At long last, The Queens is ready for its close-up!
Part Paris is Burning, part RuPaul’s Drag Race and part Miss America, The Queens explores the transgender subculture of competitive female impersonation. Along the way, this feature-length documentary delves into the fascinating history of Chicago’s iconic female illusion show lounge, The Baton (now in its 49th year in the same location), and the club’s legendary offspring, the Miss Continental beauty pageant (an annual competition that has drawn transgender contestants from around the globe since 1980). The entertainers immersed in this glamorous, close-knit community share the highs and lows of their lives as they compete for the coveted crown.
The first reviews are IN! Lavender magazine raves, “The art of female impersonation is reported on with gritty vibrancy, showbiz pizzazz, and erotic splendor in a new documentary titled The Queens…As we watch them meticulously prepare to perform and self-display in their dressing rooms, we witness artists in process with purpose. They glory in the unfolding transformation and sometimes at great sacrifice and expense…This documentary entertains, informs, and ignites the imagination. The lines between male and female are sculpted into new forms.”
The Queens has also been featured (so far) in: Minneapolis StarTribune, Windy City Times, WVON 1690 AM The Talk of Chicago, The Ben Joravsky Show WCPT 820 Chicago, OUT Chicago, Twin Cities Gay Scene, Fresh Fruit KFAI 90.3 Minneapolis/St. Paul
After successful premiere parties and screenings in Chicago and Minneapolis during the winter of 2018 (see photos at the bottom of this page!), the next (currently scheduled) screenings of The Queens are set for:
Immediately following the screening in St. Louis, two of the entertainers profiled in the film, Sunny Dee-Lite and Tiffany T. Hunter, will take questions from the audience (as will The Queens director Mark Saxenmeyer). Both will also be performing live at the event! Fully tax deductible tickets are $12. A cash bar and food for purchase will be available all evening as well.
This event is presented by U.T.O.P.I.A. (United Territories of Pacific Islanders Alliance) of Seattle. Immediately following the screening in Seattle, The Queens director Mark Saxenmeyer will take audience questions. Tickets are $12.
Proceeds from our screenings will help The Reporters Inc. pay for post-production costs, including sound mixing, film festival entry fees and insurance, in order to launch the The Queens into widespread distribution.
The Reporters Inc. is currently entering The Queens into film festivals across the country (so far, in festivals in New York, Atlantic City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, Chicago, Sacramento, Palm Springs, Minneapolis, Washington D.C., Philadelphia) and abroad (so far, in Cape Town, Melbourne, London, Wales). Check back here to find out where the film has been accepted and when it can be seen. And be sure to sign up for our e-newsletter for updates as well: www.thereporters.org/contact/
Those interested in arranging a screening of The Queens at other venues throughout the U.S., please contact The Reporters Inc. at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 612-333-3180.
As society grapples with issues of transgender acceptance and understanding, The Queens takes viewers out of the politics and onto the stage with an exclusive look inside the first beauty pageant to ever allow transgender female impersonators to participate. Born out of discrimination, the Miss Continental Pageant is now one of the longest running and most prestigious contests of its kind in the United States, attracting competitors from around the globe.
The Queens humanizes and demystifies this group of often-misunderstood individuals; they’re fiercely determined, strikingly imaginative and possess jaw-dropping talent. The Queens will have you cheering for the creative spirit that lives within us all!
Using the framework of the 38-year-old Miss Continental pageant as its backdrop, The Queens explores this complex and relatively unknown subculture of transgender life. The documentary attempts to help viewers understand why these pageant competitors are so wildly driven and dedicated in their quest for the crown — a title most people have never even heard of, despite Miss Continental’s longevity and prestige within the female impersonation world.
We follow the journeys of several contestants as they diligently plan, prepare and plot their paths to victory. Along the way, we meet several former titleholders, as well as some who have repeatedly competed in the pageant but never left victorious (and are perhaps a bit bitter).
