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And the Winner Is: Miss Kinky America 

Wednesday, Apr 23 2014
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When I was a little girl, I would beg my mother to let me stay up late enough to watch the Miss America pageant on television. The gowns, the high heels, the rhinestones, the Vaseline sheen of their teeth — I couldn't get enough. The talent portion was always the best. I especially loved it when one of the contestants would dance en pointe or sing a Broadway showtune. Even before I knew I was sexually attracted to women, I was enchanted by the strange pageantry and competition among the contestants. It was fascinating, bizarre, and — to my young, queer brain — unbelievably hot.

Fast forward to my adult life, and this weekend I am headed to watch another crop of women compete for a title via pageantry and sex appeal. The International Ms. Leather and International Ms. Bootblack contest and convention (aka IMsL) comes to San Jose April 24-27. IMsL has its roots in San Francisco and is usually hosted here, but just like the 49ers franchise, it has relocated south of the bay. Hundreds of kinky folks from all over the world travel to this event for a long weekend of cruising, flirting, and educational workshops. The weekend culminates with an elaborate contest reminiscent of a kinky, queer Miss America pageant, and the crowning of two prestigious "Leather" titles. High heels and taffeta gowns are swapped for leather chaps and steel-toed boots, but just like a more traditional pageant, the contestants showcase their poise, skill, personality, and ability to look awesome in an outfit.

Leather culture in San Francisco was born out of gay motorcycle clubs of the 1950s, such as the Warlocks and the Barbary Coasters, that celebrated masculinity and kinky sex. These clubs evolved into interconnected social communities of bars, bathhouses, and sex clubs that made their homes south of Market Street, the same area that now hosts thousands of kinksters at Folsom Street Fair every year. The women's leather community began to make waves in the mid-1970s when women started showing up at gay men's fisting bars in the Mission, and leather bars throughout the city began having women's nights. Though women involved in BDSM and leather faced criticism from anti-porn feminists who equated consensual kink with violence against women, the community continued to gain momentum through the years. In 1987, a group of San Francisco leather women put their heads together to select someone who exemplified the community at its best.

This year marks the 28th crowning of International Ms. Leather and International Ms. Bootblack. The two titles vary slightly in what they ask of their contestants, though the competitions take place simultaneously: The International Ms. Leather title focuses on the contenders' knowledge of their community's history, while the International Ms. Bootblack hopefuls display their technical skills in the art of leather care and maintenance. Both titleholders will be asked to represent the leather community as educators and role models in the coming year.

Former International Ms. Bootblack kd diamond tells me she got involved in the leather community because "The smell of leather totally turns me on." As a child she suckled on a leather glove ("Glovey"). "Liking leather is a part of my identity. It feels like a fetish and an orientation all in one," she says.

Leather competitors face a grueling schedule during the weekend of the contest. Once the winners are crowned, they will spend the year traveling to leather events around the world and working on a charity project of their choice.

Not every person who wants to wrap their mouth around a leather boot is cut out for such a competition. The year of service that titleholders face is rigorous, so the honor requires a flexible schedule and a passionate commitment to the community.

This year's hopefuls hail from all over the world. The hometown favorite is our very own Miss San Francisco Leather 2012, Nerine Mechanique, a Kink.com model and longtime community leader. Her hobbies include leather care, volunteering, and the creation of a kinky community cookbook. Considering Mechanique's stunning looks and impressive philanthropy, Miss America had better watch her back.

About The Author

Siouxsie Q

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