Jesse Fraga/Contributing Writer
In celebration of Miami’s Hispanic LGBTQ+ Pride Festival, Unity Coalition held The Art of Fashion Gala on Oct. 12 at the Frost Art Museum at FIU.
Showcased through fashion, art and music, the night exemplified what is truly meant by queer liberation. Community members expressed themselves in formal and avant-garde attire, pushing the boundaries of gender expression through fashion.
As distinguished guests mingled while indulging in drinks and hors d’oeuvres, the room lit up as highly anticipated guests of honor walked in.
Famously known for playing Candy on the FX television show “Pose”, actress and transgender activist Angelica Ross was presented with the 2019 Trailblazer Award.
Local queer activist and volunteer Melba De Leon was also honored with the Volunteer of the Year Award.
As the recipient of the Trailblazer Award, Ross opened up about her personal struggles of getting to where she stands today.
“Someone told me that there was a woman in South Florida that I could meet that would help me to be able to start my transition, if I was willing to pose on an adult website,” Ross said about her experience after being fired from a previous job.
She eventually began designing advertisements for the website, rather than posing for it.
Acknowledging the hardships and discrimination many transgender people experience in the workplace inspired her to give back to the community.
Ross was recognized for creating a program called the TransTech Social Enterprise, which aims to assist people with employment opportunities while experiencing transitions in life.
Ross reflected on how queer events like The Art of Fashion Gala can impact the FIU community.
“I’m hoping that it will continue to open and break the binaries that exist around fashion,” she said.
Audience members were in tears as she spoke on the progress and setbacks of the transgender community, including fashion model, Aeon Hues.
“Ain’t nothing oversaturated, because you’re you,” Hues said to the audience after Ross’s speech.
A collective of hispanic LGBTQ+ fashion designers, including Bo Khasamarina, Chloe Martini, Chaplin Tyler, Miguel Rodez, Ralf Vidal and Juan Mantilla, each presented a series of avant-garde designs translating from the marches of the Stonewall Uprisings.
As 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, designers aimed at creating a sense of cohesiveness with the museum’s Art After Stonewall exhibition through their looks.
The Stonewall Riots were a series of violent protests against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in New York. This left a major imprint on the ongoing Queer Liberation Movement that is still present today.
An androgynous ambiance resonated throughout the designer’s garments and models, creating a sense of deeper meaning behind their work. This left many outfits up to the audience’s own interpretation.
Between each runway walk, beauty gurus perfected the models’ looks backstage, ensuring each model was slayed to the gods.
Whether old faces were recognized or new friendships were formed, the dressing room held a unique camaraderie. Leading up to their walks, models and beauty gurus were flooded with compliments and positive vibes from supportive guests.
“This is the LGBTQ+ family. We’re all one family,” said Leon, the recipient of the Volunteer of the Year Award.
As the organization’s mission statement explains, “Unity Coalition advances equality and fairness for the Latinx/Hispanic LGBTQ+ community.”
It felt right on at The Gala.