No one—not the judges, contestants, audience, or swarm of journalists and film crews there to document the night—knew quite what to expect at the Miss G Train Pageant, held last Thursday night at the City Reliquary. But despite a little rain and a lot of media frenzy, the pageant proved to be a fun-filled night that celebrated the oft-dissed line and brought the communities it runs through together.
Though the event was initially almost canceled due to lack of entrants, in the end, nineteen semi-finalists pulled through, ten of whom competed Thursday night.
Each contest—nine girls and the fabulous drag queen, Shane “Thorgy” Thor—had her own opinions about the G Train and the pageant.
“I love the subway,” Sara Bonisteel said. “It’s a quintessential New York experience. I feel like the people who bad mouth the G line don’t ride it. And they should. It’s not as bad as its reputation.”
“There isn’t really anything to like about it, and I’m going with it,” another contestant, Rebecca Katherine Hirsch said. “We should accept the fact that there’s not much to think highly of. Life is tough and the G train is a tough train.”
“I was inspired to run for Miss G Train because I love the train,” Marleah Martin said. “I think it’s a bit misunderstood. I recognize that it has some flaws, but I also think the train has a lot m ore charm than people give credit. I admire the fact that it doesn’t have to go through Manhattan; I think that’s really cool. It gets me everywhere I need to go. The best part of the train is my favorite stop, Smith-9th. It’s gorgeous when you come up out of the underground. No other train has that.”
The youngest contestant, Chelsea Tapper, was a seventeen year old high school senior and Greenpoint native who rides the train every day. “All day I couldn’t concentrate at school,” she said. “Even if I don’t win, it would be perfectly fine. Just to experience this—I never thought I’d be standing here, especially on a school night.”
All ten girls competed in the first round, in which the contestants displayed their quirky outfits while the host and City Reliquary founder Dave Herman read excerpts from their winning essays about why they deserved to be Miss G Train. Some takes were more successful than others. Elizabeth Kuchta, who ended up taking home the crown that night, donned the messy morning-after look, referencing the morning train rides she took from her boyfriend’s place in Brooklyn to her home in Queens.
“Her look embodies the ride of shame. Her hair and makeup have the disheveled slept-in look that can only come from a long night in Brooklyn and an even longer wait for the G Train,”’ Herman read from Kuchta’s bio. “Note the shiny party dress that is far too fancy for daytime, the sensible flip-flops that have replaced the high heels she now carries with her, and the bottle of Gatorade she clings to for dear life.”
“For me, being Miss G Train means living up to the same standards of excellence set by it,” Kuchta’s bio read. “It means never taking your life, or your job too seriously, never promising to be anywhere at a particular time, and never turning away a homeless person looking for a place to sleep, no matter how drunk or stinky they may be.”
The audience loved it, and so did the judges: Fiona Gardner, photographer of the former New York “Miss Subways,” the original contest that inspired Thursday’s pageant; Abbie Borod, a beauty pageant judge and coach; and Ed Coffey, a New York City transit expert.
Other contestants’ efforts were met with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Jessica Delfino, one of the few contestants not wearing a stitch of green, claimed that hers was a success story, as she was able to move out of Brooklyn and into Manhattan, never having to worry about the G Train again. The audience booed (though they were more receptive at the end of the night, when Delfino gave an encore performance on her pink ukulele).
Bonisteel made her own G buttons, and fashioned her outfit into a representation of the G line, while Anne Szustek, who prided herself on the fact that she utilized so many of the stops on the G line for her work and life, was outfitted entirely in green, from her dress, to her cardigan, nails, accessories, and even her eyes, which are “light green circles, like the G train.”
After round one, the ten competitors were whittled down to six finalists, who would compete in a two minute talent portion, as well as answer judges’ questions about the G train and how they would represent it.
The audience was blown away by cupcake baker Kelly Fox’s rendition of “Chain of Fools,” but not by her inability to answer the trivia questions, while Martin, who was the second runner-up of the night, sang an original song, “It’s not Easy Being G,” accompanied by a vibraphonist, and promised to take audience suggestions about the G train to the people in charge. Thor, who was the first runner-up, performed a moving piece on the violin and advocated for a literacy movement on the G train. Gina Ross hula-hooped and proved she could do twenty pushups and stood up for the train that no one loved. Bonisteel made a gin and lime gimlet garnished with a cucumber, to mixed audience taste-test conclusions, and proposed a “Find Your G-Spot” campaign which would promote awareness of the train to non-users. For the win, Kuchta, a producer for Queens Public Television, made a video showcasing all of her talents, including patience when waiting for the G train, and proved she could perform under pressure when the sound went out and she had to narrate on the spot.
“It’s really awesome,” Kuchta said of the night. “I have never won anything like this before, and never in my life did I think I would win a pageant. Everyone was really amazing. On such quick notice, they were able to get an amazing group of girls—super talented, super nice, and from all over Brooklyn. I’m really impressed with all of them. I think it’s a really fun idea for a community event that brings people together. It’s fun to celebrate the underdog.”