After World Pride New York is over on June 30, our King of Mardi Gras float builders, Kern Studios, will have been showcased to the world with three entries in the World Pride March. Mardi Gras meets Pride has been long overdue especially in the Big Apple.
Netflix’s Queer Eye, MAC Cosmetics, and the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation (NOTMC) will have reigned in a big way with Mardi Gras style floats that will have added a sparkle to the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall.
Walking into a Kern float den is like entering the Land of Oz from a sepia-toned world. Vibrant colors pop and floats sparkle with much greater intensity than Dorothy’s ruby slippers. One hundred and fifty pounds of glitter highlight the floats.
Jake Lawton, manager of retail events for MAC Cosmetics, has been working with Kern for months on this project. He was there at the den to check out the spectacle that was built for his company’s philanthropic arm that has pumped millions upon millions of dollars into HIV/AIDS projects around the world.
“I am very pleased with what I am seeing. This is going to be epic,” he said, gazing upon the MAC float headed with a rainbow arch that looks through to a large heart that says, “MAC Loves Pride.” The sides of the float says, “All Ages. All Races. All Genders.”
Lawton proclaims that MAC Cosmetics is the largest non-pharmaceutical funder of HIV/AIDS since it launched its Viva Glam lipstick 25 years ago. At present, the company has donated more than $500 million to the cause. Recently the MAC AIDS Fund changed its name to the Viva Glam Fund.
Just seven months ago, Joe Mazzotta began working with Kern Studios in business development. He kept contemplating where he could make the most impact with his new job. He reached out to Zoe Gorringe, a New Orleans girl working for Heritage of Pride for World Pride New York and soon “the magic began to happen,” according to Mazzotta.
“It is the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall, World Pride is happening in New York. How could New Orleans enter the parade and make a statement in a big way?” Soon Mazzotta had three entries in the parade and he is banking that when people see these floats, more companies will be knocking on their door next year for Pride entries in other major cities across the country.
The MAC Cosmetics float had drag sensations Peppermint and Teyanna Taylor, and saw as many as 500 walkers behind the float representing MAC.
The 35-1/2 foot Netflix Queer Eye Float featured all of the Fab Five and Honey Davenport with 150 walkers. It debuted just in time for the show’s new season premiere. The float featured a huge tissue box with a rainbow tissue on the front to signify the show’s theme: “I’m not crying, you’re crying.”
A 55-foot steamboat represented the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation. Deepa Soul adorned the top spot on the float. More than 100 walkers from New Orleans joined in the parade. New Orleans local Tony Leggio was one of them.
“I am so excited about being part of this global celebration about diversity and pride,” Leggio said. “I am proud that New Orleans has decided to play an important role. Showing our city as an inclusive and accepting haven for LGBT travelers is amazing and I am just ecstatic about being a small part of it. I feel like I am participating in something that truly is global in scope. It is very special!”
NOMTC also sponsored a booth with a Flower Wall built by Kern Studios. Hansen’s Sno Blitz was there as a sponsor as was Krewe eyewear. The booth disseminated information about New Orleans as an LGBTQ destination.
Mark Romig, CEO for NOMTC, said, “We are so elated with the opportunity to take the message that New Orleans is welcoming ALL people and that we are a loving and tolerant city for visitors from around the world. Bringing a little bit of Mardi Gras to the Big Apple is exciting. We think that the lasting impression of our riverboat float will be an exciting memory for all parade participants, and will help show how we know how to celebrate life.”
The floats took “20-25 people and six solid weeks of production,” said Mazzotta. Elexa Dixon, Group Sales Manager for Mardi Gras World, explained that the floats are conceptualized and built for clients on-site. “Any float that is shipped must be built and disassembled for shipping,” Dixon said. “It’s rebuilt at its destination and then disassembled to come home which means Kern Studio artists are with the float every step of the way. I am very proud for us to represent New Orleans in this parade and proud to come from a city where inclusion is a way of life.”
Seven months ago being a part of World Pride was just a dream for Mazzotta. “I had a vision and I wanted to deliver in a big way,” he said. “As a member of the LGBTQ community, I was hoping to gain traction in the Pride market. I am excited about our floats being placed on a world stage. Our designers and builders are top notch. Millions of eyes will be upon us and I hope that gets us the recognition we so deserve.”