Do you know the ribbon man?: Ben Johansen steps up and steps out with the clear symbol of this year’s tragedy

By : Billy Manes
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Ben Johansen, who you might know as drag fave Eureka Fish (but not really, anymore, he says), helps to run Embellish FX with his man Timothy Vargas. Vargas, a honcho at the GLBT Center in downtown Orlando, was busy handling palates of food and water the day after the Pulse tragedy. The Center was, in fact, the Center of dignity after the event. So Johansen set out to make his peace with the community, to contribute in a way only he could.

“It actually happened the second day I was making ribbons,” he says. “I had a reporter following me around, and I was telling him about Orlando, and he was interested. So, he’s actually the one who coined me the ‘Ribbon Maker’ and wrote the story.”

Ben Johansen with spolls of rainbow ribbon. Photo from Ben’s Facebook page.

Since then, the ribbons have traveled the world and kept Orlando’s hope alive. Johansen is the man behind that philanthropy, and he deserves his due. He’s still humbled, though.

“Day one, when Tim woke me up, we rushed immediately to the Center, and there were so many people doing something, and I just felt kind of empty inside,” he says. “I felt like I needed to do something. And as the First Lady of the Center, as my husband was the president, I said I had to sit back and do something that brings awareness to everything that was going on. So I ran to the craft store and bought one roll of ribbon – one roll of rainbow ribbon, one roll of black ribbon, and a box of pins. I was making them for people who were volunteering at the Center or people who worked at the Center, and as people came in, they would say, ‘Hey, where’d you get your ribbon?’ I said, ‘I’m making them.’”

Gallery photos by Jake Stevens.

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