snack packs to men, women and children who are primarily homebound with AIDS. The average meal cost is only $3.55. A Loving Spoonful is the constant support of over 250 adults and children living with HIV/AIDS throughout the Greater Vancouver area.
What is the actual pageant process? Do you compete against other contestants? How are you chosen?
It’s a bit daunting, to be honest – not for the weak of heart! Seriously, it’s a process, like any other. Prospective applicants have to be willing to not only submit their application and entry fee to be considered by the RPFC Committee, but also undergo a rather pointed yet friendly interview screening process. The Committee then votes upon and approves those qualified to run in each catagory (Mr., Ms., and Miss) and then, the fun begins.
Campaigning, just like for any political office, is a rather fun, yet draining endeavour, in that as a candidate your job is to meet people. Hanging posters prior to the event, handing out cards, putting on performance events and doing anything (legal) to get the word out is job one.
This year, our new Ms. Gay Vancouver, Celestial Seasons, organized and performed in a fabulous show – ‘The Candidate Show’ at the Odyssey with the help of ‘The O Girls’ and many headline performers in and outside of Greater Vancouver. Two to three weeks of each candidate attending various functions throughout the city at all the local clubs, bars and outdoor festival events makes it a pretty busy time, indeed.
The action heats up as ‘Pageant Week’ concludes with an ‘In Town’ show at Numbers (featuring local performers) followed the next night by an ‘Out of Town’ show at Pulse (featuring performers from outside Vancouver), all culminating with the Pageant hosted this year by our friends at the Empire Landmark Hotel. These events not only give people an opportunity to see how prospective titleholders might handle the stress and chaos of nightclub and fundraising duties, it also gives them a chance to meet with and talk to each candidate. Being shy is not generally a good thing for Mr/Ms Gay Vancouver!
The Pageant is the big event and voting for candidates happens as well as introduction of the ‘College’ of past titleholders and members of various Court Empires. It’s most notably an opportunity for the reigning Mr./Ms. Gay Vancouver to step down from their year of service to the community with style, costumes and music – a celebration of their time. And if that’s not enough, there’s also a Victory Brunch the next day!
Are you elected as a couple?
No. Each candidate stands in his or her own boots, or high heels. But we all support each other. We’re all family, after all.
To what do you attribute the longevity of these types of pageants?
They serve a great function in our community by allowing a conduit for creativity and community as well as providing much needed fundraising for charities in our community. Besides, who doesn’t like a good show from time to time?
Why are they still relevant now and why should the local GLBTQ community care about the pageant?
Good question! Being from the leather community myself and having run for, won, and served my year as International Drummerboy for Drummer Magazine in the 1990s, I think the same idea holds true for the Mr./Ms. Gay contests for each city – tradition.
We’ve all lost a lot. Many of our friends have passed and we work together to keep their memories alive, further the charities and causes they held dear and move forward to set a hopefully positive example for the young people coming up behind us.
My friends in both the Leather and Court communities were there to help and accept me when I truly needed them. I feel it’s my time (again) at bat. 😉
Now that you have been elected what happens over the course of the year as Mr Gay Vancouver?
We have many events scheduled for the upcoming year! (Enter shameless plug mode).
Celeste and I are putting together a Holiday event in December – think Santa Claus, Drag Queens and the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, as well as several longer term fundraising opportunites involving many of your favorite performers and personalities from The Odyssey, Numbers Caberet, Celebrities, Pulse Nightclub and even a few of the men of the PumpJack. 😉 Watch for all the event details coming soon!
As the XXX Titleholders (wink, wink – nudge, nudge), we’re also creating and compiling the first ever web based archival record for the last 30 years of the Rhinestone Phoenix Charity Foundation! The posters, programs, photos, stories, and any other memories will be preserved for the next 30 years and a whole new group of people with new ideas, new energies and new challenges to overcome.