Missie B’s will host this year’s Pride Youth Royalty Court Pageant on Sunday, March 1. Titled “Show Me Pride,” the pageant will feature appearances by the members of the 2018 and 2019 Courts before the auditions begin for places on the 2020 Court.
The past year has been full of growth and excitement for the 2019 Youth Royalty Court’s four participants: Prince Ben Tuimauga, Princess Will Snodgrass, Duke Bobby Pinnell, and Duchess Tyler Ratterman.
In 2018, organizer Seto Herrara revived the Youth Royalty Court Pageant after it took an eight-year hiatus.
“I am proud of what the youth have accomplished so far, and I am looking forward to their futures. It is nice to see how the youth have and continue to grow from these experiences,” Herrara said.
Pageant changes for 2020
Several changes are in store for the 2020 Youth Royalty Court. First, the titles of Duke and Duchess will be replaced by a single Noble category. “Noble” will be for those who identify as gender-fluid, gender-queer, or gender non-conforming. This new title is meant to be inclusive for those who use they, them, and their pronouns, or who use no pronouns at all.
In addition, “This year’s pageant will feature a new category: Pride Presentation,” Herrara said. “This category is one where youth can express themselves by making a costume that showcases their own pride. This category will precede the three other portions: Talent, Formal Wear or Evening Gown, and Question and Answer.”
Members of the 2019 Court also decided that the titles of Duke and Duchess would be given to two individuals or organizations in the community who are example of Pride, Excellence and Leadership in our LGBTQ community. The Duchess and Duke honorees have been chosen, and these awards will be presented during the pageant.
The 2019 Court has been involved in the community in many ways. They began their service at the 2019 AIDS Walk and got the opportunity to meet Kansas City’s then-mayor, Sly James, as well as U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids and other leaders. This event influenced the youth so much that they asked to move the date of the 2020 pageant from April to March so that members of the 2020 Court would have more time to prepare and be involved with AIDS Walk. The 2019 Court performed for the Kansas City Center for Inclusion’s (KCCI) annual Queer Prom and for Synergy Services’ Halloween dance, Scream Queens.
If you go
Doors at Missie B’s, 805 W. 39th St., Kansas City, Mo., will open at 1 p.m. on March 1, and the 2020 Youth Royalty Court Pageant will begin at 2. Admission is free for youth (17 and under) and $5 for adults 18 years and older. Participants will compete for the 2020 titles of Prince, Princess and Noble. Anyone interested can connect via Facebook, Pride Youth Royalty Court. The 2019 Court will host preparatory sessions at Synergy Services and KCCI during February.
The youth are collecting funds and sponsorships for the pageant. Judges will be Tajma Stetson (Miss Gay United States), Simba Hall (Mr. Gay America), Korea Cavalli (community activist), Megan Birdsall (professional jazz singer and ally), and one special guest judge who will be announced on Feb. 1 during the Youth Court’s radio interview with Tenth Voice on KKFI-FM (90.1).
What’s It Like To Be on the Youth Royalty Court?
Camp magazine sat down recently with the four 2019 Court members to find out about their experiences.
Prince Ben Tuimauga, 20, found out about the Court at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Pride Room, the Rainbow Lounge. Tuimauga is a theater major with a focus on performance.
“I saw the Court as something that may be fun,” he said. “I wanted to get more connected to the queer community, so I auditioned. I was probably the least prepared of all the members of the pageant. I was just a boy with a guitar who sang ‘Chasing Cars’ by Snow Patrol for my audition.”
The Court has helped Tuimauga grow in his identity. He mentioned that he was not outwardly confident until he started serving on the Youth Royalty Court.
“The Court has opened up this entire world. I don’t feel afraid to be more feminine or more masculine.”
Since being chosen as Prince, Tuimauga has started exploring the world of drag. He goes by the name “Tui” and recently competed in Hamburger Mary’s Drag Survivor.
“Growing and exploring has really helped me,” Tuimauga noted. “I have enjoyed being able to provide a space for queer youth, especially since there is a gap for youth ages 18 to 20. They are not able to go to bars or other places where other members of the LGBTQ community feel most safe. It is nice to be a part of providing those spaces.”
Princess Will Snodgrass, 17, is best known by his stage name, Misty. As Misty, he recently won Hamburger Mary’s Drag Survivor Season 4.
Snodgrass started getting involved in drag during his freshman year of high school. He previously had been involved in school theater, and his first onstage performance in drag was as the character Aunt Spiker in his school’s production of James and the Giant Peach. Snodgrass found out about the Court from Herrara and from last year’s Princess, Eric Vega, also known as Erica Von’Du, who recruited him on Instagram.
“I have enjoyed being part of the Court, especially performing at the Iowa Pride Festival and attending Mister Gay America in St. Louis,” Snodgrass said. “We got a chance to be part of the National Walk. It was a mind-opening experience that I got to see all these performances and pageants. I was inspired to see what I can do.”
Snodgrass, the youngest member of this year’s Court, noted that his family had been supportive. “My mother came to every Drag Survivor event.”
Snodgrass is a senior at an area high school. He serves as the president and founder of his school’s Gay Straight Alliance. He is proud to serve as a role model for others at his school.
When not performing or attending class, Snodgrass makes electronic/experimental music under the name “Misty” (@polyvinyl_misty). After he graduates, he wants to attend online classes with the Los Angeles Film School for Music Production for music performance and music business.
Duke Bobby Pinnell, 19, is a group fitness instructor. He found out about the Court through Passages, Kansas City’s LGBTQ youth group. He is also a talented dancer, starting when he got involved in gymnastics. Pinnell was not allowed to audition for his high school’s dance team because he was male. So he used his time on the Court as an opportunity to teach himself more about dance.
For the last year, Pinnell has been involved with the Monarch Conservatory of the Performing Arts. “I am usually the only boy student training there,” he said. He studies ballet, hip-hop and contemporary, among other dance styles. At Monarch, Pinnell learns from the instructors and the other students.
“Hip-hop dance is not just about a routine,” Pinnell said. “… You can learn how to dance from free-styling. It is like a language, but there is no Rosetta Stone to it. Hip-hop comes from a place of love and self-expression.”
Among Pinnell’s inspirations have been local drag queens and the ballroom scene.
“The Court has helped me to learn more about the community and myself. I have learned what I am going to do now and where it is going to take me in 35 years.”
Pinnell has enjoyed serving with the Court and participating in its outreach opportunities.
“It is important that youth see light in their role models and the people that come before,” he said. “It is important that the youth see in us what they can be.”
Duchess Tyler Ratterman, 21, is best known by the stage name Tiffany Material. Ratterman found out about the Court from Eric Vega, also known as Erica Von’Du.
Ratterman, a cosmetologist by trade, grew up in a community where he always felt like more of a minority.
“When I was young, I was bullied for being black, plus-sized, and feminine,” Ratterman said. “When I am involved in drag, I get to be black, plus-sized, and gay. It is the space where people find these things as beautiful. This is something I am proud of.”
Ratterman enjoys reaching out to the youth community, especially to the 2019 Youth Royalty Court contestants who did not win. He continues to work with them and others to help them continue to improve.
“When I first got started in the Court, I was very pedestrian. I would do simple modifications to off-the-shelf garments and wear those for performances. Now I am working with leather and other materials to be more creative. I even do my own wigs.”
Ratterman’s favorite musical artist for his performances is Lizzo.
“I pride myself in being a plus-sized black woman. Drag is fun, but it is also a form of expression. Everyone should have that. Everyone should have a place where they can feel accepted.”