Friday, August 5, 2005

International Ms Leather/Ms Bootblack Contest 2005

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #266, August 5, 2005)

PHOTO: International Ms Leather 2005, Jessi Holman Ahart (above), and International Ms Bootblack 2005, Suka.

Is it possible to have a good leather contest with only three contestants? How about with only one?

(Answer: It’s possible. Read on to see how.)

This year’s International Ms Leather (IMsL) contest, held in Omaha July 16-18, had three contestants. The accompanying International Ms Bootblack (IMsBB) contest had only one—which meant she had to single-handedly shine a whole bunch of boots during the weekend.

IMsL’s motto this year was “Quality, not quantity.” All the contestants were strong and distinctive competitors who gave a very good account of themselves. That, along with a seasoned production staff, made both competitions worthwhile.

And the new titleholders coming out of those contests certainly seem as if they have the requisite intelligence and passion to serve their titles well in the coming year.

The weekend’s action centered around the host hotel, Omaha’s Redick Plaza. Friday evening started with a meet-and-greet and basket auction. Each contestant had put together a “basket” of leatherwear, toys, videos, books, and other leather-related items. The baskets were auctioned off to benefit the new IMsL’s and IMsBB’s travel fund.

Following the basket auction, the Texans in attendance hosted a cigar-and-brandy party for those not attending the dungeon party a few blocks away.

There was plenty to do on Saturday. In addition to shopping at the leather/fetish vendor fair, Kansas City Leather University (<>) presented a total of nine workshops. Topics included knife play, spanking, and “ASL (American Sign Language) for Fun and Leather.” Best workshop title: “When Daddy Has Tits.”

The IMsL contest and show took place Saturday afternoon at The Max, a gay bar two blocks from the Redick. For those unfamiliar with The Max, it is one of the nicest, friendliest—and cleanest—gay bars anywhere.

After an opening phone-sex monologue (read in a hilarious deadpan by Stephanie Locke), the weekend’s judges were introduced. This year’s judging panel included a Minnesota representative: Vicki Knight of the Knights of Leather.

(The judges had already conducted private interviews with the contestants on Friday. Because there were only three contestants, the judges were able to spend a half-hour with each contestant. By comparison, the judging panel at recent International Mr. Leather contests has only had eight minutes for each contestant interview.)

The contestants presented their speeches and fantasy performances. All three women spoke so eloquently and from the heart that if there was supposed to be a time limit on the speeches, no one was interested in enforcing it.

The fantasies were as individual as the contestants who performed them. Eddy (sponsored by the Centurions of Columbus, Ohio) played a schoolmaster disciplining a student with a bad attitude.

Lady Faye (sponsored by Flesh & Fantasy and The Dallas Eagle) performed a surprising and disturbing fantasy that drew a strong reaction from many of the men in the audience (two words: Lorena Bobbitt).

Jessi Holman Ahart (sponsored by Baltimore Eagle, Black Rose, FIST and The Playhouse) performed a graceful yet passionate story about a gargoyle that comes to life when she sees an attractive woman walk by.

Entertainment while the tallymasters were tallying was provided by Dossie Easton, a San Francisco-based author, family therapist and leatherdyke. She performed a breathtaking recitation of her own poem, “Do Me.” This was followed by the traditional IMsL best-tattoo contest.

In one of the most memorable titleholder step-asides ever, outgoing International Ms Leather Lori Ellison made a brief but eloquent speech. At its conclusion she was surrounded by all the other female titleholders in the room—who then completely covered her by spraying her with cans of Silly String.

After the Silly String was cleaned up, artist and leatherman Ray Castro presented Ellison with her official title portrait.

International Ms Bootblack 2004 izzy passed the torch to the sole (no pun intended) 2005 competitor, Suka (sponsored by Cellblock Chicago and Lesbian Community Cancer Project). The fact that there was no suspense about the transition did not make it any less touching.

Finally came the announcement of the new International Ms Leather: Jessi Holman Ahart. She now joins a long and distinguished line of leatherwomen and activists who have held the IMsL title.

At the closing Victory Brunch on Sunday morning, contest producers Amy Marie and Megan Meek-deJarlais (IMsL ’93 and ’98, respectively) reminded the crowd that next year will be IMsL’s 20th anniversary. Planning is already in progress for this milestone celebration.

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