ON SUNDAY, MARCH 18, Panti, one of Ireland’s best-loved drag queens, took the stage at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin to offer a prayer to Dolly Parton and a welcome to the final performance of Alternative Miss Ireland or AMI, Ireland’s long-running queer beauty pageant—or what Panti likes to call Gay Christmas. After eighteen performances over 25 years, a coming of age and a “silver jubilee,” the last AMI ended on a transformative and powerful note.
AMI has long celebrated sexual diversity, with a distinct gay sensibility and contestants of varied genders and sexualities, but the show ended this year on queerer affirmations of difference, with the crowning of Minnie Mélange, a little person who delighted the audience with her big performance, a smart subversion of the Disney fairytale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
First staged on April Fool’s Day in 1987 as a fundraiser against domestic violence, Alternative Miss Ireland was revived in 1996, three years after the decriminalization of homosexuality in Ireland, as a fundraiser for AIDS charities. Since then, according to the AMI website (www.alternativemissireland.com), the event has raised over 335,000 Euros (about $433,000) for Irish HIV/AIDS organizations. This year’s closing event marked the launch of a new AIDS action website for Ireland, Get AIDS (getaids.org), intended to address the continued stigmatization and silence about HIV in Ireland.