Virginia Commonwealth University student Emmett Hickam, a 30-year-old who's studying history and education, recently won the title of Mr. Gay Virginia. He went on to place third in last week's Mr. Gay United States contest, held in Roanoke.
Style: What's involved in the competition?
Hickam: It is professional interview, swimsuit, talent and a fashion category that's called Americana fashion. … You can wear red, white or blue, or a combination of the three. It's more about your fashion sense, really.
What did you do for your Americana outfit?
I did some seersucker shorts with a blue seersucker tie, bow tie, to match, a white shirt and red suspenders and red shoes. So I kind of had that nerd look, which they absolutely loved at Virginia, and they loved it as well at nationals.
Tell me about the talent portion.
I sang the first verse of “Defying Gravity” [the theme of the musical “Wicked”] into a male version of “Can't Be Tamed.” [a Miley Cyrus song]. … We practiced for two months, a couple times a week for two months to get it down the best that we could.
What are the judges looking for?
It's all in the eye of the beholder, I guess. You go with a package that you think is the best that you can present. And you think it's great, and you get the judges' feedback — and they absolutely hate it.
What did they tell you this year?
Like in my talent, one of my dancers was off slightly. My swimsuit, they made a comment about the pattern of the swimsuit, even though they didn't take off [points] for it. And interview, they would have liked to see me go a little bit more personal.
What did the judges ask you in the interview?
My questions centered around education and how I would react to certain situations. One of the questions that I remember specifically was, if I had a student in my classroom that made a derogatory comment against another gay student, what would I do? … I would pull that student aside, the one that was making that type of comment, and explain to them that we are all different, every one of us is different.
Do you have a crown, a sash or a ribbon?
A medal. And a couple of trophies.
Are you the most accomplished gay man in Virginia?
No. [laughs] No. S