Personality: Ryan Andrew Dickinson

Spotlight on Miss Gay United States challenging perceptions of drag performers

4/6/2023, 6 p.m.
“Shocked, and overwhelmingly crippled.” That was the reaction of Ryan Andrew Dickinson, aka Bianca Blake Starr, to his victory in …

“Shocked, and overwhelmingly crippled.”

That was the reaction of Ryan Andrew Dickinson, aka Bianca Blake Starr, to his victory in the 2023 Miss Gay United States Pageant last Sunday. As the 18th drag performer to win the title, Mr. Dickinson’s new role comes with a large platform and several responsibilities.

Miss Gay United States, as Mr. Dickinson describes it, is an important symbol and “role model for the LGBTQIA+ community,” whose duties include advertising the organization, helping oversee its operations and appearances in various pride events and related pageants.

Mr. Dickinson assumes the role at a time when drag performers have been under attack across the country. From threats leveled at performances and the locales that host them, to legislation that seeks to restrict or ban drag performances, Mr. Dickinson is aware of the environment his new role exists in, and is looking to “change the mindset of people who aren’t as exposed to the community.”

“We’re not clowns, we’re not child predators, we’re not any kind of danger,” Mr. Dickinson says. “What we are is gatekeepers, and we set the standard of excellence for our community.”

Mr. Dickinson, who first began performing in drag 17 years ago in Richmond, has a number of pageant titles from Virginia and the United States. While these pageants provide money and prizes, Mr. Dickinson was attracted to the shows as a way to push himself “to be the best (he) could be” in the craft of drag performance, with this newest victory standing as the culmination of years of work unique to this community and space.

“Pageantry forces you to focus on details,” Mr. Dickinson says, “and allows you the opportunity to make a difference in the community.”

Mr. Dickinson’s winning performance emphasized this value of the event in several ways. Alongside a showcase of a “stunning beauty in an evening gown,” Bianca Blake Starr also provided a proposal focused on marketing the pageant to a younger, wider range of performers.

It’s a persona that is a sharp contrast to Mr. Dickinson’s life outside of drag, where he works as a property manager and business owner, and lives as a caring partner and father in Chesterfield.

With the title under his belt, Mr. Dickinson has his sights now set on becoming Miss Gay America in 2026, when his responsibilities as Miss Gay United States are complete and he will be eligible to compete again. For now, the thrill of his victory in the Miss Gay United States Pageant hasn’t faded, however, and will likely remain with him.

“I have worked for the past decade for this dream, and to finally achieve that dream is surreal and it takes a few moments to realize what’s actually happening in that moment,” Mr. Dickinson says. “It was an experience I will never forget.”

Meet the new Miss Gay United States title holder and this week’s Personality, Ryan Andrew Dickinson:

Stage name: Bianca Blake Starr.

Pronouns: Out of drag my pronouns are he/him/his. In drag, my pronouns are Cashapp and Venmo.

Latest achievement: I was just recently crowned Miss Gay United States.

Occupation: Property manager at Rivers Bend Apartment Homes.

Date and place of birth: Aug. 4 in Washington, D.C.

Where I live now: Chesterfield County.

Education: Associate degree, University of Virginia.

Family: Mother Laurie, my partner, Kevin, and our daughter, Haileigh.

Miss Gay United States is: A symbol of excellence, a leader, and a role model for the LG- BTQIA+ community. Miss Gay United States puts the needs of others before herself, and is there to speak up for those who have no voice within the community.

When and why founded: Miss Gay United States was founded in 2004 by Tim Clark and Dale Thomason in Roanoke. The system was created to provide an opportunity for entertainers to showcase their talents on a national level. To this day The Gay United States Pageantry System strives to provide some of the highest quality in gay, lesbian and trans entertainment through pageantry nationwide.

Where did the 2023 pageant take place: The 2023 Miss Gay United States Pageant was held in Roanoke at The Park Nightclub, as this has been the home of the national Gay United States Pageantry System for the past several years.

Richmond and the pageant scene: Historically, Richmond has had a rich tradition in pageantry. Many regional and national titleholders have either come from the Richmond area, or continue to perform in the area. Currently, there are only a handful of pageants that still occur in the Richmond area as there has been a shift to include more alternative styles of drag. We still have several major systems that operate out of Richmond, including the Nationz Pageantry system, which is owned and operated by our very own Zakia Jemaceye.

Thoughts about the state of Tennessee banning drag performances: Wow, where to begin. To sum it up in one word, inhumane. Laws such as this are meant to do one thing, and that is to deny the rights of our brothers and sisters to live their lives as their true authentic selves.

How I qualified to compete: I competed and won Miss Gay Gatsby’s, Maryland United States, which was a city preliminary held in Baltimore. That qualified me to compete at the state level at the Miss Gay Maryland United States pageant, which I won as well. That qualified me to compete at the National Pageant.

Previous pageant titles: Miss Gay Fredericksburg, Miss Gay Harrisonburg, Miss Gay Shenandoah Valley, Miss Im- pulse Gay Social Club, Miss Gay Arlington, Miss Godfreys, Miss Virginia Pride, Miss Gay Virginia America, Miss Gay Virginia Commonwealth United States, Miss Gay Southeast Regional United States, Miss Gay Capital City United States, Miss Gay Cosmopolitan United States, and Miss Gay Maryland United States.

Number of participants in the 2023 Miss Gay United States: There were 18 qualified contestants, of which nine competed for the title of Miss Gay United States 2023

How I wowed the judges: With my stunning beauty in evening gown, and with my plan of action and business proposal for moving the system forward.

My stage persona vs. my everyday persona: My stage persona is loud and glamourous and outlandish, while my every-day persona is kind of reserved. They are polar opposites.

How I decide on my pageant wear: I design everything myself within the guidelines of each category, and I put my own, unique flare into each design. Each category is drastically different, so the process is different for each category.

My beauty secrets are: My biggest beauty secret is always take care of your skin underneath all of the makeup. That and have a good plastic surgeon on standby.

How much time goes into getting ready for a pageant: Depending on what pageant, it can take months of preparation. For local smaller pageants, usu- ally about two months, but for national pageants, it can take six months to a year to prepare a winning package.

How I felt when I was crowned Miss Gay United States: Shocked, and overwhelmingly crippled. I have worked for the past decade for this dream, and to finally achieve that dream is surreal and it takes a few moments to realize what’s actually happening in that moment. It was an experience I will never forget.

Best late-night snack: Cookies.

A quote that I am most inspired by: “Always treat people the way you want to be treated.”

At the top of my “to-do” list:

1) Have a successful reign as Miss Gay United States and 2) Build my pool.

The best thing my parents ever taught me: To be self-sufficient and not to rely on others, but to create my own success.

The person who influenced me the most: My daughter, Haileigh. She made me grow up and take responsibility for every action and from an early age, she made me be a better person for her.

Book that influenced me the most: “You’re the F*cking Problem: A Guide to Getting Out of Your Own Way by Adam Marburger.” You have to take responsibility for your own actions. You can’t pass blame or make excuses. If you want to succeed, you have to accept the fact that you are only competing with yourself and you determine whether you win or lose.

What I’m reading now: “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. Always remember what the end goal is and have a plan to reach that goal.

Next goal: To become Miss Gay America.