Stephanie Stuart was born in a strawberry patch in Plant City, Florida on December 30th 1965. Growing up, she always knew she was different and would watch beauty pageants on TV in a toy crown.
Until fourth grade, Stephanie lived in Lakeland, Polk County, then moved to Bartow, the very conservative county seat. Here, she was discriminated against for her sexuality, particularly at school and church. However, despite ongoing prejudice, she graduated and went to college.
On her 18th birthday, she came out to her parents as a gay man. Her father ordered her to move out of the family home and the county. She changed her name to Stephanie, started dressing as Stephanie in public, and initially began gender-affirming hormone therapy.
In 1984, Stephanie organized her first public drag show, and a year later, she clinched the title of Ms. Gay Lakeland 1985, her first triumph in the pageant world. However, she then took a step back from drag to focus on a relationship and career.
In 1993, Stephanie received an HIV diagnosis and was given two years to put her affairs in order. Despite being convinced she was going to die, she committed herself to educating herself on her diagnosis. The initial medication gave her health complications and she was given the choice of continuing her hormone therapy or HIV medication. She chose the latter.
In 2000, Stephanie met Alison, fell in love, and they married three months later. However, three years into marriage, Alison was diagnosed with brain cancer. After four years, Stephanie became Alison’s full-time caregiver. Alison passed away ten years into their marriage.
After Alison’s passing, Stephanie relocated to Clearwater in New Port Richey, where she felt inspired to continue her activism work. Here she found love again with Aaron, whom she met at a benefit night in a pub. Together, they won Miss and Mister St. Pete Pride 2014.
Stephanie’s pageant career continued with her role as the first Miss Pasco Pride in 2018. This led to her co-founding a local Drag Queen Story Hour, a venture with Pasco Pride that supports LGBTQ-inclusive education for children. Despite conservative opposition, the program eventually found its home at Zenfinitea in New Port Richey.
In 2020, Stephanie was crowned Queen of Come Out St. Pete 2020/21, building on her role as an ambassador for the LGBTQ community.
Even in the face of personal hardships, Stephanie’s compassion has always extended to others. She volunteers for the Basic Needs of Life program, supporting children living with or affected by HIV and AIDS.
Currently residing in New Port Richey, she represents the Royal Court of Come OUT St. Pete, engaging in advocacy for transgender individuals. She’s also actively involved in Bear Soup Tampa, a local couple and singles social group for Bears, as well as performing in benefits for Metro Health and the nonprofit Empath Partners in Care (EPIC).
Stephanie’s commitment particularly extends to offering support to transgender children, striving to be a beacon of encouragement and guidance. With a heart full of empathy and a determination to be a voice for the voiceless, Stephanie Stuart continues to inspire and uplift those around her.