With an array of beautiful custom-made jackets up for bids, a fashion extravaganza on the runway, award-winning songbird Kristin Chenoweth performing onstage and very heartfelt testimonies of DIFFA Dallas’ “vital work” in battling AIDS, the House of DIFFA | The List was a memory maker at the Hilton Anatole on Saturday, May 13. Why, Kristin even dropped a hint that her wedding plans may just include Dallas for the location. Here’s a report from the field:
The fashion was on full display at DIFFA Dallas’ annual creative black-tie gala, House of DIFFA | The List, taking place on Saturday, May 13, at the Hilton Anatole Dallas. Presented by The Louis L. Borick Foundation, over 1,400 attendees were treated to an evening of fashion, musical performances, and the opportunity to bid on the legendary luxury jacket auction.
The evening started with the Don Julio and Ketel One VIP Lounge, followed by the Gilead Cocktail Reception, where guests like Lucrecia Waggoner, Andrea Reich, Madelaine Lam and LeeAnne Locken had the opportunity to view and bid on over 70 luxury custom jackets throughout the evening, including pieces from Michael Bush, Joseff of Hollywood, Hive & Colony, Brandon Harris, Ese Azenabor and palmer//harding. Attendees also got to view items in the Champion Healthcare Silent Auction.
After enjoying the pop-up performers placed throughout the event, attendees made their way into the ballroom to find their seats. On the runway, live body painting was taking place. As the dinner of blackened chicken breast with white cheddar stone grits was being served, style council members like Tina Admin, Ese Azenbor, Gabriella Monte and Tiffany Moon strutted down the runway to kick off the evening.
Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth then took the stage to perform a beautiful version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for the crowd, including her fiancé Josh Bryant.
Chenoweth welcomed the crowd, including Rob Bradford, Jan Strimple, D’Andra Simmons and Zach Hess, talking about her time in Dallas. “While I have been in town, I have eaten at most of the restaurants across Dallas, so my dress is made out of Spanx,” Chenoweth said. “I am getting married in Dallas. I won’t be saying when or where, but I have always loved Dallas.” Chenoweth then continued sharing memories of her time filming her show “GCB” in Dallas and finding familiar faces in the crowd.
On a more serious note, Chenoweth discussed what DIFFA and its mission meant to her. “When someone approaches me or someone I love with hate, I approach them back with love,” Chenoweth said. “I don’t want to become the hate itself.”
She continued, “As a Christian, it has not always been in alignment that I would be a LGBTQ+ ally, but to me, if you really believe in God, and I know not everyone here believes the same, and that is amazing. But if you are a Christian, what would Jesus do? I have a feeling he may be here tonight at DIFFA.”
Chenoweth then welcomed to the stage Co-Chairs Haley Clark and Richard Rivas, who reminisced about their 30 years of friendship and early beginnings. “We walked the small halls of West Texas, and now we just walked the runway together,” Clark said.
Rivas discussed how far they had come to which Clark joked, “You are looking at Richard’s last straight date.” Rivas discussed how he and Clark didn’t live by the playbook of West Texas. The co-chairs then discussed what they admired most about each other while thanking their respective friends and families.
“We have all been left off a list in our life,” Rivas said. He reminded attendees that this event’s list is inclusive and the reason why everyone was there. “We are on a mission and here to help victims,” Rivas said. The co-chairs then welcomed the DIFFA Dallas board members including Luis Martinez, Jainy Selvakumar, Catherine Gibson Luba, Raha Assadi, Ken Weber, Rick Castillo and Wesley Dowden to take the runway and welcomed Board Chair David White to take the microphone for the final time after six years of service.
“Look around the room,” White greeted the crowd. “This is a group of warriors that make a difference in the Dallas community.” He noted that AIDS is not a death sentence anymore, thanks to people like the people in the room. He continued to say that the work is not done, “I still need this army. We have more work to do,” White said before calling people out by name.
White continued with one of his favorite sayings, “Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footsteps on the moon. The sky is not the limit.”
Rivas and Clark then took the stage again to recognize the evening’s award recipients, including Ken Downing, Excellence in Fashion Award; Gilead, Health Award; Lee Borchet, Excellence in Design Award; Justin Bundick, the Donna Fishel Community Hero Award; Fern Mallis, the Legend In The Fight Against AIDS Award and David White, the Legacy of Love Award.
Following the awards, Chenoweth performed two more songs, “Bring ‘em Home” and “Chick-Fil-A,” where she poked fun at the popular fast food chain.
Following the performance, Mallis took the runway to address the crowd, “The Met Gala has nothing on you,” she said. Mallis then began to tell the history and inspiration behind DIFFA as one of the founding members of DIFFA New York. As she turned slowly in a circle so she could address all the guests surrounding her, she gave a moving speech. “ I accept this honor in the memory of my list,” she said as she began to list the names of loved ones who had died from AIDS. “I could cry at a moment’s notice when I see their name in my phone, but I refuse to delete them.”
Mallis then talked about the early beginnings, how there was an epidemic killing young, healthy gay men, and nothing was being done. Her colleagues and she felt they needed to do something. “It was a miracle we were able to get anything done due to our demanding jobs and burying our friends,” she said. She finished her speech by thanking the Dallas DIFFA chapter and their vital work. “I love you all for what you are doing, and let’s save lives,” she said before kicking off the live auction.
The live auction included a luxury trip to Cabo for two and the vintage Dolce and Gabbana jacket painted live by artist James Peter Henry at this year’s Patron Preview Party, along with art pieces “The Force of Fire” by Lucrecia Waggoner, “Craig” by David Yarrow, “Self Portrait – Dolly Parton Me” by Lea Fisher and “Our Superpower” by Christi Meril.
Also included in the live auction was a “Made to Desire” by Halston experience of a custom garment designed by their new Creative Director/Chief Creative Officer Downing, who took the stage during the auction, telling the auctioneer, “I was trained as an auctioneer, so do it right, or I will take it over,” Downing said before working the crowd.
Following the live auction, Chenoweth introduced the highly anticipated fashion show presented by JSK, and it kicked off with Studio 54 with look-a-likes of Andy Warhol, Deborah Harry and Halston taking the runway. The fashion traveled through different decades and movements like 80s glam rock, London punk rock/CBGB, Starck club, 80’s rap, teen pop, grunge, hip hop, EDM, and closing with the “Metaverse.” The show also showcased multiple concepts, including Halston and Neiman Marcus.
After the grand finale, models led attendees like co-creative directors of the show Brian Brothers, Densil Adams and Rhonda Sargent Chambers to the after-party next door. DJ Adante kept the partying going with guests dancing till early in the morning.
Sponsors of the evening include The Louis L. Borick Foundation, Headington Companies, JSX, Neiman Marcus, Vistra, Versace, Champion Healthcare of North Texas, Gilead, Don Julio, Ketel One Vodka, Dallas Market Center, Jordan Kahn Music Company, Loloi, The Media Socialites, Aero, Children’s Health, Deloitte, Eugene McDermott Foundation, Farouk Systems, Rockefeller Capital Management, The Botanical Mix, Hilton Anatole, Hoque Global, Lead Concepts, Sidley, Wildlike, D Magazine, DA Creative, Inkling +Co, Planet, Plug PR and RSC Show Productions.
* Photo credit: Thomas Garza ** Photo credit: Francesa Omenukor *** Photo credit: Danny Campbell **** Photo credit: Lori Spano