A Night for Proud Princesses

Any other princesses out there?

I’m raising my hand on the inside of my heart as I write. There are those too who wear their dresses proudly like My Princess Boy, Coy Mathis, our very own Samantha Jones and Church Lady Bingo’s Sybil Bruncheon! Add to this list all of the royals and their guests that showed up on March 29th for the 28th Annual Night of a Thousand Gowns at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square. The ball is the crowning annual event of the Imperial Court of New York, New York’s most regal fundraising organization serving the LGBT community. Having been on the receiving end of the ball as a representative of Sylvia’s Place when it was the beneficiary of Night of a Thousand Gowns in 2009, I know the hard work, dedication, and joy that goes into preparing the evening and seeing to it that everything comes off without a hitch. It takes an army of volunteers! So I signed up, suited up, and showed up.

Stationed at the press sign-in table, I was in full view of the royalty, performers, and attendees as they filed in. I honed in on the familiar face and chic style of Jama Shelton, the Forty to None Project Director at True Colors Fund and her beautifully dressed partner Glennda Testone. Jama was there representing True Colors Fund, who was the non-profit beneficiary of the ball this year. Having been in her shoes, figuratively, I didn’t want to keep her hostage. Once all press had checked in by 7:30, I was released to the floor and entered the ballroom in time to catch her speech. Jama highlighted the work of the True Colors Fund, who partners with MCCNY Homeless Youth Services to raise awareness about LGBTQI homeless youth. “The issue of LGBT youth homelessness is one that is often overlooked in our community,” said Jama. “LGBT youth experiencing homelessness are the current and future leaders of our movement, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to put this issue on your radar.”

After the speech it was time for dinner following a prayer that caught my attention: “May we remember those who are without food tonight.” Immediately I thought of those who are HIV positive who will get something to eat from God’s Love We Deliver—the other beneficiary of the evening—and those who will receive services from the True Colors Fund. I looked out past the tiaras, crowns, and gowns and realized that this feast and ball would have made Cinderella proud. It got me thinking about what fundraisers would make it onto my social calendar this year and which events I could volunteer at so that others may be fed and housed.

The event went on to honor Edie Windsor with the Imperial Diamond Award, and the night continued to sparkle with performances Sandra Bernhard, Martha Reeves, Kelly King, Expose, and the cast of Broadway’s Pippin.

And then it happened, a familiar face appeared from the sea of royalty. Getting up from her dinner was someone who once slept on the cots of Sylvia’s Place and ate food provided by our pantry. Who says miracles like this don’t happen every day? A gorgeous example of a girl having gone from rags to riches before my very eyes. She was giving back to her community and had a seat at the table.


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