My Gay Toronto - 416 Scene

Brooke Lynn Hytes hit the heights as Miss Continental 2014


"It's the dancer in me, I'm not very good at talking myself up," warns Brooke Lynn Hytes/Brock Hayhoe. And surprisingly, the reigning Miss Continental isn't.

The Miss Continental Pageant is, as former contestant Miss Conception says, "The biggest thing you can ever win in a drag queen/transsexual pageant. It's the Miss America of drag pageants."  It also takes a lot of skill, stamina and charisma to place as a finalist, let alone win. "I think it was my dance training," says Hytes. "It hadn't been seen before."

From the age of 16 to the age of 20, Hayhoe was one of the gifted few who trained at Canada's National Ballet School. From there he became a soloist with the Cape Town City Ballet in South Africa. From the rigour of classic ballet he graduated to the even more demanding Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, where exacting technique is melded to outrageous comedy.

"I was burnt out by the end," says Hytes. "I wanted to be my own boss so I decided to try drag." At that point Brooke Lynn Hytes was born. Hytes paid her dues at Crews & Tangos and Woody's before her first attempt at the coveted Miss Continental crown. "Drag was paying my bills for sure but I didn't know what I was going to do next to challenge myself."

The Toronto drag scene, like the other tiara-du-jour RuPaul's Drag Race, places an emphasis on comedy or, as Hytes diplomatically calls it, "Personalities." The Miss Continental Pageant puts the emphasis on 'female impersonation' as opposed to drag and, "It's not a comedy pageant, you have to have a polished act."

From her years with Les Trocks, Hytes can do comedy but, "I don't change personality when in drag. Maybe a little more outgoing. It's a stage name, I don't become a different person when I put on a wig." But there is work involved in the transformation. "It takes a lot of make-up, a lot of hair, a lot of padding to get into the mindset, to get ready to perform. However I find it soothing to get ready."

Despite calm nerves, Hytes first attempt at the heights was unsuccessful - "Competing, and doing well, really lit a fire under me and made me work harder" - and in her return engagement she was crowned Miss Continental 2014/2015. As part of her duties Hytes has travelled the world performing, making appearances at preliminaries, and, as a bonus, landed a full-time gig. "A real job which," she notes, "is a bit of a rarity. I moved to Nashville in February and started working at Play Dance Bar. Shows through the week and a pay cheque every two weeks. I love working at Play. Tennessee as a whole is a conservative state but Nashville is a cool place to live with a great arts scene."

Hytes reign ends with the next Miss Continental Pageant in September. "I'll be sad to step down," she says, "but I'm ready to pass the crown on. I'm tired. It's been so amazing bu I'm ready to have a bit of a break. I will definitely cry on stage, I'm planning on it."

Hytes hopes to settle in Nashville as a home base. "I want more work, to be more successful. Unfortunately in Canada there's only Toronto and Vancouver." But she will be back to Toronto. "In the beginning of October, I'm back for a friend's wedding. I'm hoping to do a show at Woody's."

A solid home base would make another of Hayhoe/Hytes' dreams come true. "I love animals but I don't have a dog of my own," he explains of the many photos he has posted on Instagram. "I'm on the road too much. I would love to have a dog." As well as a canine companion, a little loving would be good. Hytes claims not to have taken advantage of the fringe benefit of the lustful fans who crave getting up and close with an international celebrity. "I don't have time to date," she demurs. "I've been a really good boy. Now maybe once I'm not Miss Continental..."