The storied “beauty” pageant, revived two years ago, now rewards those who most creatively vent their frustration at public transit.

Credit…Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Last week in Brooklyn, Miss Subways 2019 was crowned with a wreath of plastic rats, troll dolls, and rhinestone unicorns.

Revived two years ago to provide some comic relief during the “summer of hell,” the pageant is now open to all gender identities and seems to be based on sheer chutzpah.

Unlike the original Miss Subways contest, which ran for 35 years until 1976, winners generally do not look like the girl next door, nor are their photographs displayed on trains. But they do get to have their say.

“We use it as a rallying cry,” said Alex Low, a transit activist and organizer of the pageant, along with City Reliquary, a community museum in Williamsburg.

Parker MacLure, the reigning Miss Subways, opened the evening, held at the event space Littlefield in Gowanus, with a lip sync of Cher’s “Miss Subway of 1952.” About 130 people were in attendance.

Contestants were judged on congeniality and talent. To that end, the performer Samara Dunn, of Queens, dressed as the Wicked Witch of the Upper East Side and an immigrant from Oz, was up first. The music from “Rich Girl” by Hall & Oates began to play. “I’m a witch girl,” belted Ms. Dunn to loud cheers. She flung off her black velvet cape to reveal a purple leopard print bodysuit.

Next, Robert Coover, 41, a medical writer from New Jersey, strummed a song on the mandolin about subway proselytizers. Traci Cappiello, 37, a program manager at Google from Brooklyn, sang an ode to the subway stops, most notably the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue terminal.

Marissa Gutierrez-Vicario, 34, who works in arts education and lives in Brooklyn, walked onstage wearing a Dalmatian mask and a blue Ikea bag wrapped around her like a large diaper. “I love all the subways,” she said. “My favorite is the G. The G has the highest amount of dogs in bags. Don’t look that up, it’s a fact.”

Dylan Greenberg, 22, a film director from Brooklyn, came onstage with her band, Theophobia. Ms. Greenberg, a trans woman, wore a leopard crop top and low-cut leather pants. She said that if she were presented the crown, she would melt it and smear it on her body.

At some point, Lisa Levy, Miss Subways 2017, arrived carrying a clear plastic handbag with L train stress balls that she sells for $3. Ms. Levy, 63, won the title two years ago after she implored the judges to crown a postmenopausal queen.

During the interview portion of the night, Roger Clark, one of the judges and a reporter for NY1, asked Ms. Cappiello what she would do if she saw someone’s bag taking up a seat. “I would get closer and closer,” she said, inching toward a stool onstage. “And say, ‘Excuse me?’ and then I take it and put it on the floor.”

After a drawn-out deliberation from the judges, Ms. Greenberg was crowned Miss Subways 2019. Ms. Cappiello was named Miss Congeniality.

The artist Jennifer Miller, also known as Reverend Jen, presented Ms. Greenberg with a crown she had made. It featured angel dolls from her troll collection.

Later, when Ms. Greenberg was asked about her agenda as the new Miss Subways, she said, “I’m going to release rabid wolves into the subway.”


An earlier version of a picture caption with this article misspelled the stage name of Suzie Sims-Fletcher. She is also known as suzQ!, not Suzi Q.

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A Wild Ride Eventually Delivers Miss Subways

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