Jetlagged and bleary-eyed, I’m flying back to California after an amazing weekend in Vienna, Austria. Each and every year, the city plays host to Europe’s biggest and best HIV/AIDS fundraiser—and, though most Americans haven’t heard of it, it’s not to be missed.
It’s hard to describe the Life Ball to someone who has never been. It’s part Burning Man, part Olympics Opening Ceremony and part New York City Fashion Week. This year, celebrity guests included Bill Clinton, the Scissor Sisters, Antonio Banderas, Sean Penn, Lance Bass, Cheyenne Jackson and many more.
Tickets to the event are always in short supply—but locals are able to score a deep discount by purchasing a “costume” ticket. In exchange for the markdown, Austrians are required to put together a costume that fits the year’s theme. This year’s theme was fighting the flames of ignorance—and, as you can imagine, creativity was not in short supply.
Walking the pink carpet with Haley Star, my best drag queen friend, I ditched my fancy suit for a red Speedo and gold hightops. With many attendees showing lots of skin, no one was shocked or surprised by my lack of attire. In fact, the woman in front of me was walking the pink carpet in a thong. And only a thong.
While covering Life Ball for my YouTube channel, I was invited to walk in the fashion show, which was hosted by Italian Vogue. Being only five-foot eight and with some 80,000 people in attendance, it was intimidating walking alongside models like Naomi Campbell and Alex Wek, but dare I say that I held my own—and managed to work my shirtless sailor ensemble for Jean Paul Gaultier. For me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I soaked in every second of it.
After the opening ceremonies and fashion show, ticketed guests descend on Vienna’s famed city hall. Entirely transformed for the event, partiers are treated to countless ballrooms filled with heart-pumping music, live performances and beautiful, scantily-clad Europeans. I’ve honestly never seen a party so big, so packed or so fun. And just when you think the party is over, the after party starts around 5:00 AM.
Though I’m admittedly not much of a late-night partier and though I don’t drink alcohol, I had an incredible time. The party, in and of itself, was worth the exhausting plane ride to Vienna—and it was great knowing that all the funds raised support such an importance cause.
If I get another invite to Life Ball, I’ll be there. And I hope to see you there, too.
Life Ball 2015 - May 16
Fighting AIDS & Celebrating Life
The Life Ball is one of the biggest AIDS charity events in the world and an internationally unique ball. The Life Ball is an exuberant festivity with extraordinary performances that year after year celebrates life and makes a loud and sounding statement in the fight against HIV and AIDS – resounding far across the boundaries of Vienna and Austria. This way the event sets an example of tolerance and sends the signals of solidarity to society and the whole world.
Life Ball Fashion Show by Jean Paul Gaultier, Special Guest: Charlize Theron
Life Ball 2015: GOLD – VER SACRUM | SANTA PRIMAVERA | SACRE DU PRINTEMPS
The ancient Roman spring festival “Ver Sacrum”, which serves as an inspiration to creative people of all genres and is expressed in equal measure both in Gustav Klimt’s golden paintings and in Igor Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps, forms, in the sense of an elemental new beginning, the conceptual framework for a broadly woven world of inspiration. Protagonists and figures as they were painted and embodied by the Viennese Secessionists can be encountered again at the Life Ball 2015 with a shared aspiration for change, renewal and improvement as they dive into a rousing festival that celebrates life. Accordingly, the element of Gold, both a decorative color and a non-color, will play a central role in the creative implementation of the topic in the Style Bible and festivities organized around the Life Ball as a surface on which to project dreams and desires for abundance, freedom and truly “paradise-like” conditions.