But the documentary focuses on more than just the competition. We delve into the whys and hows and dangers of the physical alterations many competitors have made to their outer bodies (silicone injections, breast implants, facial reconstruction, etc.), their inner bodies (hormone therapies), and their decisions to refrain from following through with gender confirmation surgery. Some do so in order to conform with Miss Continental’s strict (and some say archaic) rules defining what constitutes a female impersonator — rules that determine who is, and isn’t, eligible to compete and perform.
We also talk with female impersonators who live their lives as men outside the pageant and performance world, and the occasional tensions between them and those who’ve been surgically enhanced.
We examine the difficulty many transgender female impersonators have finding true and lasting romantic relationships. We address the rejection many have experienced from family, as well as society’s changing opinions about the acceptance of transgender individuals in general today.
Because Miss Continental is so closely linked to Chicago’s legendary female impersonation nightclub, The Baton, (Jim Flint created and owns them both), we take a side trip deep inside this iconic, 49-year-old show lounge. We dig into its storied history, and meet the permanent cast, many of whom are former Miss Continental title-holders themselves. We learn why, for many, The Baton is the holy grail of female impersonation, and why many new Continental pageant winners hope their victories will lead to permanent employment at The Baton as well.
We reveal the shadier and sadder parts of The Baton’s past—mob and police pay-offs to stay open, drugs, prostitution, AIDS, crime, tragic accidents, and even murder. Several former Baton performers (and Miss Continentals) have met horrible, haunting deaths.
Returning to Continental, we get to the bottom of why winning this crown means so much to those in pursuit of the title, why they see it as a stepping stone to greater fame, fortune and success, and — yes — how it’s also a cut-throat competition where occasional acts of sabotage have been known to take place.
You’ll be awestruck by the amount of time and money spent (on makeup, costumes, wigs, backup dancers and more) to win this crown. The contestants shimmer and seduce, titillate and twirl. The glitz, the glamour, the talent and the beauty on display here rival the Miss America, Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants (and some say put them to shame)!
With thousands in the audience cheering, there are tears of joy for those who perform well under the Miss Continental stage lights; when the show ends, there are tears of heartbreak in the shadows for those who find victory to be elusive.
To some outsiders, and the uninformed, the dolled-up, lip-synched routines at both Miss Continental and The Baton might seem frivolous, perhaps even pointless, after a few viewings. But The Queens will show you why creating this illusion and this mystique are a way of life for these performers, as well as thousands of others just like them (and their devoted fans) across the United States and the world.
Year after year, decade after decade, the show simply must go on.
(Left) At the Chicago premiere party and screening of The Queens (held at the Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club on January 25, 2018), Sunny Dee-Lite performs for the crowd. Sunny is profiled in the film. (Right) Reporters Inc. advisory committee member Nancy Pender, president Mark Saxenmeyer and secretary Benee Smith celebrate at the event.
(Left) Also at The Queens Chicago premiere party, lead cinematographers Larry Collins and Chris Davis watch the film for the first time. (Right) Naysha Lopez (also profiled in the film) attends the Chicago event with Daniel Fitzgerald.
(Left) Bill Henkin attends the Chicago premiere party with Kelly Lauren, Miss Continental 1988. (Right) Tiffany T. Hunter (also profiled in The Queens) answers audience questions following the Minneapolis screening (held at Honey at Ginger Hop on February 8, 2018).
(Left) Nikki Vixxen, Rick Olson and Bryan Vasquez attend the Minneapolis premiere (Nikki and Bryan appear in the film). (Right) Calley Bliss performs her original composition “All Mine” at the Minneapolis event. The song is featured in The Queens.
(Left) Country Yasmineh, along with Rob Genadek, performs her song “Pretty Kitty” at the Minneapolis event. (Right) Leora Levitt and Marvel Levitt accompany Gloria Iacono on her song “Better” at the Minneapolis premiere party. Both original songs are featured in The Queens.