The current crop of Bible Belt queens takes the opportunity to represent their state at nationals very seriously.
“That’s who I’m going to be,” said Jonathan Neighbors — who goes by Blaze Duvall in drag — referring to the coveted title of Miss Gay Arkansas. “The pageant’s the scraps I was built from as a kid.”
Neighbors, contestant 5, started doing drag when he fled his small northeast Arkansas hometown as a teenager. When his twin brother, who was also gay, died at 16, Blaze decided to honor his brother’s life and come out to his father. Their father, a Baptist deacon, responded with: “I’d rather shoot a fag than see one” — and he was true to his word. Neighbors has two bullet wounds from the incident. Because his father’s a police officer, no report was filed and Neighbors left Arkansas for New Orleans.