by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
On January 12, Josue Henriquez and Isabella De La Rosa were officially crowned Mr. and Miss Gay Seattle, respectively, at the Imperial Sovereign Court of Seattle's annual Mr. and Miss Gay Seattle Pageant, held at Neighbours (1509 Broadway).
Last year's winners, Alexander Mentele and DonnaTella Howe, graciously stepped down as two of the most popular community ambassadors in recent memory. Both used the platform to raise money and awareness for issues ranging from marriage equality to aid for LGBT homeless youth.
Special guest host Jujubee from RuPaul's Drag Race, Drag U, and Drag Race All Stars did a marvelous job.
In the Miss category, Drew Paradisco, Ursula Major, and Isabella De La Rosa faced off, while the Mr. category saw DJ PBear (Britin Baker), Jimmy Gonzalez, Ceasar Hart, and Josue Henriquez compete.
ISABELLA DE LA ROSA
MISS GAY SEATTLE 2013
For the next 12 months, Isabella De La Rosa will wear the crown and sash as Miss Gay Seattle 2013. Isabella, 32, told Seattle Gay News it 'felt great' to win and that 'it made me feel that all the work I put into this finally paid off, not only for me but for my community.'
Being a co-host at the annual Latino Pageant, Isabella says she has a great respect for the amount of time and effort that goes into pageants, small or big.
'The number of people that turned out to this event was impressive,' Isabella said, referring to the more than 300 in attendance Saturday night.
'As a contestant, it was a rollercoaster of emotions,' she continued. 'The start was scary, reminiscent of my first pageant where I only got runner-up.'
'But once the pageant started, the fear became adrenaline, running from the stage to the changing area to change my hair, jewelry, outfits, and making sure everything was in place - I didn't want a wardrobe malfunction while on stage,' said Isabella. 'The end was the nail-biter. I was running against two great people that in their own way brought their uniqueness. In my mind doubt started: 'Did I do everything I could do? Could I have done something different?'
To prepare for this competition Isabella said she first had to conquer a barrier. 'Most people don't know this, but I'm a bit of a shy person and going up to new people and starting a conversation was challenging,' she said. 'During the campaign period I worked hard and finally can say that barrier is no longer an obstacle for me.'
Isabella said she hopes to continue 'the great work that DonnaTella Howe and Alex Mentele did,' but this time 'getting the Latino LGBT community more involved.'
'I've always kept in mind, with or without a title, that I would do my best to represent the Latino community with dignity,' she said. 'Winning this title has indeed increased the magnifying glass, but I know that being who I am will demonstrate that our Latino LGBT community is strong, united, and most of all - a family.'
'I would like to thank everyone that attended the 49th Annual Mr. and Miss Gay Seattle pageant,' concluded Isabella De La Rosa. 'It means a lot to me that I was able to showcase my abilities and that allowed you to elect me as your new Miss Gay Seattle. Gracias!'
MR. GAY SEATTLE 2013
At just 22-years-old, Josue (pronounced ho-sway) Henriquez ran for, and won, Mr. Gay Seattle 2013 - the first title he's ever competed for.
There is no doubt about it, Henriquez had his work cut out for him - this year's contestants for Mr. Gay Seattle were known faces in the Seattle nightlife scene. But in the end, it was his enduring story of weight loss and life change that put him over the top, allowing him the victory.
When he realized that he had won, Henriquez told SGN that he felt 'a feeling of accomplishment and relief.'
'I did not think I could win the title because out of all the candidates I was the least known,' he admits. 'I had wanted to run for the title since last summer. I began my preparation in September. I wanted to look the best, so I began to hit the gym almost daily. I even challenged myself to go for 30 days nonstop in December.'
The process, in order to win, is meticulous. Contestants have to campaign for votes, not unlike lawmakers and the president. In doing so, Henriquez told SGN he met genuine people from different Gay communities.
'It sure was an amazing way to network outside of Seattle,' he admits. 'I even received support from different bars and shop owners around Capitol Hill. Attendees gave me compliments and hugs. Everyone I talked to reassured me this is what I want to do. I want to represent our community.'
'I did not know there was a big Latino Gay community,' said the new Mr. Gay Washington. 'I realized I want to bridge the gap and bring our community together. I also have an inspirational story, which I hope I'm able to share to anyone I meet. I want to be my genuine self. Anyone who meets me will have an extraordinary impression from Gay Seattleites. I am kind and sweet at heart, and I plan to keep these qualities.'
To prepare for the pageant, he began to work out at the gym.
'I lost an extra 15 pounds on top of my original goal,' Henriquez told SGN. 'I knew I wanted to share my incredible weight loss. At the beginning of November, I began to think of my approach for the competition. I chose to leave some mystery to my campaign ad - I used a picture when I was 277 pounds. Anyone who read it, would be intrigued to find out how much I had changed.'
He incorporated the weight loss into his performance. 'It began with my own words: 'I never knew what it meant to love myself until I had to fight. I used to be 277 pounds and I am proud to say I have lost 95. I am strong because of my past. I have shed sweat, tears, and even blood. And these are the layers I once wore ...' Each set of clothes he removed on stage, he once wore.
He chose the song, 'The Fighter' by Gym Class Heroes for his performance because of the background story about the song. When Henriquez was at the gym working out earlier last year, the song came on the radio. 'As it played, the message behind the song moved me, and I teared up,' he said. 'I want to inspire people with my life. I want for anyone who meets me to leave thinking: 'This one's a fighter.'
'I once wore size XXL shirts and size 40 jeans,' he continued. 'I now can fit into small-size shirts and size 31 jeans. I am currently weighing 182 pounds, and I still plan on toning and continuing my weight-loss journey. It's an ongoing battle I will never give up.'
Henriquez says he was glad the Latino community felt safe to come out and support the pageant.
'I will watch my actions carefully,' he said. 'I am held at a higher standard because I am now representing the Seattle LGBT community. I will be visiting other Gay cities, so rest assured I will act with poise and respect. Because the Imperial Sovereign Court of Seattle is a nonprofit organization, I am also responsible to make a difference in our community. I am to hold fundraisers to help a cause I support. At this moment I'm unsure which organization I will choose, but stay tuned as I am ready to tackle my new title.'
Weight loss is also an emotional learning experience, said Henriquez.
'I began to lose weight to feed my pride and ego. I slowly began to realize I needed to change my perspective and grow to be a better person. I now want to be the best that I can be. And throughout the process, positively impact someone's life.'
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