The city of Little Rock will host the 50th annual Miss Gay America pageant starting next week, the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau said Thursday (Jan. 13).
The pageant will be held at Little Rock’s Robinson Center January 17-20, 2022. Established in Nashville, Tennessee in 1972, The Miss Gay America Pageant is the world’s first, longest-running, and most prestigious female impersonator competition.
More than 100 city, state, and regional preliminary pageants support the Miss Gay America pageant system, including Miss Gay Arkansas America, held annually in Little Rock. Miss Gay America contestants compete in multiple judged categories: Male Interview (in suit and tie), Evening Gown, Creative Costume, On-Stage Interview, and Talent.
There is a history tying Little Rock to the organization. The first Miss Gay America was Little Rock resident Norman Jones in 1972. He performed as Norma Kristie and assumed ownership of the pageant in 1975. He ran the function until retirement in 2005.
Jones also opened the Discovery and Triniti nightclub complex in Little Rock, the two largest nightclubs in Arkansas, and has run them continuously for more than 35 years.
The Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau said hosting the pageant reinforces the city’s reputation as a premiere venue for hosting national events and signifies that Little Rock is a welcoming place for LGBTQ travelers.
Throughout 2021, the LRCVB targeted LGBTQ travelers with a marketing campaign using the slogan, “If you’re big on love, you’re Big on Little Rock.” The 2021 campaign highlighted Little Rock’s LGBTQ-owned and operated businesses, and local LGBTQ events and festivals.
“LGBTQ travelers like those attending the Miss Gay America pageant were among the first to start traveling again in the wake of the pandemic,” said Gina Gemberling, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the LRCVB.
“Being able to show them firsthand what a welcoming and friendly city Little Rock is gives us an almost immeasurable word of mouth exposure that would be impossible to get through traditional advertising channels,” she added.
The public is invited to attend the pageant, which is also being filmed as a docutainment series. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com. Masks are required for entry into Robinson Center.