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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 21, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 43
U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle crowns first black queen
Section One
ALL STORIES
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U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle crowns first black queen

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

If you've never been to a United Territories of Pacific Islanders' Alliance (U.T.O.P.I.A.) Seattle pageant you are missing out. The crowd is known to exceed 300-400 people, the queens are some of the best in town (with some contestants flying in from out of state to compete as well), and the feeling of 'community' is unmistakable.

The annual Miss U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle pageant is always entertaining and the winner, crowned in front of an adoring audience of supporters, seems truly moved by the experience of a lifetime. In fact, some of Seattle's drag and Transgender elite are former Miss U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle title holders; Tanya Rachinee, Atasha Manila, and Marion Malena to name a few.

Having been asked twice, of which I humbly accepted the invitation twice, to judge the pageant and over the years being fortunate enough to work with several Miss U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle winners I can tell you that something magical seems to happen at each event. And this year, the 7th Annual Miss U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle Pageant, held on October 15, was no exception as the nonprofit organization that aims to create a safe space for Pacific Islander LGBTQI communities in advocating for social justice, education and overall wellness, crowned a black queen - living up to its promise to 'promote community, diversity, and acceptance.'

U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle has allowed all contestants, regardless of ethnicity or race, to compete for many years. While it is true that most pageants are all inclusive in terms of race, ethnicity, gender/gender identity, it is important to note that contestants are judged fairly and do not lose points or audience support for representing a different ethnicity onstage than that of the hosting organization.

The pageant, held at the Highline Performing Arts Center in Burien, featured contestants competing in extravagant Swim Wear, exciting Talents, glamorous Evening Gowns, and Island Goddess Couture wear; and included show-stopping performances from former Miss U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle titleholders plus many more. But in the end the crown went to Iyona Bonét Black, Miss U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle 2016-2017.

'I would like to thank everyone for all of the love and support and welcoming me into the U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle family,' Miss U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle Iyona Bonet Black said in a post on Facebook following the crowning. 'Just know this queen is blessed beyond measure and grateful to be QUEEN!!!'

Marion Malena, who really took the Miss U.T.O.P.I.A. title to soaring popularity with amazing costumes, classic character and memorable performances to say the least said, 'We truly share a sisterhood like no other...On stage after crowning Miss Iyona Bonet Black I remember I turned to her and said 'Do you know you are the first black Miss U.T.O.P.I.A? With a huge smile she said 'no I did not, OMG!' before taking in her special moment.'

'Miss U.T.O.P.I.A is the only pageant operated by Pacific Islanders in the continental USA,' Marion Malena continued, 'I admire that our system embraces all races. We are minorities and if our pageant is just a small vessel for people to learn about our islands, culture and Alofa then it is a privilege and we ought to be proud. Welcome to our sisterhood, Miss Iyona!'

Although Iyona Bonet Black might be the 'first' for U.T.O.P.I.A., being crowned is not a first for her. Currently Black is Miss Supreme Star Int'l Newcomer 2015-2016; but she will be stepping down November 6 to give full attention to her duties as the reigning Miss U.T.O.P.I.A.

Seattle Gay News congratulates Miss U.T.O.P.I.A. 2016-2017 Iyona Bonet Black on her successful bid for the crown and looks forward to seeing all that you will bring to the title.

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