Interview With Craig Henderson
Posted 15 September 2008 - 11:00 AM
Many years ago, I was a young back up dancer for many different entertainers. One of the pageants that I danced in was Miss Gay USA. (yes, before the "of" was added). During my years dancing I became aqainted with the subject of this interview. Now ya'll talk about someone that loves the art form....trust and believe...this man lives and breathes this business. Over the years both he and I have grown to know each other in many different aspects. Most recently, I judged Miss Gay USofA at Large for him and now I am a promoter for the system itself....Please join me as I welcome to the interview chair...Mr. Craig Henderson, better known to all of us as "CraigAnn". Well, well, well....finally we get to work on this long awaited interview. Craig, before we get started, take a few moments and let our members and guests know where you grew up and what it was like as you came of age! Thanks Bob.... Here we go !!! I was brought up and still live in Pasadena, TX ( a suburb of Houston). Pasadena used to be a "redneck " town with many oil refinery workers making up a large part of the city. It was very conservative. And I was very conservative and reserved until the 11th grade. Then that was when I had my first gay experience ( about the age of 16). WOW !! Did things change after that. As most of ya'll know I an NOT conservative and I an NOT reserved. I graduated from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville,TX with a Bachelor Degree in Business. I have 15 hours towards my Masters in Business but I have put that on hold indefinitely. After graduating from college I went to work for my dad in our family business ( that only lasted 12 years). Shortly after that I met my good friend Bubba McNeely. He introduced me to Jerry Bird 21 years ago and I became a local promoter for him. My first pageant I promoted and produced was Miss Metro Houston USA (before USofA). I then began promoting other city and local pageants for Jerry for Miss Texas USA. I later promoted and produced Miss Gulf Coast USA. After that I became the Pageant Director for Miss Texas USofA and the National Pageant Director for USofA Pageants (now Scott Ross). I began promoting and producing Miss Texas USofA (the largest state pageant in the entire country for any system) in 1994. I also promote and produce Miss Texas USofA At Large and Mr Gay Texas USofA. In October of 2005, approximately 2 weeks after Raven St James won Miss USofA At Large I approached Jerry about me becoming the National Promoter for Miss Gay USofA at Large. He and I agreed to terms and I have now crowned 2 great National title holders; Kathryn York and Mahogany Knight. Mahogany and I have already sold 5 new prelims for Miss USofA At Large. We will have 40 contestants this year. We announced in January that USofA Pageants will be starting Mr Gay USofA and Mr Gay USofA At Large. I am the National Promoter for Mr Gay USofA and Mr Gay USofA At Large. I am SO EXCITED about this new venture. I have been producing Mr Gay Texas for 5 years and last year had 28 contestants. Mr Gay USofA and Mr Gay USofA at Large will be a new addition for male entertainers and male leads . These new contests will be very different from the other national male contests.The categories will be personal interview, talent and club wear. I have already sold 11 prelims and I have a number of contracts pending at this time. That is a little of my personal history. I LOVE pageants and contests. THEY ARE MY LIFE !!! I have met many, many wonderful friends thru this business. And it is truly a business for me. As all of my friends know " Business is Business and Friendship is Friendship". I strongly believe in treating people the way I would want to be treated. I have made mistakes and I have learned from those mistakes. I am not perfect. I love having a good time and am some what of a Party Animal. I believe living life to its fullest. I am also VERY BLESSED to have a loving and caring mother by the name of Annette. Annette --"Queen of the Gays" loves me unconditionally and supports me 100% . She can be seen at all of my pageants/contests and can usually keep up with most of us. Now thats the way to start off an interview!!! Craig thanks for being so candid....I knew this was going to be one of "THOSE" interviews! I also must mention that Annette, The Queen of the Gays, can definately keep up with all of us.....actually, truth be told...she outlasted me two nights in a row....lol! So now that you are a national director for, not one, but two different divisions of USofA Pageantry what can we expect from you and the pageants themselves over the next 2 to 5 years? I would like to begin with Miss Gay USofA At Large. Being an AT LARGE person myself, I can relate to the big girls. After being in the pageant business for a couple of years I thought, Craig you need to get in drag and see what it is like. So I have painted up and put on a dress on 3 occasions for charity. So I do realize what everyone goes thru to get ready. And I must add that I looked pretty good. No talent, but I could really TIP around the bar. My goal with the help of my formers and promoters is to bring Miss Gay USofA at Large back to it glory days. Myself and Mahogany are working very hard to make this pageant not only the largest but the biggest pageant in the country for our lovely entertainers that weigh over 200 pounds. I would like to sell some prelims on the East Coast and West Coast. We have many prelims in the Mid West and South. I am also committed in raising the prize money as I sell more prelims. Contestants spend thousands of dollars and a nicer prize package is one of my priorities. I think that with my commitment to the art form and to the larger entertainers I can build Miss Gay USofA At Large to be the Premier National Pageant for larger entertainers. My goal with Mr Gay USofA and Mr Gay USofA at Large is to