Darnell Pierce, area coordinator with the Office of Residential Education, has been crowned Mr. Gay New York State, accepting the crown and all of its responsibilities for the next year – a year during which Pierce hopes to bring voice to the LGBT community.
“The competition was lots of fun,” says Pierce. “All of the contestants were friendly and supportive of each other.” Consisting of categories – group interview, on-stage competition, sportswear, formal attire and talent – Pierce received a perfect score for his talent, a step routine, and placed second by only one point in all other categories.
The honor of Mr. Gay New York also comes with responsibility, and throughout the next year he will work to represent his title and the pageant. Pierce is required to host at least one fundraiser or benefit for a non-profit of his choice, attend at least three Pride celebrations in New York State, and be a visible and supportive figure at various LGBT functions and events – not to mention, he’ll be expected to attend and assist with next year’s competition, where he will crown the winner and step down from his title.
Despite the light-hearted nature of the competition, Pierce’s title and prominence in New York State’s LGBT community is far from trivial – it is an opportunity to further LGBT causes.
“Earning this title will allow me to be the symbol of excellence in New York State – particularly for gay men and youth of color,” explains Pierce. “My goal is to continue to educate and help mentor folks that identify as being a part of the LGBT community; this includes allies. Allies, whether they know it or not, play a very important role in de-stigmatizing what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.”
“I am hopeful that people of all different genders and backgrounds will have a better understanding of who I am as a gay, black man, and all the resources that are available for support,” says Pierce of his new role. “Silence is not an option any longer; with my work, the goal is to give ‘queer’ people a voice.”
Pierce is preparing for the upcoming Mr. Gay World USA, which will be held this month in New York City. If Pierce claims the crown, he will have the once in a lifetime chance to represent the country at this year’s Mr. World competition in Belgium.
Although this is his first time donning the first place sash, Pierce was named first runner up in last year’s competition. No stranger to the competition stage, he has also captured the titles of Mr. Gay Pride Syracuse, Mr. Gay Pride Rochester, Mr. Gay Pride Buffalo, Mr. Hott International, and Mr. Canada International.
Pierce earned a bachelor’s in exercise physiology from State University of New York at Brockport, where he also received a master’s in athletic administration. On campus, he has assisted with the club track team and has participated in student Wellness Week panels and activities. Pierce has also helped to facilitate discussions sponsored by the Caribbean Student Association, and has lent his talent as an emcee to the Colleges’ Mr. Hobart Pageant to benefit Habitat for Humanity. During Commencement celebrations this year, Hobart seniors named Pierce an honorary member of the Class of 2013.