Season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race just started and episode 1 favorite Mayhem Miller is already setting the bar for how to make herself a household name in and OUT of RPDR. Also known as Dequan Johnson, the Riverside, California native is turning up in independent films and elevating drag culture by portraying queens on the silver screen. After having been a part of the ensemble cast in Netflix’s Cherry Pop, Mayhem is stepping out yet again in another indie that will expose the world to the art of drag with a unique and compelling story.
Mayhem Miller has been cast as Miss Dixie Lee in the upcoming film Pageant Material, a cross between To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar, Little Miss Sunshine and Steel Magnolias.The film, which is a loose adaptation of Cinderella, will be directed by Jonothon Mitchell and will feature a cast that includes Hart Morse, Marianne Johnson, Catherine Dyer, and 10-year-old drag artist and activist Desmond Napoles. It will be produced by Atlanta-based Pineapple Cut Pictures.
The official press release for the film shares:
This coming-of-age southern dramedy tells the story of a seventeen year old boy named Rodney (Hart Morse) in rural Alabama who dreams of escaping his small southern hometown in pursuit of following in his mother’s footsteps as an award-winning pageant queen. Despite struggling to come to terms with his mother’s death and an onslaught of bullying and abuse from his step-father, step-brothers, and classmates, Rodney calls upon his best friend Monique (Marianne Johnson) and a unique cast of southern characters to help him take the crown in an upcoming teen drag pageant in Atlanta, GA.
Pageant Material aims to explore topics such as growing up gay, the struggle to create your own identity, and small-town life. While many films about LGBT identity set in the deep South focus solely on the opposition, the film hopes to take a different approach and focus on painting the South in a tolerant light, despite a lack of resources.
Napoles, will play a young version of the film’s main character, Rodney.
You may have seen Napoles on ads promoting Pride and gender fluidity. He’s young, but with his bravery is already a spokesperson for so many:
The film is not just an opportunity to tell a story that has yet to be told. It is also a step toward the support of The Dru Project, an organization that seeks to provide support for education on issues facing LGBTQIA community members, assist with the development of Gay-Straight Alliance programs in schools, provide support and consultation for parents of LGBTQIA youth, advocate for greater access to mental health services, and develop leaders in the LGBTQIA community. Half of the proceeds from the film will go to The Dru Project.
According to the Human Rights Campaign’s Growing Up LGBT in America survey:
- 4 in 10 LGBT youth (42%) say the community in which they live is not accepting of LGBT people
- LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked or shoved
- 26% of LGBT youth say their biggest problems are not feeling accepted by their family, trouble at school/bullying, and a fear to be out/open.
Currently, Pageant Material is using crowd funding on Indiegogo and hopes to raise $40,000 that will make producing the film a reality. Those who donate can take advantage of unique incentives from the team, including digital copies, signed posters, tickets to the premiere, a producing credit, and having your photo appear on screen as set decoration!
I got in touch with the film’s director, Jonothon Mitchell, and he shared more about the backstory of the film:
How did the idea for Pageant Material come about?
I was working on another film in Gaffney, SC before Christmas and being in that small town allowed me to reconnect to my own southern upbringing. I knew going into this year that I wanted to make a film that showcased better representation of the LGBTQIA community and after seeing small-town life for the first time in over a decade I felt inspired to tell a story that was partially influenced by my own experience growing up gay in the South.
I’ve recently grown to really love and admire drag culture and the strength and bravery drag queens have just by showcasing their talent night after night whether it’s on RuPaul’s Drag Race or on stage at any local clubs across the country. That admiration paired with my own nostalgia and resolve to create a film of importance ended up being integral in developing “Pageant Material.”
So I worked with my co-writer Madison Hatfield, who is a brilliant comedienne here in the Atlanta area, to write the script and we watched it morph from a 20-page short film to a full feature-length project.
How did Mayhem Miller and Desmond Napoles get attached to the project?
We are so lucky to have Mayhem Miller and Desmond Napoles as part of the project. We had a role in the film named Miss Dixie Lee. She is a larger-than-life country queen. My Casting Director and I looked at a lot of different queens all over the country and then I saw Cherry Pop. Mayhem was so funny and I knew right then that I wanted her as Dixie. So we reached out to her people and everything fell into place.
Buzzfeed ran a profile on Desmond and that was the first time I saw him. We knew we had a role for the younger version of our main character Rodney, played by Hart Morse, and initially we were going to have a small local casting call to find him, but then we saw that profile. Everyone was so inspired by Desmond and all the incredible things he’s done that we knew there was no other choice.
I actually commented on a post Desmond made on Instagram and said, “We’ve got this part in a movie and if you want it then it’s yours” and he responded that it sounded like fun. Next thing you know he’s a part of the project.
Production for Pageant Material is currently set for Summer 2018 in Atlanta, GA.
Check out the Pageant Material campaign video:
For more information, please visit the official site: