By Mikkel Hyldebrandt
Photos by Russell Bowen-Youngblood
All outfits provided by Brushstrokes
JaredLance works in dentistry by day and by night he is a stage actor, most notably at Atlanta’s Out Front Theatre. He is also the reigning Mr. Gay Southern America, and at the beginning of October, he will be competing for a new title – the 40th Mr. Gay America – a national pageant system involving 18 candidates from all over the country. David caught up with JaredLance as he was preparing to snatch yet another title.
First, congratulations on your Mr. Gay Southern America win! Tell us a little about the process and journey of winning that title.
Thank you! It means a lot to me. My process and journey were a little unorthodox from others. I found the Gay Southern preliminary from a Google search. Winning the title wasn’t easy either. I was up against someone who competed at Mr. Gay America the previous year as the reigning Mr. Gay Missouri. So, someone who knew the ropes against someone who didn’t, but that didn’t discourage me. I had the advice from the reigning Mr. Gay America, KC Sunshine, and my promoter, Monica Mitchells, throughout my entire prep process. Those two pushed me in a way that I needed so I could ultimately win the title of Mr. Gay Southern America.
Up next, you are competing for Mr. Gay America. Please tell us more about that title.
Mr. Gay America is our country’s longest-running male pageant! Starting in 1983, Ron East was the first Mr. Gay All-American (the title at the time). The Mr. Gay America system had a brief hiatus from 2009-2017, but since 2017, we have had a new brother inducted each year, with the exception of 2020 due to the pandemic. Mr. Gay America is all about the excellence that a gentleman brings to the system as the face and the head administrator. The pillars of excellence are as follows: Integrity, loyalty, honor, optimism, and pride. Mr. Gay America must have all of these to be the Symbol of Excellence expected of him on and off the stage.
How do you prepare for a competition like that?
A lot of iced coffee! No, but seriously, without giving up all of my secrets, I have taken it upon myself to reach out to many of the former Mr. Gay Americas to see what they expect from a contestant—everything from creativity in presentation to how to market myself. My promoter Monica has been awarded Promoter of the Year for the Mr./Miss divisions, and for good reason: she knows what looks good. That goes to also venturing out and connecting with veterans of this industry. I have wanted to educate myself on every aspect of this system and pageantry, so I have made it a mission to go to the people who know what they are talking about.
That’s a lot of work and dedication! Why do you do it?
You’re right. It’s a lot of work and dedication. Every free moment I have is invested into this pageant through education or planning every detail. The payoff, for me, is making something out of nothing. I am technically a nobody in the pageant world, but for me to come into this industry having never competed before and truly believe I can win the whole thing on my first attempt? It’s bold, but I have enough confidence (and a healthy dose of delusion) in myself and my team that I can win it all and make my mark in the system and beyond.
What is the most unexpected thing that you have learned by competing?
I think it’s the sense of community. I have always had a strong bond with our LGBTQ+ community and my theatre community, but now I have found community in pageantry. Yes, it’s a competition at the end of the day, but the brotherhood I have found in the Gay America system is something I didn’t know I needed until I got it. I’m competing against 18 other gentlemen, but they are my brothers, and I have a special connection with them that no one else will understand except them, and that’s really important to me.
So the competition is coming up soon. In fact, you’ll be competing on October 4-5! How can people support you so you snatch that crown?
Fun Fact! I don’t even win a crown, but I do win a gorgeous medallion. People can support me by liking the Facebook pages “Mr. Gay America” & “Mr. Gay Southern America.” There will be updates given in real-time during the pageant and contestants on those Facebook pages. Another way is that if people feel inspired to support financially, they could donate any dollar amount to my Venmo or CashApp – both under “JLHuston.” Financial donations have been used for expenses and will be used for last-minute costs before and at the pageant. I am so thankful for every dollar donated, which has been used to ensure I present the winning package at Mr. Gay America!
What would a win mean to you?
You know, there are so many layers to what this win will mean, but above the title and making history being the 40th Mr. Gay America, I would be making my mother and my family proud. My mother unexpectedly passed away in early 2022, and her passing really wrecked me. After a year passed and some good therapy, I knew I wanted to make her proud of the son she raised me to be. She supported me in every way imaginable, leading me to theatre and, ultimately, pageantry. So this win will mean a lot to me, yes, but this win is for my mom more than anything.
You’re busy competing, but where can people find you? And will you be in Atlanta for Pride?
Please keep up with me online! My Instagram is @ItCouldOnlyBeJared. And yes! I will be in Atlanta for Pride! You can catch me in the parade as a certain Ken Doll in a car with my Royal Wife, Miss Gay Southern America, DeVida! I will also be at the David Magazine booth after the parade, meeting festivalgoers, taking pictures, and signing posters (hopefully) as your next Mr. Gay America!
Anything you’d like to add?
I’m thankful to all my sponsors, especially David Magazine, for being one of my top two sponsors alongside Out Front Theatre Company. I also wouldn’t have pursued this entire thing if I didn’t have the support from my husband, Dorian. He is my rock and the glue to my sanity. There is no one I would want more by my side. Plus, The First Gay Gent has a nice ring to it!