Part Pose and Paris is Burning, part RuPaul’s Drag Race and part Miss America, The Queens follows beauty queen hopefuls Tiffany, Gabby, Sunny and Naysha as they pursue their dreams of becoming the next Miss Continental. The international pageant is considered to be the most prestigious (and sometimes most cut-throat) of its kind. The Queens takes viewers inside this little-known subculture of glamour and illusion that attracts thousands of competitors worldwide. Misunderstood or dismissed by some in mainstream society, the contestants are vying for the crown, but also for acceptance, validation and respect.

As society grapples with issues of transgender acceptance and understanding, The Queens takes viewers out of the politics and onto the stage with an exclusive look inside the first beauty pageant to ever allow transgender female impersonators to participate. Born out of discrimination, the Miss Continental pageant is now one of the premier contests of its kind in the United States,attracting competitors from around the globe.

Using the framework of this 40-year-old spectacle as its backdrop, The Queens explores this complex and relatively unknown subculture of transgender life. The documentary attempts to help viewers understand why these pageant competitors are so wildly driven and dedicated in their quest for the crown—a title most people have never even heard of, despite Miss Continental’s longevity and prestige within the female impersonation world.

We follow the journeys of several contestants as they diligently plan, prepare and plot their paths to victory. Along the way, we meet several former title holders, as well as some who have repeatedly competed in the pageant but never left victorious (and are perhaps a bit bitter). But the documentary focuses on more than just the competition. It delves into the whys and hows and dangers of the physical alterations many competitors have made to their outer bodies (silicone injections, breast implants, facial reconstruction, etc.), their inner bodies (hormone therapies), and their decisions to refrain from following through with gender confirmation surgery. Some do so in order to conform with Miss Continental’s strict (and some say archaic) rules defining what constitutes a female impersonator—rules that long determined who is, and isn’t, eligible to compete and perform.

The film examines the difficulty many transgender female impersonators have finding true and lasting romantic relationships.  It addresses the rejection many have experienced from family, as well as society’s changing opinions about the acceptance of transgender individuals in general today. With thousands in the audience cheering, there are tears of joy for those who thrive under the Miss Continental stage lights; when the show ends, there are tears of heart break in the shadows, for those who find victory elusive.

To some outsiders, and the uninformed, the dolled-up, lip-synched routines and over-the-top fashion at Miss Continental might seem frivolous, perhaps even pointless. But The Queens will show you why creating this illusion and this mystique is a way of life for these performers, as well as thousands of others just like them (and their devoted fans) across the United States and the world. Year after year, decade after decade, the show simply must go on.

The Queens is now available for streaming rentals and purchases, including a premium purchase package that includes four Bonus Features: Raw, unedited interviews with Miss Continental pageant contestants backstage, Highlights from the Miss Continental Plus pageant (for plus-sized contestants), a look inside the new Baton Show Lounge in Chicago (where many Miss Continental winners perform), and a Music Video featuring The Queens original song, “Pretty Kitty.”

Read this Q&A with Director Mark Saxenmeyer.

Watch here.

The next Miss Continental is scheduled to take place in September 2021. Details here.

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.