ABOVE: Florida EOY 2023 Kenya M. Black. Photo by Jamarcus Mosley.
TAMPA | Florida Entertainer of the Year welcomed hundreds of supporters to the Ritz Ybor Feb. 5, crowning local entertainer Kenya M. Black in an official preliminary for National Entertainer of the Year F.I.
Eight contestants competed for a $5,000 grand prize, crown, sash, certificate and hotel stay to compete at NEOY in Louisville, Kentucky this July. Joining Black at nationals will be first runner-up Twila Holiday and second runner-up Jay Miah.
Celine, Jewels, Adriana P.T. Fuentes, Christina Embers Taylor and Carrie Elle Milania also competed, entertaining the crowd along with Orlando-based hosts Addison Taylor and Danielle Hunter, NEOY 2018. Additional performances included NEOY 2015 Sunny Dee Lite, NEOY 2002 Necole Dupree, current reigning NEOY Shontelle Sparkles and Trinity the Tuck, who joined the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” hall of fame following her 2014 NEOY win.
Fellow “Drag Race All Stars” winner Kylie Sonique Love also performed, with each entertainer posing for meet and greet photos releasing soon via the pageant’s website. Organizers Katie and Neil McCurry described the contestants and performers as “some of the most talented drag artists in the country.”
Audiences and judges agreed. The contestants were scored in four categories: presentation, talent, creative evening wear and a Top 5 Q&A. Entertainers reflected on the importance of pageantry and more between each segment.
Trinity, who now resides in Orlando, reflected on living in Tampa Bay and being on the cast of Ybor’s Honey Pot and G. Bar. The former LGBTQ hotspot closed during the height of the pandemic and the latter became Southern Nights Tampa.
“I absolutely loved living here. I don’t know why I ever moved to Orlando,” she mused. “I love the beach. I love the people here. The vibe here is so magical. You’re so lucky.”
She also reflected on her continued involvement with Florida and National EOY, thanking event organizers for their dedication and allyship while calling on the audience to support local drag.
“I was a local queen way longer than I was on TV and it is a struggle to bring the high-quality drag that you guys expect of us because of a TV show,” Trinity said. “Be kind to your local entertainers, tip your local entertainers, follow your local entertainers on social media, share their name and tell them you love them.”
Trinity subsequently donated her tips to the hosts and thanked the pageant’s supporters. “I was Florida Entertainer of the Year when I went on to win National, so this really is a huge part of my heart. Please continue to support.”
Sparkles also reflected on the importance of Florida EOY after a performance.
“My goal is to build the system – and this right now is showing me that it is growing,” she said to applause. “Each and every one of you are showing love to pageantry and I want to thank all of you so much for coming out.”
After her crowning, Black reflected on the experience via social media. “I am beyond honored to be your Florida Entertainer of the Year!!!!” she wrote. “I’m going to make sure to do my best to bring that national crown home!!!!!”
Asked for additional comment, Black kept it brief. “Be ready,” she said.
Watermark was proud to sponsor Florida EOY and was on hand to help celebrate. Learn more about the pageant at FloridaEOY.com and view our photos below.
Photos by Jamarcus Mosley.