On Monday night, a special pop-up edition of MonGays will cap off Tri-Cities Pride at Hopewell’s Guncotton Coffee with a fabulous documentary about a fashion legend.
“He’s the Nelson Mandela of couture. He’s the Kofi Annan of what you’ve got on,” exclaimed Whoopi Goldberg as she tried to capture the person that is André Leon Talley. How did the grandson of sharecroppers who spent his childhood in segregated North Carolina rise through the ranks of New York City to become the first black man to break into the world of high fashion? Well, as Talley himself says, “You can be aristocratic without having been born into an aristocratic family.”
This coming Monday the 16th, Virginia Pride and Diversity Richmond have teamed up to bring you the first ever MonGays pop-up: a screening of The Gospel According to André. Besides making MonGays history, this event marks an exciting new chapter for Tri-Cities Pride; this showing in Hopewell will be their first flagship event to take place outside of Petersburg. MonGays will serve as the grand finale of Tri-Cities Pride — hot on the tail of a Friday the 13th kick-off party and their (in)famous Petersburg Out & Proud festival in Old Town Petersburg on Saturday.
André Leon Talley would surely approve of the revelry. He began his career working for Andy Warhol in his studio for just $50 a week. Volunteering for famed fashion columnist Dianna Vreeland opened doors for Talley which he boldly strode through. His creativity graced the pages of Women’s Wear Daily, W Magazine, and the New York Times before Talley landed his most iconic position at Vogue, where he eventually moved from creative director to right-hand man of editor Anna Wintour.
Even though Talley’s family didn’t have much when he was growing up, he saw the luxury his grandmother created in the way she dressed for church each week. “In the South, going to church was the most important thing in life, and it was a fashion show,” explains Talley in the documentary. The intricate dresses his grandmother designed, created, and wore each week inspired him to pursue his love of fashion as a way to change the world.
The bombastic vivacity of his personality was infectious from a young age, but that’s not to say that Talley hasn’t had his detractors over the years; growing up, his joie de vivre often attracted vitriol from those who didn’t dare to live as vibrantly as he lives. “A bunch of white boys at Duke decided to throw rocks at me as I was walking on campus,” he said. “People have said many bad things about me. They used to call me Queen Kong. I was like an ape — a gay ape Queen Kong. But I had to move on. I had to get on with my career.”
While the entertainment will be great, the cause it benefits is even better. All donations from MonGays will go to Nationz Foundation to support their work in the Tri-Cities, providing a food pantry and free HIV testing with their mobile unit. Attendees will even get the chance to see the unit for themselves. Nationz is going to have their unit parked outside Guncotton, and will provide free testing during the event.
MonGays will take place at Guncotton Coffee & Gallery (238 E Broadway) in Hopewell on September 16th at 7pm.