Competitive ball to benefit St. Petersburg VFW

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Miranda Colette, Joyce Smiley, J.P. Pittit, Joyce Lockhart, Chris Kiss, Duane Cook and Lady V. plan the upcoming Elemental Ball at the VFW Sept. 12.

ST. PETERSBURG | Bambu the Eco Salon will host The Elemental Ball on Oct. 4 at 7 p.m., a competitive fundraiser for Come Out St. Pete (COSP) benefiting the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post No. 39.

The VFW was founded in 1899 to assist veterans who served in wars on foreign soil or in hostile waters. Post No. 39 was formed in 1919 on the corner of Central Ave. and 26th St. in the 8,000 square feet, two-story structure housing it today.

The salon, which is located across from the VFW and hosts COSP events annually, held a fashion show at the establishment last year. After its co-owner Chris Kiss won the charity-focused Miss Broken Slut pageant as entertainer Victoria Michaels in March, he began working with VFW leadership to restore their 175-seat theater.

Kiss subsequently won Miss COSP 2019 on Sept. 1, a perfect marriage for his fundraising efforts. “The VFW has been taking care of our veterans for 100 years,” he explains, “and they have opened their doors to the gay men and women who have served our country and to the St. Petersburg community. I want to do something with my crowns that celebrates the men and women in our armed forces.”

With his team at Bambu and the support of COSP, Kiss hopes to update the VFW’s space with new air conditioning, flooring, staging and more to allow the facility to host more community events. Drawing inspiration from New York City’s 1980s ball culture and the African American, Latinx and LGBTQ communities involved in its rise, organizers developed The Elemental Ball.

Drag performers and vogue enthusiasts of all kinds are encouraged to enter the competition. A panel of judges will award points and trophies to participants who embody eight total categories.

Categories include “Butch Queen Realness,” “Femme Queen Realness,” “Executive Realness,” “Lusciousness,” “Mother of the Year,” “Military Realness, “Opulence” and “Shopping on Grand Central.” A winner will be chosen for each, resulting in a vogue battle to determine “Best of the Ball.”

Iraq veteran and VFW Commander J.P. Pittit is thankful for the support. “Restoring the space will bring people together,” she says. “It will help us give back to the community.”

It’s a community Pittit proudly serves. “I think veterans have a tendency to be less prejudiced,” she notes. “When you’re in a combat zone, sex, race, gender, nothing like that matters. You need each other to survive.”

Between fundraisers at the VFW and Punky’s Bar & Grill, Bambu’s efforts have raised nearly $2,000 thus far. Kiss hopes to cross $5,000 after the ball. “This will bridge so many diverse sectors within our community,” he says. “This will bring us together.”

For more information about The Elemental Ball, visit the event’s Facebook page or call Bambu the Eco Salon at (727) 485-8802. For more information about Come Out St. Pete, visit ComeOutStPete.org.

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