New York comic, journalist and beauty queen Scout Durwood, 24, is racing toward the Miss USA crown with a go at Miss New York this month.
Can this out lesbian secure her place on the throne with her healthy mix of beauty and brains? To make sure Scout’s pageant training hasn’t dulled her talent for writing or her knack for funny, we put the future Miss Universe to the test with a self-interview, and let’s just say, we’re positive she’ll pass with flying colors.
Scout Durwood: Scout, let me just tell you what an honor it is to interview such a dynamically talented woman as yourself.
Scout Durwood: You are too kind. It is a pleasure to be working with such a refined journalist. I’ve read absolutely everything you’ve ever published, and I must say, I’m a fan.
I’m blushing. Ok, down to business. Scout, you are currently going where no out lesbian has gone before… oops. May I call you a lesbian?
You’ll have to ask my girlfriend about that! [laughs] Yes, I am a lesbian. I also identify with queer, dyke, lesbo and homo. After all, what’s in a name?
For you, it seems, quite a lot. Speaking of names, is Scout your given name?
Actually, no. I changed it when I was eight years old influenced by Harper Lee’s character in her classic American novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. “Scout” was my first real love.
Isn’t that funny! You’re still in love with yourself!
Old habits die hard!
You are in the process of competing for the Miss New York, Miss USA title as we speak.
That’s right! I’ve gone through a preliminary screening process and will compete November 23–25 in Albany for the state title. After I win that, it’s off to Miss USA in a few months, and then Miss Universe after that.
Wow. I have to ask, though, with all of your many talents, why pageantry?
Some people look at pageantry and see exploitation. I see opportunity. I say, nothing exploits you unless you let it! Take the swimsuit competition, for example.
Critics of pageantry need more than the swimsuit to prove to me that pageantry isn’t empowering. I wear a bikini out all the time now because pageantry has given me that kind of confidence. For me, being half-naked in public is muy importante.
But what about the concern that pageantry forces women to be cookie cutter copies of an unrealistic female ideal?
Listen, you can compete as anyone and anything you want to. You just have to fit a certain mold to win. It’s no different than everything else in the world. For example, in the United States, you can speak in whatever language you want to, but if you want our government to recognize you as a real person, you have to speak English.
Miss America is different than Miss USA, correct?
There are many differences between the two pageant systems. In Miss America contestants compete for local titles, for example “Miss Manhattan.” Once you have won a local title, you go on to compete at the state level, and then onto Miss America, but there is no international competition after that. And, all the money Miss America contestants win must be applied to the contestant’s education. Miss USA is owned by Donald Trump, so there is way more money involved, and it isn’t all scholarship money. Oh, and Miss USA has a way more famous teen pageant, and no talent competition.
I’m confused. What are the areas of competition?
In Miss America it’s talent, swimsuit, or “fitness and lifestyle,” evening wear, interview and onstage question. Miss USA is exactly the same, but without talent.
Without talent, indeed. How do you prepare for each competition?
Most of the girls go on strict diets. I, myself, have already done cabbage soup and South Beach. Then the week of the pageant, I’ll do a maple syrup cayenne pepper cleanse. Since there’s no talent in Miss USA, it’s ok to dehydrate yourself to get your contours to really pop for swimsuit. Then there’s spray tanning and fake nails…
Very short fake nails. I am currently shopping for a new evening gown, and I have a team of drag queens helping me with make-up…
Yep. They get pageantry better than anyone in the world. Essentially, we do the same thing: gender performance.
What about interview and onstage question? How do you prepare for that?
Interview questions are all over the place. I’ve been asked everything from my thoughts on date rape to pretending a banana was a telephone and having a fake conversation. Onstage question is my strongest area. For some reason, being articulate while smiling just comes easily to me.
So you’ve competed before.
You betcha! I won a pageant when I was 17 on a dare from my dad, and was crowned Miss Greater Holyoke and placed top ten in the state in Massachusetts when I was in college. This is my first time competing in Miss USA, though, so I’m excited. And I feel fat.
Is this going to be a career for you?
Maybe, for a while, at least. You age out in Miss America when you turn 25. Miss USA lets you keep going until 27.
Vasaline on the teeth, we know. What other tricks do you have up your sleeve?
There’s hemorrhoid cream under the eyes and on the tushy. It makes the skin taught. Nipits to cover your naughty parts if your evening gown is clingy, body oil for a healthy gleam, butt glue for wedgie prevention, and there are a million tricks for getting that crown to stay on. It’s like making love—everyone has their own very particular system.
How do pageant folks deal with your being so gay?
To be honest, in the past, I really haven’t talked about it. The rule is that I can’t commit an act of “moral turpitude.” That’s in my contract, along with a few other clauses like not ever being pregnant and being now and forever a biological female. We’ll see what happens. I have to win a title, first, you know. I just want people to start taking pageantry more serious.
You mean more seriously.
I think my true fans know exactly what I mean.
Scout Durwood is a resident of Brooklyn and is enrolled as a full-time student at the Michael Howard Conservatory for acting. After a brief stint on MTV's A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, she is working the stand-up circuit around the city and workshopping her latest show On My Reel, co-starring Chef Josie Smith-Malave, about the reality TV experience.