By katie diamond
When I decided I was indeed going to run for International Ms Bootblack, it was for the love of bootblacking. Yes, I had done my research into what a title-year looked like. I had talked to many contestants and a few current International title holders. I spent two years debating, and considering. But when it came time to fill out my application the word “competition” was very far from my mind. I wasn’t running for the competitive desire to win. I was running to better myself, compete against myself, challenge myself as a bootblack.
Unless you’re a bootblack, or you’re close to a bootblack, you may not know this…but bootblacks are a special breed of leather.We like to discuss technique and process; we like to share ideas and supplies; we care for each other in a way that surpasses sexuality and gender. To be a bootblack is to be a part of an international sisterhood/brotherhood. I’m not sure if I’m doing verbal justice to our bootblack community–there aren’t many words to describe how I feel about us.
Feeling the way I do about bootblack community, it’s no surprise that the weekend
of International Ms Leather was more like a weekend intensive than a competition for an international leather title. I had somewhere to be every hour on the hour (I had a color-coded excel spreadsheet schedule!), and when I wasn’t busy, I was working on my tech boots. Or sleeping. Between bootblacking hours, I had meetings and rehearsals and interviews. I drank more coffee that weekend by the hour than I think I have ever in my life, and that’s saying something for a caffeine addict like me.
While I no had preconceptions about how all of the contestants were going to interact, I wasn’t prepared for how absolutely close we were all going to become. When thrown into a pressure cooker situation like a weekend play party, relationships and connections inevitably develop. But there truly is something that happens between contestants at an event like IMsL — I’m finding myself at a lack of words for it again. When you share an experience like running for a title, there is a closeness that happens that can’t really be be quantified.
On Saturday, my first real bout of nerves came on. I was nervous before, during, and
after my bootblack interview, yes, but that was a bizarrely intellectual nervousness. The kind that overwhelms your mind. On stage, behind the curtains, waiting to go on to perform the opening number we had only been rehearsing between the cracks of our schedules, I felt my stomach fall out of my body.
That same feeling returned when we were all on stage again, waiting to hear the results announced. For the bootblacks, the results had been finalized before the evening festivities. The performance of the contest itself is for the International Ms Leather contestants. The lights were so bright, I couldn’t see the audience. I knew from being an attendee for the past four years that it was packed.
I’m gonna be real here: after they announced my name, I don’t recall much else from the
night. I remember shaking a lot. I remember Jayson DaBoi telling me how to look at the back of the room so the cameras could take lots of pictures, and guiding me around the stage. I remember standing on the podium and fearing I might fall off. The adrenaline and outright surprise shook through me, to the core, and I think it knocked out my capacity for brain cells that evening.
So, what’s next? If this was a movie, the final credits would have already run. But there’s always a “next” in real life, and so: what’s next? The upcoming year is going to be filled with travel, leatherfolk, and events. I’m excited to go places I’ve never been (Washington! Texas? Montreal!), and meet people I’ve only heard or read about. I’m honored, beyond honored! ecstatic!, to represent the leatherwomen’s community across the country and beyond. I can’t wait to hear everyone’s histories, and participate in making history myself.