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Here’s the Tea on Miss Nerd New York

Miss Nerd NY is Shane Cherry’s passion project. The pageant started in 2015 after his fiancee, who performs as FiFi DuBois, introduced him to the world of pageantry. “Pageants add legitimacy to spokespersonship, and at the time, I was still finding the boundaries on where the LGBTQIA+ Community intersects with geek and nerd culture,” Cherry told Gayming. He wasn’t all that surprised to find that these intersections were pretty common, and that pretty much everyone is nerdy about something. 

Cherry wanted to create more space where the queer community and drag/burlesque performances could meet, and so Miss Nerd NY was born. “Sure, the Queer as Folk experience rings true for some of us, but others prefer quiet settings and brawls that involve Mario and Sonic, instead of the drunk kid insisting he hasn’t had that much,” Cherry mused. “There’s no reason to sit at home on a Friday night because you feel isolated from the greater LGBTQIA+ community and we strive to illustrate that the community is for everyone who feels like they’re a part of it. There’s a need for nerdy representation!”

Shane Cherry (photo by Fwee – @fweecarter)

This certainly rings true for this year’s winners. Megami (@megaminyc), the winner of the 2019 Miss Nerd pageant, literally wears her fandom on her sleeve, as all her faves are tattooed on her. “Harry Potter, X-Men, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Zelda, Pokemon, Cardcaptor Sakura, Overwatch, Disney… The list truly goes on and on. I love SO many different nerdy things,” she told Gayming.

Megami by Martin Schoeller (@martinschoeller)

Fox Squire (@foxsquire2016), first-ever winner of the Mr. Nerd division, leans more into sci-fi properties, like Star Trek and Star Wars. “I am a huge Star Trek fan since my father and I used to watch the Next Generation series when it aired on television,” he told us. “The Star Wars series has crept its way in since I share it with my chosen family by watching every movie release during the holiday season.”

Squire is somewhat of a pioneer as the first winner of the Mr. Nerd division, which only came into being this year. After competing in Mx. HotMess at House of Yes, Squire wanted another chance to compete, but was finding this to be a difficult proposition. Most of the competitions he inquired about told him that drag kings would not be allowed to apply. “Ms. Nerd NY was the first competition to say yes,” he revealed. “They surprised me and opened a Mister division.” Cherry and the team at Ms. NerdNY felt it was important to create a space for male fashioned drag and burlesque performers, so they created the Mister Nerd division. “We still held to our convictions that a contestant’s gender is none of our business, but requested contestants only enter the male or female aesthetic competitions, not both.”

Fox Squire

Creating a space for more performers across different gender presentation is clearly important, especially since performers come from so many different backgrounds and experiences. Squire got into drag through burlesque performances, where he focused on creating characters and storylines for each act. “I wanted a male character for a specific act about heartache,” he recalls. “A male character offered a surprising twist to the storyline of that act.” After that performance Squire received a lot of praise and even more job opportunities, with the current form of the persona being developed for Crimson Kitty’s Fauxvasion. 

Megami, on the other hand, came up through Gay Geeks of New York’s GeekSync contest, which is a cosplay and lipsync competition. Her first ever performance was for this competition, four years ago, winning with a Sailor Moon/Anime/Pokemon mashup number. “GeekSync has been a very important show for me. Besides starting my career, I host it every year now and we actually just crowned our new Champion, Ballerina Bizet, a month ago!”

Both Squire and Megami are becoming seasoned performers in their own right, with multiple competition wins under their belts. And both have great advice for those looking to follow in their pageantry footsteps: just be yourself. For Squire, it’s really quite simple: “embrace your spectacle, meaning you are the only one that needs to believe in you to succeed.”

Magami feels similarly, and elaborated “I know it’s something that everyone always says, and it may seem kind of contrived but truly, do the drag that you LOVE.” She advocated for embracing your inner nerd and doing what you’re truly passionate about. “Don’t feel pressured to do what seems popular. When you stick to the things that make you happy or you’re passionate about, it shows in your work and people take notice. So if you love cosplay, DO COSPLAY! There are a lot more geeks out there than you can imagine and they will love you for it!”

Meanwhile, the Miss Nerd NY competition may be making some changes of its own in the future. “We want to be even more intentional with our design, and are currently discussing whether to continue the two-division model which provides separate spaces so we can highlight a winner of each aesthetic or if we will combine them into a Mx Nerd New York title as a symbol of everyone’s validity,” Cherry told Gayming, in regards to the competition’s future. “It’s a tough call, because we do not want solely female aesthetic drag to dominate what should be an incredibly inclusive space, and are concerned about cultural biases influencing judging and fan-favorite categories. But on the other hand, we want to highlight the viability of non-female aesthetic performances, and think we can better represent those with androgynous aesthetics!”

A decision on the matter should be made sometime in January, as the team begins planning for the 2020 competition. While what they decide remains to be seen, it’s heartening to know that these issues of gender representation are top of mind, and being taken seriously for the pageant’s future. It will be exciting to see where the Nerd NY competition goes next year, so keep your eyes peeled for more nerdy drag superstars in the near future. 

Follow Miss Nerd NY on Facebook here.

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