Express Yourself Fashion Art Ball on May 8th
An Interview with Event Founder Deon Jefferson
A very special event is taking place May 8th at the Arts Warehouse in Delray Beach, the Express Yourself Fashion Art Ball! Attendees are encouraged to be creative in selecting their outfits, with the “Best Expressed” outfit winning a photo shoot with the event’s founder Deon Jefferson. I had the chance to ask Deon Jefferson a few questions about the event, which he has been planning, accepting art submissions for and orchestrating as the date gets closer. Jefferson is a multi-talented individual, a photographer, a singer, a fashion stylist and an artist.
AW: How did you get the idea for this unique event?
DJ: A friend of mine told me about this amazing grant opportunity. He told me to go to the BeWellPBC website and go to the interest meeting via zoom. At first, before attending the meeting, I had the idea of asking for a grant to produce a Youtube show. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. While being in the interest meeting, I realized that the grant requires a little bit more thinking. The facilitators of the meeting kept mentioning that they were looking for a unique idea that has never been done before, they wanted something innovative. So, while on the call, I came up with the concept and started building from there. In 2019, I styled a fashion show at the Pride Center in Fort Lauderdale that addressed the stigmas of HIV/AIDS, I loved how it was structured, so I decided to use that event and experience as a muse. The Mental Health topic was BeWellPBC’s idea. They gave us the starting point, then the actual awardees came up with the program/event.
AW: How did you get the grant? Who did you get the grant from?
DJ: I received the grant because I wrote a grant proposal and submitted it to a grant reviewing committee. The grant was made possible by BeWellPBC. BeWellPBC is a community initiative in Palm Beach County. Launched in January of 2019, their mission is “engaging the community’s residents, providers and systems in meaningful ways to address the county’s behavioral health needs collectively, with the promise that we can do better for our children, families and neighbors.”
AW: Describe the Arts Warehouse space where it will be held. And the staff.
DJ: The Arts Warehouse is such a cool place to host an event for artists. They have been a huge part of the planning of the ball. I attended a party there in 2019. I introduced myself to Grace and Lui, they then showed me around the entire building. I was so in awe of how intimate and inviting the atmosphere was. Since then, I’ve been a huge fan of the programming of the Arts Warehouse. Kenya Madison from Healthier Delray was responsible for making the connection for me to utilize the space. The Arts Warehouse is fairly new, but they have some of the most dynamic arts programming in South Florida. The building is perfect! It’s located in Pineapple Grove (The Arts District). It’s seconds from Atlantic Avenue. It’s in a really good part of the city.
AW: You hinted that there would be spoken word (poetry?) performances and a contest for “Best Expressed” outfit that evening. Tell us a little more about those things.
DJ: I wanted to make sure the Ball included as many forms of art as possible. I’ve invited a few really talented people to come as entertainment. Poetry is one of my favorite art forms. I also wanted to make sure I’m including the LGBT community. Drag Queens and Kings in PBC have been really kind to me, so I wanted to include them. The LGBT community is not always invited to spaces like the Arts Warehouse, so I wanted to make sure the community was represented. They deal with mental health issues just like everybody else. So, why not include them? When you go to events, it’s always a focus on getting dressed really nicely. This Ball was inspired by the Met Gala. There’s always a theme. So I wanted the theme to be individuality. I want to award the person who expresses themselves the best. We aren’t focused on the brands you have on, or the trendy clothing. We care about how cool and confident you look while expressing yourself. The winner will receive a photoshoot. During that shoot, we will highlight self-esteem and mental health. So costumes and creative attire are highly encouraged.
AW: Will there be a DJ? Dancing? What kind of music?
DJ: There will be a DJ and tons of dancing. After we do the mini fashion show, DJ Marlon from The Basement Presents will be on the 1’s and 2’s. Marlon is a good DJ, so I’m sure he will have the crowd dancing with his infectious blend of old school nostalgia and new school dance hits. I’ve witnessed him DJ several times. The way he excites the crowd is next level.
AW: May is mental health month. And your event takes place May 8th and “shines a light on mental health.” How has COVID-19 affected our mental health? Why is mental Health Important to you personally?
DJ: Covid-19 has allowed me to learn what mental health means. Mental health can have some interesting stigmas and misconceptions, so having time to sit back and learn about it has been rewarding. I can understand people differently. I can manage conversations and daily interactions better. Covid-19 forced me to continue to do things that make me tick. SO during the lockdown, I painted a lot. Abstract art is my favorite. I made a new piece of art everyday, whether it was on canvas, or something non- traditional. I read a lot also. There are so many good books that I’ve picked up since the pandemic. One of them is “The Four Agreements” by Don Miquel Ruiz. Music is big in my household, so I spent a lot of time watching music documentaries and dissecting older albums that are considered classics.
AW: Tell us about your background. In fashion. Photography. Music. Art.
DJ: I graduated from Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio with a degree in Communications/Journalism. I’ve written for over 5 different publications, three of which have been in Florida. I’ve interviewed celebrities like India Arie, MC Lyte, Will Downing, and Fantasia Barrino. I was a participant in the reality TV show Undercover Boss for the company Alfred Angelo Bridal. I styled brides and bridesmaids in Ohio for their big day. I also was a designer for the company before they went bankrupt. Just as Covid started, I premiered a 15-dress collection with Gather and Gowns where I designed the entire bridesmaid dress collection, solo. It was my experience in bridal that gave me the love for photography. My dresses have been featured at New York Bridal fashion week for two years, and I’ve also had the opportunity to style for Randy Fenoli’s bridal collection photoshoot. I’ve been singing since I was younger. In college, I had the pleasure of being a member of the Grammy Nominated Central State University chorus for 4 years. As far as art is concerned, I’ve painted since I was a kid also. My work has been seen at The Box Gallery in West Palm and the Arts Garage in Delray. I love how color and mood play a factor in abstract painting. I was trained in several techniques and I learned the basics and the history of art, but when I’m creating as an adult, I throw the technique away. It’s all about emotional attachment.
AW: How much do tickets cost for the event and how do you get tickets?
DJ: Tickets for the event are free. We will have an online registration, so we will know how many people will be attending. We will follow all CDC guidelines.
AW: What’s the deadline for artists to contribute?
DJ: The deadline to submit is April 5th. The Arts Warehouse and I will be making selections and viewing the artwork after the 5th. We are accepting all forms of art though, so we are anxiously awaiting the 5th. As of last week, we’ve had over 25 artists submit multiple pieces of art. So we have a lot of work to do.
AW: What else would you like to tell us about the event?
DJ: In addition to the artists, there will be organizations present that specialize in mental health. These organizations will also be available to talk about the services that they provide to the community. HIV testing will also be a part of the Art Ball. We will have Monarch Health Group on board for those partygoers that may need to figure out their status.
Local designer Eminent by Buera will display some of her designs from her boutique at the fashion show. Local designer and former Project Runway participant Amanda Perna will also showcase a few of her pieces from her brand.
The exhibit will be on display for the entire month of May to commemorate mental health awareness month. Tony Gonzalez and Jennifer Rodriquez of Psyche Signature will be premiering their Mental Health clothing brand at the Art Ball.
Save the Date, May 8th. 6pm to 8pm.
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