provide a different contest than the other National contest for men. We will not have swimsuit as a scored category and we will not have formal wear. I believe not having swimsuit as a category will open the contest up for a few more men that don't feel don't feel comfortable competing in swimsuits. Also having club wear instead of formal wear gives the contestants an opportunity to really show off what they know about fashion, style and current trends. I know that Mr Gay USofA and Mr Gay USofA At Large will become the title to win for male entertainers. I am committed to make this happen. With the help of the winners in September, we will be able to spread the word, sell more prelims and most importantly give male entertainers more of an opportunity to show the world their abilities. I truly believe that Mr Gay USofA and At Large is going to grow tremendously. I encourage anyone interested to get on board early so that you can be a part of this unique male entertainment. Excellent CraigAnn!! Obviously this is something that you have worked hard on and have planned out very well! ( On a side note..could you forward a couple of those pics of you in drag?? I will show you mine if you show me yours.....LMAO) So Craig, what do you think of the art form today, versus the past? Also, in your opinion, where do you see the art form heading in the near future? I think that the art form today is much bigger and better. Now we have entertainers trying new songs, new talents and new fashions. Some songs and talents done today would never had been done in the past. And some fashions worn today would have never been worn in the past. The vast majority of our overall culture has expanded and became more free. We, as gay people have always been on the fore front of new innovative ideas and fashion. These new and innovative ideas and fashion have of course spilled over to pageants and contests. I see the art form in the future to be leading the way in self expression not only in talent and fashion but also in the way people look at us. We are much more free to express ourselves but we still have a long way to go. With all of the accomplishments in the last few years I feel we are all being accepted a little more. As far as pageants go in the future, I would like to work with other promoters to make pageants LESS EXPENSIVE . The cost of doing pageants has sky rocketed and is really out of line. Also the cost of promoting and producing pageants is very expensive too. I would love to hear other promoters and contestants comments about how to make pageants less expensive. I'm all for reducing the costs of promoting Craig....I applaud you for suggesting that this expense needs to be reduced somehow. Do you think that the number of entrants in pageants are due to expense or the fact that there are so many different pageant systems out there. What can we do to generate the numbers that we have seen in the past? I think the number of entrants to pageants/contests are low because there are SO MANY pageants now. There is a pageant/contest somewhere almost every day. I think with a lot of hard work anyone can build up the number of contestants. When I became the National Promoter for Miss USofA At Large in October of 2005 there were only 17 contests at the National Pageant. I have built, with the help of my reigning and promoters the pageant up to 30 contestants this past year. We will have at least 40 contestants this year at Miss USofA At Large. So it can be done. But it takes a LOT of work, patience, diligence and ability to adapt. My three goals for this year are : 1.) Continue to work on making Miss USofA at Large the largest and the premier pageant for female impersonators that weigh over 200 pounds, 2.) Work very hard to make the first year of Mr Gay USofA and Mr Gay USofA At Large to be as successful as possible so that we will have a solid base to continue to grow and offer men a new and exciting avenue to express themselves and 3.) to work with contestants, promoters, formers and reigning title holders to try to find a way to reduce the cost of pageant/contests that have gotten completely out of hand. What was it about Female Impersonation that first gained your interest? What originally gained my interest about female impersonation is that after I came out in 1982, I went to my first gay pride parade in Houston. At the parade I saw Tasha Kohl and I said to my friends who is that beautiful girl. Well they all started laughing ! I said what is so funny. They told me that "beautiful girl" was a man dressed up as a woman. I was STUNNED !! That moment I knew I had been touched by the art form known as female impersonation. Of course shortly after that I met Bubba McNeely, Jerry Bird ,etc. I lived in the same condo as Naomi Simms for a couple of years also. And the rest is history. What are three things that you would change immediately in this artform if given the opportunity? Three things that I would change immediately if I could would be; 1). The cost of pageants. The cost of pageants have gotten way to expensive. 