This year, four people were recognized as 2018 New Mexico Pride Title Holders. According to the , recipients must register and win their pageant, as well as engage communities in a year long project to “educate, and bring awareness” to LGBTQ culture and issues, to become a Title Holder.
Chris Salas, also known as Topher Daniels, is a University of New Mexico alumnus, and holds the Mr. New Mexico Pride 2018 title.
Daniels has been involved with pageants for over seven years and has served on the Pride board.
Daniels said he competed for Mr. Gay USofA and Mr. Arizona, but never saw himself becoming Mr. New Mexico Pride. He said his partner’s work as Mr. New Mexico Pride in 2017 inspired him to impact a community.
“This is a service title. It’s not always glamorous but it is about using the platform of Albuquerque Pride as a platform for things you’re passionate about,” Daniels said, comparing the title to being “the Queen of England.”
Daniels said he built his platform and raised $200 for — a non-profit organization that works to improve the safety and living conditions for Albuquerque’s homeless population.
“We come from a place of non-judgement and (A Light in the Night) is just people helping people,” Daniels said. “For whatever reason, we see more transgendered people homeless, and I want to draw our community’s attention to that issue.”
Nathen Illidge-Welch, who goes by the stage name “Felicia Roxx Star Faraday,” holds the 2018 title of Miss New Mexico Pride.
She said she has been doing drag for six years and “never saw herself as a pageant person.”
Faraday said that her biggest issue with pageants now is how “cookiecutter” it is.
“I like to play with colors and (modern pageant judges) are very strict with what you have to look like in order to compete,” she said, and added that “she can be herself” in Pride pageants.
Faraday said she built her Pride platform around the — an organization that provides crisis support and a 24-hour hotline for sexual assault counseling. She wanted to relieve victims of sexual assault from the same struggles she went through.
“I kind of held onto this secret for 10 years before I actually spoke up about it. It took me working with sexual assault and the victims at the Rape Crisis Center to step up and be ‘this is what happened — I’m not ashamed of it, and neither should you,’” Faraday said.
Faraday said she hopes her position will strengthen support networks and resources for sexual assault survivors.
“I don’t personally think that I’m anybody special, I just think I do what I feel is right for the people around me,” Faraday said.
CeCe Knight Jones, born Casey Combs, holds the 2018 Miss New Mexico Pride Youth title. Jones started drag two years ago at events hosted by the — a nonprofit that aims to increase awareness and educate about health and social issues and supports the drag community.
“I thought it would be a good idea for me to run so I could understand what people go through when they go through pageants, because they’re a big part in our community,” Jones said.
Jones said he ran on a platform based around anti-bullying and anti-harassment.
“(Anti-bullying and anti-harassment) is such a big deal to us LGBTQ youth and a lot of people know it, but it doesn’t get the attention that it needs,” he said.
Jones said that all the money he raised will be donated to the , a national 24-hour suicide prevention hotline for LGBTQ youth, and to , an STD and HIV prevention and treatment program under the New Mexico Department of Health.
Jones said he hopes his actions and title as Miss New Mexico Youth will jumpstart LGBTQ youth to “take the community by storm.”
Michael Thomas Pierce, also known as Ashton Phoenix, holds the 2018 Mr. New Mexico Pride Youth.
Phoenix said what motivated him to run for the title was to “be the change that you want to see in the world.”
He crafted a platform with New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) because he holds them “close to heart.” He said he was adopted when he was three years old — Phoenix is now 20 years old.
“I would go to the park and pass out waters at (events with CYFD), do the star spangled banner, and also I would go in and volunteer by wrapping presents and passing them out to all the children and by helping with the parties (my aunt) puts on,” Phoenix said.
He said he wants to expand his volunteering horizons.
“I want to start by getting donations as far as blankets and stuff like that, and take them to the homeless adopted community, especially the LGBTQ part of it, but overall all of the CYFD homeless (children), because there are a lot of children that have come out to their parents and their parents kick them out and now they’re homeless,” he said.
Phoenix said he wants to see more outreach from CYFD to him for LGBTQ issues.
“If I am using them as a platform, I feel they should also outreach to me to help support them and be a part of the organization,” he said.
Anthony Jackson is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TonyAnjackson.