For a gathering of showgirls vying for glory and a glamorous prize, there was surprisingly little cattiness.

Gathered at a Circular Quay photo call last week, the contestants in the Miss Gay Universe 2006 pageant seemed more interested in promoting goodwill.

It was a fitting mood for a contest aimed at increasing tolerance -“ with a healthy dash of camp.

About 25 contestants will take to the stage at Burwood RSL next Friday in their bid for the inaugural Miss Gay Universe crown.

Judges will also hand out titles including Miss Congeniality, Best in National Costume and Darling of the Crowd.

But the event organised by the Filipino Australian Gay and Lesbian Association (FAGLA) has more than the superficial in mind.

Organisers are hoping to draw attention to anti-gay prejudice in the largely Catholic Philippines.

We want to lift up the profile of Filipinos, organiser and FAGLA president Hermie Quinon told Sydney Star Observer.

Several of the contestants are of Filipino background, but only one is representing her country of ancestry. The rest have opted for nations they have no real-life connection to, such as Puerto Rico and Mexico.

Other transgender and gay male entrants are also competing for their country of origin -“ like Miss Mozambique and the performer Candi Stratton, who will appear as Miss USA.

The contestant named Miss Gay Universe on the night will win a return trip to the Philippines, and winners of other categories will take home trophies and cash prizes.

Organisers hope the gay community will be the biggest winner, donating $1 to ACON from each ticket sold.

Miss Gay Universe 2006 is on at Burwood RSL, 96 Shaftesbury Rd, Burwood, on Friday 17 February from 7pm. Tickets cost $20-38. For bookings call 9744 7444.

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