Ruth Ellis Center Fundraiser Kicks Off Pride Month with Pageant
It’s about to get real catty in Detroit. The biggest catfight of the year is happening on June 1 at the Fillmore Theatre, 2115 Woodward Ave.
Eight amateur contestants will fight for the title of Miss Kitty in categories of evening wear, swimsuit, talent, and interview segments. The Catfight for the Crown is an elaborate, “tongue-in-cheek” drag show “beauty” pageant that brings forward a unique, over-the-top, entertaining and interactive way of raising critical funding to support the Ruth Ellis Center. This event is also designed to celebrate all forms of identity and expression.
The pageant will be judged by celebrity guests Nicole Eisenberg, member of the board of directors for GLAAD; Chuck Bennett, Detroit’s undisputed style guru and society icon; Elliott Broom, Vice President of Museum Operations at the Detroit Insitute of Art; Jessie Beld Elliott, Founder and CEO at Beld & Associates; musician and songwriter, Ben Sharkey; and Detroit’s very own living drag legend, Lady “T” Tempest.
The idea for the show was presented to the Ruth Ellis Center by Harris Van Cleef, Vice President at Star Trax Event Productions.
Catfight is a spin-off from a successful fundraiser in Los Angeles titled Battle for the Tiara, now known as Best in Drag Show. The original event has raised over $1 million to support Aid for AIDS during its reign with emcee Patrick Rush and the late Alexis Pittman, who was the founder and creator.
“For years I have wanted to give back,” said Van Cleef. “To me, it felt like Ruth Ellis Center is an organization that is really digging in and trying to do something on the front lines of what’s going on with an issue that many of us don’t even know is going on. As somebody who wasn’t affected in that way and was raised in a home where I happened to be accepted, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be someone who is turned away from their family or their community because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. For me, that’s really powerful.”
The Pinkys, the “goodwill ambassadors,” will be on-hand to take tickets, usher guests, sweep money across the stage and serve cocktails. These volunteer characters will all don the same pink dresses, so they can’t be missed.
“We have been extraordinarily lucky to receive help from everyone we have approached,” said Van Cleef pointing to people like Scott MacDonald, Corinne Roskopp, Mikki Gardner and Shannon McConnell, who are also responsible for the directing and managing of the event. “That’s been my experience so far. Everything we’ve asked for or needed has been given. People really care about the Ruth Ellis Center and the young people they serve. It’s really been miraculous and we’re all unbelievably grateful.”
But the process could not have been started without support from Project Beautiful – Inside and Out, the presenting sponsor for this inaugural event. Their mission is to build confidence and inspire hope as individuals and families rebuild their lives.
“The amazing work done by Ruth Ellis fits our mission perfectly. Our relationship with the Center has grown from buying 50 pairs of winter boots, to sponsoring meals and contributing to their pantry program, to our Rainbow Cabaret event last April that raised $40,000 for the capital campaign for their Health and Wellness Center. Catfight for the Crown is a natural evolution of our support and we couldn’t be more excited,” said Doris Gilles, founder and executive director.
Proceeds generated from Catfight for the Crown will be designated to support the capital campaign for the Ruth Ellis Health and Wellness Center, which provides affirming and accessible mental health and primary care services including acute care, chronic disease management, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, and gender-affirming hormones.
Young people can come to the Center to have dinner, take a shower, use the computer, get free clothing and food boxes and, most importantly, build community in a safe space. With the development of the Health and Wellness Center, they can now receive physical and mental health services in an environment in which they are already comfortable and which stands in sharp contrast to traditional clinical environments in which they may experience stigma or outright rejection. The Center has set a goal of completing the capital campaign in 2018 and hopes Catfight for the Crown will inspire others to get involved.
“Ruth Ellis Center has worked very hard to establish a robust culture of philanthropy and this event is a wonderful example of that,” said Mark Erwin-McCormick, Director of Development & Advancement at Ruth Ellis Center. “Here is an example of three separate entities, Harris Van Cleef of Star Trax Events, Project Beautiful – Inside & Out, and Ruth Ellis Center, coming together to leverage their collective resources for the sole purpose of ensuring LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness or other barriers to care have safe access to integrated primary and behavioral health care. That’s what Pride is all about.”
Van Cleef continued, “I believe that you need to show people a good time and so many people go to black-tie galas and while they’re amazing, the idea is to be able to go someplace and really just have fun and let loose to have a good time and still raise money. It’s a serious cause, but we’re doing it in a very fun, very light, very self-deprecating, humorous kind of way. That’s the beauty of it.”
For sponsorship opportunities, please contact Mark Erwin-McCormick, Director of Development and Advancement at Ruth Ellis Center at 313-252-1950. Visit ruthelliscenter.org for more information. To purchase tickets, visit universe.com/catfightforthecrown.