After brainstorming with other members at Transgender Health Empowerment, Inc., Brian Watson, director of programs at THE, says he decided that a pageant was the best idea for the organization's first major independent fundraiser.
''Pageants have always been real popular among the transgender community,'' he says, ''and it was the biggest thing that we could get people to come out to [who are] transgender, and also allies of the transgender community.''
Organizers from THE will award two contestants with $500 each on Wednesday, March 14, at Cada Vez during the Mr. & Miss THE 2007 Pageant. The winners will receive another $500 each, next year, upon retiring their titles at the next pageant.
Watson says THE has hosted HIV/AIDS-prevention fundraisers before, but this is the first one that the agency is conducting without the help of government funding. The pageant is open to community sponsors, Watson says, adding that D.C. Black Pride has already made a $250 contribution toward the event.
''This is a staff fundraiser,'' he says of the pageant, which cost about $3,000 to organize. ''There is no board involvement and we're not getting funding from the D.C. government. This is something that the staff sat around and decided to do. The energy and effort they put into this is because they want to help the agency. They want to see more come from the agency, and us doing this fundraiser will really help.''
But it's not just about money. It's also about showcasing talent and increasing representation of the transgender community, says Monet Dupree, health educator at THE.
''The winners, both male and female, will be the face of the agency for next year,'' Dupree says, adding that a headshot of each winner will be placed on palm cards listing all the organization's services. The winners will also appear at the group's major events.
It's still not too late to fill out an application to participate in the pageant, the entry fee for which is $75. In fact, Watson says it's not unusual to have people applying to be in the contest on the day of the event.
The pageant is set to kick off like a fashion show, showcasing the contestants in different attire including a ''Presentation in Pink,'' executive wear and evening gowns. Later in the evening, contestants will face a ''question & response'' session and a talent segment.
''Our main goal is to fundraise for HIV/AIDS prevention,'' Dupree says. ''We [also] thought this would be a way for our transgender community to come together to show that they're ready to empower themselves.''
Transgender Health Empowerment's Mr. & Miss THE 2007 Pageant is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m., on Wednesday, March 14, at Cada Vez, 1438 U St. NW. Tickets are $15 in advance at THE's prevention office, 1711 North Capitol St. NE. They can also be purchased at the door on the night of the event for $20. For more information call 202-636-1646.