Before a "Ladies of Illusion" show at the gay-friendly Four Seasons restaurant last April, Mahogany Reason studied her reflection in a dressing-room mirror and gave her light-blue eye shadow a last-minute touch-up. As soon as she adjusted the jeweled choker that accented her satin-black gown, the 31-year-old former Miss Gay Cleveland bounded onstage to deliver a searing lip-synching of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" with the same bravado that impressed the producers of the now-defunct Ricki Lake Show
in 2003. After Reason Fed-Ex'd a couple of photos to the talkfest's New York studios, the 7-foot-tall impersonator found herself competing against 11 other contestants from around the country in the "Miss Ricki Lake Pageant." The judges, impressed, named her first runner-up. But it was Lake herself who had the last word. "She said I was the life of the party," recalls Reason. "And because of her, I know I represented Cleveland in a good way."