The headlines blazed away about the controversy of the Miss U.S.A. Beauty Pageant when Donald Trump ran his mouth off about this or that — rat-a-tat-tat Trump — and the millions of dollars that were at stake after his caustic remarks rubbed some the wrong way. It is a serious business this business of beauty.
While the Miss U.S.A. Beauty Pageant is a big, big business — a cultural broadcast event — way at the other end of the spectrum, but no less important for those who participate, is the story of a very particular beauty pageant that is the subject of filmmakers Josue Pellot and Henrique Cirne-Lima’s I Am the Queen. Cinema Libre announced this past week that I Am the Queen will be available on DVD beginning Oct. 6.
The film focuses on a segment of a small population, beauty pageant participants from the transgender community, but Pellot and Cirne-Lima slice it even smaller with their surprisingly thoughtful look at Chicago’s Puerto Rican T-girl community and the annual Cacique Pageant.
Four of the contenders become the focus of their film — Julissa, Bianca, Jolizza and Alayna — as they recount their life experiences, which are often contentious when it comes to acceptance by their own families. Just getting to the grand night of Cacique Pageant takes courage as pressures mount and some of the would-be beauty queens find the road to this competition just too much to bear.
In addition to the lead-up to the competition — and the competition itself — the filmmakers also provide insights from a former winner, Jade, and the pageant’s host and producer, Ginger Valdez.
I Am the Queen, in lesser hands, could have easily emerged as a “freak show,” but the final product is less about the competition and more about the lives, hopes, struggles and dreams of those who have the courage to compete. By film’s end you cannot help finding yourself fully invested in these human beings.