High school student challenges gender roles with scholarship video
Her son was still putting on his makeup as she prepared to walk out the door.
His custom-made dress — embellished with gold and emerald stones — was tossed across his bed as he stood under the harsh light in his bathroom, still in plaid pajamas, painting a dark layer of blush across his cheekbones.
Mary Ladner could not wait any longer, or she’d be late for work.
"When you get your face done, send me pictures," she said, truck keys in hand. "I hate not being here."
Trevor Ladner, 18, began experimenting with drag when he was a sophomore. His persona, Miss Annie Thang, made her first appearance in front of his school Feb. 26 at its womanless beauty pageant.
The fundraiser calls for male students to dress up in women’s clothing and choose a talent to perform. The audience’s cheers decide the winner.
"It’s basically what I do every weekend as a drag queen," he said.
He said he wanted Miss Annie Thang to show his classmates a different form of art and to be "a trailblazer for the queer community."
"I think that’s really, really important because so many queer (LGBT) kids feel like they can’t be successful."
From Trevor to Annie
"Today is the most natural makeup I’ve ever done," he said on the day of the pageant. He woke up about 4 a.m. to shower and shave before beginning the hours-long cosmetic application. "I kind of paint for what I’m wearing, so I want it to be very natural and pretty, like Miss Gay America."
Annie Thang’s appearance has to be perfectly crafted, Ladner said, and it sometimes takes up to four hours to "put his face on."
"First, I have to shave all of my body hairs off," he said. "I have to glue down the hairs that I have left, and my least-favorite part is gluing down my eyebrows because it just takes so long and there’s no way around it."
Then he adds layers of makeup to accentuate his facial structure.
He draws new eyebrows, applies eye shadow and false lashes and picks a lipstick color.
And that’s just the makeup.
I knew it was so important for me to be honest with my classmates so they would know it’s OK to be honest with people.
Ladner sews many of Annie Thang’s outfits. But the dress for the pageant, a fitted green gown with a mermaid flair of tulle, he bought to fit like a glove. The gold, peep-toe shoes had needed some pizzazz, so he added green stones to the heel and top strap the week of the pageant.
His best friend, Hancock High valedictorian Grant Cullom, left his Diamondhead home before dawn to help Ladner get ready for his grand entrance.
"How much did it cost to have the wig custom-made?" Cullom asked as Ladner removed a shoulder-length auburn wig from a box.
"About four weekends of cleaning houses," Ladner replied. "I don’t want to talk about it."
Trenton Ladner, who’ll be a sophomore at Hancock High in the fall, headed into his brother’s room the day of the pageant.
"Hey, Trevor, can you help me tie this tie?" he said.
The younger Ladner’s gold tie coordinated with the gold detailing in his brother’s dress, which was bought online. Mary Ladner said the dress was atop her son’s Christmas wish list. He got his gift as Trenton opened his new hunting bow.
"My brother is definitely one of my biggest supporters," Trevor Ladner said. "I knew once I decided that I wanted to do the womanless beauty pageant at the end of last year that I wanted my brother to escort me.’
He asked him to be his escort the day he came out to his brother.
"He’s always been there, by my side, supporting me and rallying for me. He’s my biggest fan, and he always tells his friends all the stuff I’m doing."
Trenton Ladner said he loves annoying his big brother — who hates to be touched — by hugging him or poking him or invading his personal space He said he could not be more proud of who Trevor Ladner is and what he stands for.
"I told all my friends (in the pageant) good luck on getting second place," the proud escort said.
‘Everyone chanted my name’
When Trevor Ladner got to school, Cullom met him in the parking lot. His mother and her parents were there, waiting to be let into the gym. It would be his grandfather’s first time to see him perform.
"I was definitely nervous," Ladner said. "I kept telling myself I have to do this anyway. I knew it was so important for me to be honest with my classmates so they would know it’s OK to be honest with people."
As he waited backstage, his brother helped adjust his dress straps and joked around with his friends who were contestants.
As the announcer called Miss Annie Thang’s name, the brothers walked onstage. Trenton Ladner could not keep his eyes off his brother during his performance.
When Trevor Ladner heard his classmates’ cheers his nerves dissipated, he said. He beat out four others for the crown.
"Everyone chanted my name when I won," he said, "and it was just really amazing. I knew that I had to do it but I didn’t know that I would get that great of a response from it."
He hopes Miss Annie Thang’s performance opens conversation about Hancock High’s LGBT student base.
"I wanted to show people that you could do this and it not be a joke, that it is not a mockery," he said.