More than one hundred fifty fans and friends joined Trustus Theatre on Friday, June 7, for Vista Queen 2019, Battle Royale. This was the twenty first year for the Vista Queen pageant, hosted by Columbia educator and performer, Terrence Henderson (aka Alexia Bonet), and Dreher High School Choir Director, Walter Graham (aka CJ Grant). “The Vista Queen Pageant is one-of-a-kind,” said Trustus Artistic Director (and former Vista Queen winner), Chad Henderson. “We gather Trustus friends, family, and supporters each year to compete in an annual drag pageant that is also Trustus’ longest running and most successful fundraiser. With an opening number, a talent competition, and an evening gown interview section – it’s a great event that keeps growing.”
“Vista Queen serves as Trustus Theatre’s largest yearly fundraiser, and I cannot thank the volunteers, hosts, contestants and judges enough for their time, energy and creativity in putting together such an amazing event,” said Trustus Development Director, Brad Martin. “We raised a record amount of money for Trustus Theatre which we will put to good use as we make some much-needed repairs to our roof, the HVAC systems and upgrade our lighting and sound equipment. The success of this year’s pageant was a product of the amazing team work that everyone brought to this event.”
The four contestants this year were no strangers to Vista Queen. The theme was Battle Royale, and four past contestants came back to battle it out for fans and judges’ votes.
The show opened to theme music from the movie Rocky, and contestants took the stage dressed in boxing robes, sequined gloves and feathers, setting the stage for the battle to come. The four contestants, all active performers at Trustus and community leaders, business owners and educators, included Raven Black (Chris Cockrell), Crystal DeCanter (Daryl Byrd), JustGia! (Greg Garrett) and Abortia Clinique (Mark Ziegler). Special guest performers, Nicole Roberts and Paris LeFaris, also took the stage, and Trustus Company member, Abigail McNeely, served as the live stream host so people who didn’t get a ticket could watch the sold-out pageant at home.
This year Trustus invited six amazing local women to serve as judges, including artist Kirkland Smith, Richland County Councilwoman Allison Terracio, founder of Acting Up with Tiffany, Tiffany James, Partner with Burnette Shutt McDaniel Law Firm, Janet Rhodes, owner of Revente, Heather Burns, and Executive Director of Harbison Theatre, Kristin Cobb.
Crystal DeCanter won over the judge’s score sheets, while JustGia! was crowned Miss Vista Queen 2019, as her combined judges score and audience votes gave her the nod over first runner-up, Abortia Clinique.
Trustus would like to thank all the volunteers who helped make this event such a success. Also, thanks got out to sponsors including Jason Carpenter and William Frye, Robin Gottlieb Hair Studio, Revente, Workshop Theatre, Scott Hall and Bone-In Barbecue, Lock Reddick and Green’s Beverages, Arabesque, and The Nickelodeon Theatre.