Survival of the Fiercest

Five New York Girls Strive for Drag Divinity at the Miss Continental Pageant

Candis stayed with two members of the Inner Sorority, Mimi Marks and Cézanne. "I felt a camaraderie with them right away, which is nice," she says. "While I have a great camaraderie with many of the girls here, there aren't that many transsexual performers here. That was a great part of it."

This year she is preparing to serve up glamour the Continental way, in a $2900 custom evening gown ("crushed beading head-to-toe with rhinestones") that reflects her new approach. Candis's triumph raises the question of why the Continental style of drag, with its Southern sense of dramatic interpretations, never caught on here before. "I think it has a lot to do with the fact that New York is a forward-moving place, an edgy place," she says. "In the rest of the country, drag is a lot more traditional, a lot more melodramatic." For Candis, the downtown approach works better. "I'm not going to do a Celine Dion song, because it's tired." But she admits there is a change coming, and that if presented in the right angle (perhaps without those Celine Dion numbers), Continental can catch on in New York.

“I’m not going to do a Celine Dion song, because it’s tired”: Candis Cayne.
Photograph by Bryce Lankard
“I’m not going to do a Celine Dion song, because it’s tired”: Candis Cayne.

"I think that when people see this," says Scott Alan Cooper, a/k/a Michelle Dupree, "they'll change their mind. Candis Cayne is a perfect example of that. She was always in that kind of East Village, kind of more bohemian style. I think that in terms of New York, Candis has been a good way for a lot of that community to segue back. And now that she's been to Continental, and she's saying, Wow, I'm like, Yes, honey, that"—cue the sweeping hand motion—"is what it's about!"

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