Meet Mr. and Miss Gay America Headlining Mid-South Pride Festival 2024

Meet Mid-South Pride headliners, Mr. and Miss Gay America, Geo Johnson and Tatiyanna Voche.

Pride Month is just around the corner, and Memphis is thrilled to welcome national royalty to our celebrations this year. The Mid-South Pride weekend kicks off on Thursday night with Drag N Drive. On Friday, we’ll celebrate friendship and inclusivity at the Big Gay Dance Party. 

Saturday’s festivities include the Festival and Parade, starting at 11 am. Be sure to catch our headliners at the Sunday Drag Brunch for a spectacular closing event.

Now, let’s get to know our distinguished title holders.

Meet Geo Johnson, Mr. Gay America 2023. @mrgeojohnson

Meet Mr. and Miss Gay USA Headlining Mid-South Pride Festival 2024. Meet Geo Johnson, Mr. Gay America 2023
Meet Geo Johnson, Mr. Gay America 2023. @mrgeojohnson

Can you share what inspired you to become involved in the LGBTQ+ community and advocacy work?

When I first started making costumes and backup dancing for the local drag community in Arizona, I soon realized how involved they were in helping LGBTQ+ organizations in need. The passion of those who advocated for others was inspiring, to say the least. Unfortunately, like many of us when I first entered into my local gay community, I didn’t know much about our LGBTQ+ history. I soon learned about all those that came before us who helped build our community through advocacy and fundraising. I was lucky to have served with a LGBTQ+ Theater group called “The Alternative Theater Company” which helped educate me on our history. As I built a name for myself as a performer, and with different titles I earned,I didn’t hesitate to use that platform to be of service to my community.

As a headline performer at MidSouth Pride 2024, what message or emotions do you hope to convey through your performance?

I hope that the audience not only gets entertained, but maybe even educated or inspired by one of our community icons. I will be doing a Freddie Mercury impersonation, and for those who don’t know much about him, there is now a movie about his life. It is funny when I run into those who don’t know who he is, but when I tell them about his music, their faces light up! Music crosses generations; it makes us feel emotions that help us connect with others. Sometimes we may not know the artist, but we definitely recognize the song.

What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community today, and how do you think we can address them?

I think that we are once again confronting challenges that we had to persevere through in the past. Unfortunately, with the divide that we are seeing in politics we are seeing laws that are meant to attack our community. We need to stay informed, voice our opinion, and what better way to show our voice than to vote for those who are trying to protect our rights.  

How has your journey as Mr. Gay America influenced your perspective on LGBTQ+ representation and visibility in the media and entertainment industry?

Because I had been working with numerous LGBTQ+ organizations prior to becoming Mr. Gay America, I have been able to bring more visibility to them on a national level. I do wish that was more at the forefront of priorities with those who have visibility with a platform. We are seeing more people in media and entertainment being open about their sexuality, which helps those who are coming out, but we also need to see them advocating and standing up for our community.

Can you tell us about a memorable experience or encounter you’ve had while representing the LGBTQ+ community as Mr. Gay America?

A memorable experience that I had while reigning as Mr. Gay America was in Little Rock at the Miss Gay America Pageant. After performing, I ran into Randy Fenoli from “Say Yes to the Dress” backstage. Besides being star-struck, he turned to me and complimented me on my performance. He said I was helping put male entertainers on a different level. I was honored and humbled by their words and this experience.

In your opinion, what role do events like MidSouth Pride play in promoting acceptance and inclusivity for the LGBTQ+ community?

It not only provides a safe space for our community to express ourselves, but it gives us an opportunity to celebrate each other without fear of judgment. Unfortunately, we live in a time where we may be able to hold hands, and kiss in public, but at times this comes at the expense of rude comments from those who don’t understand.

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations or goals for your advocacy work and career within the LGBTQ+ community?

I intend to continue to be active with the organizations that I have worked with and continue to work within my community, serving organizations such as Ripple PHX, One N Ten, Drag Story Hour AZ, The Imperial Court of Arizona, and Phoenix Pride. I could tell you about all the wonderful things that they do for the community, but that would be a whole novel! I do invite your readers to find out more about some of these organizations and how they can involve themselves with similar organizations in their own communities.

Meet Tatiyanna Voche, Miss Gay America 2023. @tatiyannavoche

Meet Mr. and Miss Gay USA Headlining Mid-South Pride Festival 2024. Meet Tatiyanna Voche, Miss Gay America 2023.
Meet Tatiyanna Voche, Miss Gay America 2023. @tatiyannavoche

What inspired you to become involved in the LGBTQ+ community and advocacy work, particularly within pageantry?  

Pageantry was a way for me to excel in my art form and as a person. It made me strive to be the best version of myself possible in and out of drag. I wanted to be a role model to the newer generations just like I have looked up to the older generations that came before me. The art form of pageantry also gave me the networks to be able to do advocacy work and truly be involved within the community.  

As a headline performer at MidSouth Pride 2024, how do you aim to connect with and empower the audience through your performance?  

I plan to, of course, make sure that everyone knows “we are born this way” but also take the time to go out and talk to the members of the community there.  

What do you see as the most pressing issues facing the LGBTQ+ community today, and what steps do you believe are crucial in addressing them?  

I think of course it is our rights being stripped as a community. Presently, with the upcoming election I think it is imperative for us to truly bond together and encourage every person we know to get out and vote.  

How has your journey as Miss. Gay America influenced your perspective on LGBTQ+ representation and visibility, both within pageantry and beyond?

Having traveled for the year, it really opened my eyes to what a beautiful community we have in our country. Looking back over the last decade we are so much more present visibility-wise.  

Can you share a memorable moment or experience representing the LGBTQ+ community as Miss. Gay America? 

There were so many but one of them was for an elementary school here in the DMV that had reached out to me to do a children’s book reading as MGA, and I already had travel planned with a preliminary, so I recorded it, and the number of responses I received from parents and teachers was really something special to me. Sometimes, taking a small amount of time to make something work has the biggest impact.  

From your perspective, what impact do events like MidSouth Pride have on fostering acceptance and celebration of LGBTQ+ identities?  

I think any event that celebrates an all-inclusive group is amazing. After all we all are in this together.  

What are your hopes and ambitions for your advocacy work and contributions to the LGBTQ+ community in the future?  

I plan to continue always striving to be the best version of myself and using my talents to spread love and acceptance within our community.  

Thanks to Mike Divoky for your generous support in bringing national title winners to Memphis. I know we are all excited about Mid-South Pride and look forward to seeing the headliners. Happy Pride, Memphis!

Photos courtesy of Geo Johnson and Tatiyanna Voche.

Don’t miss these events!

Mid-South Pride Festival and Parade
Saturday, June 1, 2024
Robert Church Park & Beale Street 
Starts at 11 am

Pride Drag Brunch
Sunday, June 2, 2024
Cossitt Library
11 am – 2 pm

Read our May/June Pride 2024 issue for free!