UNITY MATTERS: After having to sit out last year’s event to abide by CDC precautions, organizers will be bringing back “L’Hommage” to Judson Memorial Church in New York on Friday.
Designed to celebrate the LGBTQ communities, the theme of the event is “Essence…” Instead of having a night of vogueing and a runway show, as in years past, Friday’s will be one of learning. Attendees will catch a screening of the short documentary “L’Hommage” by Antonio Contreras about the annual event. Although the short film won best documentary at the La Jolla International Fashion Film Festival and it was screened by Diane Pernet at her Paris festival, those events were virtual, making Friday’s debut its official premiere. Contreras will be on hand to introduce the film to the crowd of 275 people.
Afterward, Bevy Smith will host the event and will start out by introducing seven standouts from the community — Archie Burnett, Juan Aviance, Adrian Alicea, Gisele Alicea’s Xtravaganza, Coco Mitchell and Ralph Rucci. Burnett, who created the House of Ninja, was recently featured in a Reebok campaign for Pride month.
The talk will address the love, support and unity in the community and its intergenerational bonding and support “that is so crucial during these violent times of attacks on our youth,” said event producer Anthony Stropoli. Young BIPOC members of the LGBTQ community are the most marginalized, he said. Overall, securing safe housing can be an issue for all LGBTQ persons after the age of 21, Stropoli said.
Stylist Jay Alexander and choreographer Bill T. Jones are expected to be in the crowd to show support. Having the kids in the audience “feel the love of the community” is what Stropoli is most looking forward to, noting that members of the LGBTQ community can be disowned by their families or just not have any kind of significant parental support.
Stropoli said that after he came out to his family at the age of 17, he had to leave their house. “I ended up moving in with a guy that I was seeing at the time. I feel very grateful because it was the fashion industry that scooped me up. At 18, I was modeling and working in showrooms. I immediately had an income,” Stropoli said. “When I hear people say that the fashion industry goes after people too young, I say, ‘The fashion industry saved my life.’”
The evening will close with a tribute to Vjuan Allure, a pioneer in creating the ballroom scene’s sound, who died in March. Making music for ballroom and vogueing events, he was credited with creating the “Ballroom Beatz.” Friday’s event will feature a dance party spun by Gehno Aviance.