As a first-year student, I attended as many on-campus events as possible. One night in February 2018, I convinced my sister to come with me to something called Mx. Westminster.
That night I saw stand-up comedy, lip-syncing, a choreographed fruit salad and more. Ultimately, Maggie Regier was crowned Mx. Westminster for her presentation on comprehensive Sex Education. I remember leaving with a feeling that Westminster was full of talent.
I later learned that Mx. Westminster is a complement to the Vagina Monologues, and all proceeds from both events go to the Rape Recovery Center. Resident Housing Association hosts Mx. Westminster and also works closely with the Vagina Monologues.
“Mx. Westminster started in 2009. It was initially Mr. Westminster, but changed to the gender inclusive Mx. a few years ago,” said Sierra Krippner, adviser of RHA, in an email. “Students are nominated by their peers, or by themselves. Nominations open in mid-November.”
A year after I watched Mx. Westminster, I received an email asking if I would like to participate in the 2019 pageant. As terrifying as it sounded, I thought back to how much fun I had as a member of the audience and I knew being a contestant would be even better.
“Nominees fundraise for the Rape Recovery Center, take photos for the show’s marketing and [the Mx. Westminster] calendar, attend three to four dance rehearsals to learn the group dance, attend a full dress rehearsal and perform in the pageant,” Krippner said.
Throughout the process, I made friends with the other contestants by learning a group dance together and spending time backstage during dress rehearsals and the performance. I also was able to feel the support of my friends and family when I successfully met my fundraising goal after just two days.
“I’ve seen the numbers for the past 5 years, and on average, the event collectively raises $2,000,” Krippner said. “This breaks down to about $165 per contestant. Rarely is it evenly divided though. In terms of a yearly goal, we aim to raise at least as much as we have in the past.”
My fellow contestants used their talent portion for acts such as fencing, spoken-word poetry and ASMR. Again, I was overwhelmed with the creativity of my peers.
For my talent, I wrote a hypothetical episode of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight titled “Last Month This Evening.” My friends gave me tips on my comedic timing, and my fiance helped me film a fake commercial to play halfway through my set about a product we invented to combat voter discrimination laws.
To my surprise and delight, I was crowned Mx. Westminster 2019. I received flowers and a beautiful crown. My family was there to cheer me on. I even got a picture with President Beth Dobkin. The next day was filled with friends and strangers uplifting and congratulating me.
This year I was the host for Mx. Westminster, and I also choreographed the group dance. Now that I get to see the behind-the-scenes element of Mx. Westminster, I am surprised by how difficult it is to find 12 willing contestants.
In my experience, being a Mx. Westminster contestant is a rewarding and unique opportunity — why doesn’t everyone want to try?
Char Crear, acting president of RHA, has experience on the stage and behind-the scenes. She was Mx. Congeniality 2019 and helped run the event this year.
“We do the event to raise money for the Rape Recovery Center,” Crear said. “We facilitate, gather the contestants, help them fundraise and we put on the pageant. We organize it, get the information to contestants, coordinate with the stage crew, and do what the contestants need.”
Crear said it’s always difficult to find 12 Westminster students willing to compete because of the lack of awareness around the nature of the pageant.
“Getting contestants to participate is the toughest part,” she said. “The whole event is reliant on participants. I think a lot of people don’t understand the concept of the pageant. It’s a spoof pageant, it’s supposed to be fun. But ultimately performing is difficult, and that makes people not want to do something like this.”
Crear said students don’t take the pageant seriously, and that’s okay.
“You can treat it as a joke, you’re still raising money for a good cause,” she said. “I think people are confused about what the pageant is, what it’s for and how to do it.”
When Crear was a contestant in 2019 she said she had fun meeting new people and she also used her platform for something that matters to her: Black history.
“As a contestant I had a clear purpose, which was to celebrate Black history month,” she said. “That’s why I took Mx. February. I performed Still I Rise by Maya Angelou, and I put it to Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit.”
Mauri Hefley, a senior getting her BFA in performing arts, heard that RHA was struggling to find twelve contestants and decided to step in. She said she is also doing the Vagina Monologues, and did both events in part because of the fundraising aspect.
“We raised a lot of money! That’s what this is about for me,” she said. “It all benefits the Rape Recovery Center and that’s a really important cause. They’re a really important resource for our community. “
Hefley said she understands why people are nervous, but thinks the stage fright is conquerable.
“I think people are just really intimidated by the performance aspect of it, but it’s easy to get over,” she said. “I am so bad at dancing and I get so self conscious about dancing in front of people. [The group dance] was intimidating but everyone was really supportive about it.”
Hefley said she would tell others who have considered being a contestant to go for it.
“Definitely do it,” Hefley said. “You will make a lot of good friends and it’s a really fun experience even if you’re not super big on the performance aspect. You’ll have fun and make money for the Rape Recovery Center. It’s a fun opportunity.”
Mx. Westminster 2020 was Feb. 11. I had the honor of helping students learn my choreography and watching their talents. At the end of the night myself and my co-host Lauryn Pearson announced that Victoire Soumano is Mx. Congeniality and Gabe Solomon is Runner-Up. I crowned Daud Mumin and passed my title on to him.
Together, the contestants raised more than $3,000 for the Rape Recovery Center and put on an incredible show. My only hope is that next year more Westminster students do themselves — and the Rape Recovery Center — the service of getting involved with Mx. Westminster.