2.) Prejudice within the gay community against each other and 3.) people thinking that pageants/contests are rigged. So CraigAnn....being that I was a judge for the most recent USofA at Large, tell our readers about the difficult decision that you had to make regarding a contestant that was under weight. It was a most rough time and I recall sitting in the back seat of your car as you had to make this very tough decision. Bob, It was an extremely anxiety filled registration at Miss USofA At Large this past November. I was informed by my pageant staff that there was a contestant that did not meet the weight requirement. I spoke with the contestant ( Dorae Saunders ). Wanting to see her weight myself , I had her weigh again. ( that was a mistake by me) The scales came up with a different weight than original. Then I had another scale bought at a local drug store. That came up with a 3rd weight. I decided that the first weight that everyone weighed was the "official" weight and that Dorae would not be allowed to compete. Dorae was upset, but I had to go with what I thought was the best remedy to the situation. I am not perfect and I have made a number of my mistakes in my life. I did what I thought was best for Miss Gay USofA At Large. I have worked very hard in being the National Promoter and I try to make the best decisions for the Pageant and not for any other reason. I suggest that all contestants be sure and eat a few more burgers before coming to Miss USofA At Large this year if you think you are close to meeting the weight requirement. The weight requirement is that you weigh at least 200 pounds. Contestants MUST be weighed at their preliminary pageant and also at Miss USofA At Large in November in San Antonio. As much as we all regretted that the situation was as it was....we had to move on. I applaud you for doing what is right! Everyone knows that I love Dorae...but we all have rules and it would have been a huge negative had it not been handled the way it was. Craig...as draw near the end of this interview...tell our readers some of your favorite and most memorable moments in your pageants ( any or all of them)! Bob, I have had many, many fun and memorable moments at pageants during the past 22 years. One of the most memorable moments is shortly after I became a promoter for USofA Pageants. I was asked to judge Miss Louisiana USA (22 years ago). I was driving a suburban at that time and I loaded up Jerrry Bird, Babe Myers, Dyan Michaels and Rhapsody and we all made the trip from Houston to ALexandria, Louisiana. The pageant was good but at the end of the night all the judges had to be escorted out of the building by police because the fans of a contestant from New Orleans did not win and there was a riot. I thought to myself "what the hell have I gotten myself into ?" That was memorable. But going on the road trip with those 4 people was unbelievable. We stopped at every little Dairy Queen, between Houston and Louisiana. We told so many stories and tales - it was hilarious !!!! Unfortunately Babe, Dyan and Rhapsody are gone now. I MISS THEM!! I have had so many fun times at pageants. Whether it was last night at a pageant or 22 years ago I try to have FUN at all pageants. I think that most people that know me understand that I am very serious about pageants ( they are my business and life) but I LOVE TO HAVE FUN!!!!!!!!!!! I know personally how much you love to have a good time. ( thats one of the reasons I promote for you...lol). Thanks for sharing that wonderful story with me and the our readers...I miss Babe, Dyan and Rhapsody soooo much. Craig, we are at the end of your interview....as we close...please leave one last thought with our readers....and thank you very much for working with me over the past month to get this completed. Pageants have changed. No longer can you advertise a pageant and just expect for 10 contestants to show up. The pageant/contest business is all about PROMOTING !! It is also about keeping your word, running a fair contests and treating EVERYONE fairly. I am very very glad that I began promoting pageants/contests 22 years ago. I no longer do anything with friends from high school or college. All of my friends now I have met thru the pageant business. I would have to say that my experience has been 99% great. I will strive to promote and produce the best that I can . I am human and have made mistakes and will make more I am sure. But with communication, hard work (and I do mean hard work) and determination I have become very successful . I believe that if I am charging $20 at the door that it is MY responsibility to present the best pageant/contest that I can. I want people to say that I am glad that I came tonight to see another one of Craig's shows. Oh, by the way I also want to have FUN along the way. I also strive for people around me to have fun also. Thanks Bob for the opportunity for the interview. I have known you for over 20 years and I love you and respect you. Don't forget HAVE FUN !!!!!! Craigann
Crystal Chante during Onstage Question - 1996 Miss North Carolina America Pageant
"Lights, camera, and me without a stitch of make-up on!"
Posted 15 September 2008 - 11:15 AM
I sell Mary Kay.
Posted 15 September 2008 - 11:20 AM
Miss Florida International Pluss 2011 | Sunshine State AAG @ Large 2011 | 4th Alternate to AAG @ Large 2010
Florida AAG @ Large 2010 | Miss Large & Lovely 2009 | Miss Carrie Fairfield @ Large 2007
Posted 15 September 2008 - 11:39 AM
"It cost a lot of money to look this cheap!" ~Dolly Parton
Posted 15 September 2008 - 11:46 AM
Posted 15 September 2008 - 12:00 PM
Miss Gay America 2001 - Miss Big & Beautiful USofA
Posted 15 September 2008 - 12:07 PM
Miss Atlanta Showgirl 2009-10 * Miss Tennessee All American Goddess 2009 * 4th Alternate to Miss All American Goddess
Miss Mississippi USOfA 2009 * Miss East Coast USofA 2008 * Miss MSTN Emeritus * Miss LeBuzz 2008 * Miss ANF 2008
Posted 15 September 2008 - 01:18 PM
She is a Goddess!!!
Posted 15 September 2008 - 01:49 PM
Posted 15 September 2008 - 02:10 PM
Posted 15 September 2008 - 02:16 PM
Many thanks for all the calls from people across the country that called to check on me and my mother. It it nice to know that people care about us.
Bob, thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed by you . I think I look pretty good in drag.
I will post more this week. Mr USofA AT Large is Wednesday and Mr USofA is Thursday in Friday.
Posted 15 September 2008 - 02:52 PM
All post are only my opinions. In no manor are they intended to harm or hurt anyone's feelings. They are only my observations.
Posted 15 September 2008 - 03:10 PM
Posted 15 September 2008 - 05:31 PM
I'm not a 100 dollar bill not everyone is going to like me!
Posted 15 September 2008 - 07:34 PM
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