Blurring gender lines: MSVU’s 14th Mr. Mount

Annual drag queen and king competition at the university

Hosts Tia Larkin "Tip around Tia", Michael Collins "Brandy Michaels", and "Cornelius Young" (Photo: Melissa Shaw)
Winner Jason Purcell "Freeda Wailes" with Michael Collins "Brandy Michaels" (Photo: Melissa Shaw)
"The Babettes" Matt Morash, Zach Gallant, Bill Mcgillvray and Paul Neilsen (Photo: Melissa Shaw)
Matt Morash, Zach Gallant, Bill Mcgillvray, Paul Neilsen (Photo: Melissa Shaw)

It’s not just a talent show or a beauty pageant — it’s a MSVU tradition.

It’s Friday night and about 320 people in the Rosaria Multi-purpose Room at Mount Saint Vincent University are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Brandy Michaels. Michaels is the co-host of tonight’s drag queen and king competition. Dressed in a maroon-gold shimmery dress, a see-through black shawl and black heels, the blonde co-host shimmers on stage and belts out a showtune.

Brandy Michaels is actually 58-year-old Michael Collins, better known as Pizza Mike. He’s been a fixture at MSVU’s Mr. Mount Competition since the inception of the event. Although many students know Collins as the guy who makes pizza in the cafeteria, his first career was a drag queen and stage performer. He has performed in both the U.S. and Canada.

“[Mr. Mount] started out 14 years ago with a small group and a ghetto blaster in the student pub,” says Collins.

Tonight is a little different.

There’s a stage at the front of the room, microphones, stage lights and a DJ sound system. Tables with 10-12 people and a bar fill up the rest of the room.

Kenney Fitzpatrick, general manager of the MSVU Student Union and tonight’s DJ, says the event has come a long way. The idea of a drag queen competition came up because girls on campus wanted the guys to get more involved but the boys were just drinking and it really wasn’t a fun event says Fitzpatrick.  That’s when Collins stepped in.

Fitzpatrick says Mr. Mount brings a cross section of the campus together and, just because guys dress up in drag, doesn’t mean they’re gay.

This year, there are three students competing for the title of Mr. Mount. They are judged in several catagories including Question and Answer, Evening Wear and Talent.

Julie Smith, the Student Union’s Vice President of Student Life, has been involved with Mr. Mount for a number of years. Tonight, she’s one of the judges. The prize money ($200 for first place, $100 for second place and $50 for third) comes from the $5 admission fee. The surplus goes to paying off the night’s rented equipment and to future MSVU events.

As “Miss Daisy” (Andrew Anson), “Cornelius Young” and “Freeda Wails” (Jason Purcell), strut their stuff on stage, the public bursts into laughter and loud rounds of applause.

At the president’s table, Susan Drain, English professor says, “It has a hugely positive effect on January blues because it’s hugely fun. Second, it reaffirms the Mount’s project of questioning and exploring notions of gender.”

Krista Hill, a self-taught photographer and student in the English honours program is the event’s photographer and enjoys the talent component the most. She is also taking a course on queer theory and believes the topic should be talked about, especially in an academic setting.

“Because we have such a small student body, we have a lot of communication and a lot of support here for diversity,” says Hill.

As the co-hosts mix up the pronouns: He? She?…, the night caps off with “Freeda Wails” (Purcell) as the newly crowned Mr. Mount. With his black hair flowing down and a body-hugging black dress, Mr. Mount kicks off his sky-high white heels and raises his hands in the air.

The audience cheers wildly and Purcell receives a standing ovation.

Collins smiles and says things have changed a lot over the years. He uses the example of the four guys called “The Babettes” who performed a dance number in drag earlier in the evening.

“Twenty years ago, The Babettes would have been outside with baseball bats waiting to beat me over the head and their girlfriends would have been egging them on,” says Collins.

 

See Highlights from the show here: