You hear about it. You read about it. You see photos, videos… I had my fair share of knowing about it, but never had I actually gone to the positively notorious event called Life Ball; the Aids fighting, life celebrating affair where seemingly all the world’s lovable reprobates rendezvous.
So for Based in a Suitcase, I traveled to Vienna to experience the marvelousness of this annual night and dedicate this chapter to the efforts of it’s organizers and to he place that was my home while on this beautiful adventure. —
To properly get ready for an occasion such as Life Ball and to fully sleep the champagne off afterwards (mascara on your cheeks, foundation smeared on the duvet) one needs a room with good mirrors, honest light, a great bed and a breakfast of champions. It goes without saying that Based in a Suitcase would not be the same without at least one golden tip to where one may find these things in luxury. In Vienna it’s not difficult to find this quality. Buildings are gorgeous, space is used royally and Wieners have a way about them that is graceful.
However, don’t be fooled. Within the ‘realm of chic’ in Austrian’s capital, there are very large grey areas where the word tacky was born and seems to still reside. I am allergic to tacky so I try to avoid it at any cost. This taken into consideration, I chose to put my sparkling outfit designed by Dennis Diem, who has stood by me making the impeccable creations I wore to the Academy Awards several years in a row, on in one of Hotel Palais Hansen Kempinski’s Junior Suites. Four full length mirrors and enough space to walk around in the twenty-three centimeters that were going to be tricky support for the evening, gave me the right set of things needed to get dressed in style. With my speakers feeding me my freshly made playlists, I got my groove in a matter of minutes. Make up and hair were done in half the time I normally spend so I had time to order room service before wiggling into my bejeweled rump sleeve. Risotto with white wine sauce and fresh arugula; hmmm, delicious.
Oh, yeah… and then that awkward moment arose, where I was ready to go and needed to call the front desk to have someone sent to my room to zip me up before making my way down in a transparent glass elevator, wearing nothing but a sheer train over a mesh flesh colored bodysuit with bedazzlement on my hoohah when in the all marble grand foyer, couples were having tea and desert while listening to a live pianist play Beethoven… I’ll tell you one thing; they say beauty is pain. Well, it’s not pain only. It’s lots of embarrassing moments in which you find consolation in people humble enough to artlessly help you when alone and not in the ability to take care of everything by yourself. Trust me, being zipped up by the bellboy is not at all even close to the mildest form of awkward if you’d hear what I have had to do to make sure I was getting to a red carpet in one piece. Like walking in the height of the very shoes I just described and passing three terraces full of people when you suddenly realize you are on the wrong side of the building and need to walk around it on cobble stones, passing the twenty-five people who just saw you twist your ankle once again. Not saying that happened… or am I? Okay okay, it happened (rolling my eyes).
When arriving at the correct side of the building after cursing at the street for about eight- hundred meters, I joined my dear friend Alex Haessner, with whom I had the pleasure of making my first film Body Language. We set foot in Vienna’s City Hall. Red-carpet covered stairs stretched far beyond my eye sight and with every step, I willingly transfused myself further and further into a world of costume fabulousness and drag queen galore.
Backstage I ran into old friends, new friends, industry acquaintances; the fun loving Conchita Wurst, beautiful Andreja Pejic, Sweet and humble Nyle DiMarco, loved and loving hair guru Danilo Dixon and my Slather Sister Bailey, whom I all hadn’t seen in ages. People I am honored to know and share this party with.
See, it’s not every day that a large community flocks together and unites for a good cause in the form of a charity event while dancing, laughing and putting on- or watching great shows. Gery Keszler, the founder of the HIV & AIDS awareness non-profit, has been assembling a crowd for his festivities since 1993. People like Naomi Campbell and Bill Clinton are just few of his influential supporters that have been spotted in his company. Celebrities don’t seem to think twice to be hosting, performing, handing out- and receiving awards on this special evening.
Many of them are famous enough to be known by everyone and their mothers for being a public figure. Others are less spotlight-y but incredibly well respected. Like Jackie Branfield, who means so much to the world with operation Bobbi Bear; a human rights organization committed to helping sexually abused children in South Africa.
And what do you know; I spotted her as she was walking my way. She stopped, looked at me with a young minded twinkle in her eyes and continued to say: “Don’t ever lose your femininity. Keep dressing like this until you’re sixty-five.” These words stayed with me, even now that I am writing this they still ring in my ear. This woman is a strong individual who empowers people and gives them a voice. In this single moment, she empowered me by giving me a shot of confidence and I am thankful for her love and sincerity.
And as there’s an end to everything, so there was to this night filled with moments I will not easily forget. Well, for me there was, at 6am. Many guests went on to yet another venue to dance the morning away till long after the sun had risen, but I had other commitments; a date with the breakfast buffet. My best friend and I walked back and forth between the freshly pressed juices, champagne table, chocolate fountain and cheese platters for a good hour and a half before making our way down to the spa feeling like a million bucks. Hallelujah to five star hotels after five star parties. Till next time Vienna!