American Beauties

Don we now our gay apparel

On the contest's final night, there is standing room only at the Holiday Inn Select ballroom in downtown St. Louis. During the first two nights of preliminaries at Faces, the audience was made up predominately of regular patrons of the nightclub. Tonight, though, there are more than 300 parents, photographers, friends, wide-eyed gawkers and men in various stages of drag attending the event.

Both Tajah Mahal and Ineda Cochtael have made it to the top 10, and as the lights dim for Tajah's talent routine, a former Miss Gay Missouri who saw Tamarah Mahorning perform "Zombie" leans across the table and whispers, "You won't believe what you're about to see."


Joie DiMercurio as Tumara Mahorning: "Everyone thinks you want to be a woman, and that's just not true. It's an illusion you're creating, a character."
Joie DiMercurio as Tumara Mahorning: "Everyone thinks you want to be a woman, and that's just not true. It's an illusion you're creating, a character."
Joie DiMercurio as Tumara Mahorning: "Everyone thinks you want to be a woman, and that's just not true. It's an illusion you're creating, a character."
Jennifer Silverberg
Joie DiMercurio as Tumara Mahorning: "Everyone thinks you want to be a woman, and that's just not true. It's an illusion you're creating, a character."

Joie's boy reflection gazes back at him, looking like an unpainted canvas. Before him are five tubes of eyeliner, five tubes of mascara, two tubs of loose powder, three sponges, two pots of lip gloss, a plastic box of false fingernails, seven large brushes, one tub of baby wipes, three cans of hairspray, one can of Static Guard, three hairbrushes, one hair pick, one comb and a stack of eyeshadows, all of which he will use during the three hours it will take him to finish the work.

First he plasters Max Factor foundation across his clean-shaven face, neck and chest, then a layer of powder. Next, with a surgeon's steady hand, he applies black liquid eyeliner to his top and bottom lids, followed by a blanket layer of white eyeshadow, followed by black shadow swiped into the crease. He leans away from the mirror, looks at his profile, then leans back in again. He brushes orange rouge along the tops of his cheekbones, then sweeps more white eyeshadow on his lids. Then more black. Dark rouge in the hollows of his cheeks. A touch of black shadow at the outer corners of his eyes. More white shadow near his nose. Extra orange rouge to blend in with the dark below. Another layer of powder. More white eyeshadow. More dark rouge.

As carefully as he lined his lids, he glues on false eyelashes at least a half-inch long, then applies fingernails that are longer still. Next he applies heavier black eyeliner over the lashes. More black eyeshadow. More dark rouge. Then come the lips, limned with a heavy, dark line and filled in with a lighter shade of plum. Now he applies more orange rouge. He glues a tiny silver sequin onto the corner of his left eye, then applies one to his right eye. More powder. More white eyeshadow. More dark rouge.

He stands and starts pulling on his pantyhose. The first 10 pairs are topped with dancer's tights, which are topped with large, foam-rubber hips pads, which are topped off with two more pairs of pantyhose and a binding black bodyshaper. Then he takes a strip of duct tape and straps it on under his chest to bring the skin together to form cleavage. Then he adds the bra, stuffed with falsies. Then the dress. Then the wig. Then the shoes.

He sits down in front of the mirror again -- "I can't breathe" -- and adheres 4-inch rhinestone earrings to his lobes with fingernail glue, then shapes the wig with a pick, hairspray and Static Guard. He leans closer to the mirror and applies the last layer of lipstick, then leans back, considers his profile, smacks his lips and smiles. Tonight, Tamarah is hosting the final evening of the Miss Gay Missouri contest, a contest his protégé Ineada Cochtale will win.

But now, as he looks at herself in the mirror, he wonders what he could have done better.

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