Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Empire State Pride Agenda Fall Dinner

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I've had the best week ever.  I started the week with the Columbus Day Parade and PFLAG NYC Dinner (read blog - see pics), had my last day at Apple until after Miss America (which was sad, but the right choice), went to the Empire State Pride Agenda Dinner, flew to Indianapolis for the America Civil Liberties Union Dinner, took my best friend's engagement pictures, and then 15 headshot photoshoots at Ball State University. All and all, it was amazing and I'm a pretty lucky girl!

But this dinner. Let me tell you about it.  Prior to the evening, the Pride Agenda had raised 1 million dollars.  Skipping ahead to the dinner, their live auction items went for $14,000, $18,000 and $20,000.  They also did a cell phone donation where everyone took out their cell phones and pledged to donate $x.xx via text message.  Since we're completely obsessed with technology and instant gratification, this worked. very well.  Over $17,000 was raised in a matter of 20 minutes.  I think Miss America needs to do this!  So that's just the incredible fundraising that happened in one evening to prepare the Pride Agenda for all of the necessary work that needs to be done in preparation for the November election and the votes that will be coming up in NY in the next year.  Let me jump back to the beginning of the night, at the VIP reception where gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo addressed the crowd with Speaker Quinn and Mayor Bloomberg standing with him.  I was proud to witness him make positive and empowering statements about what HE will do as our governor, leaving Carl Paladino out of it.  I took pictures on the red carpet with politicians, ESPA board members, cast members of My Big Gay Italian Wedding, and then she walked in.  Yes, if you've seen my facebook picture, Sarah Jessica Parker.  SJP and Andy Cohen were the co-hosts of the dinner and both soooo nice.  It was definitely exciting to meet them both!

As for the dinner, it was gorgeous - held at the Sheraton Times Square with 1,200 of New York's best dressed.  Flooded with politicos, Speaker Quinn, Governor Patterson, both Senators Gillibrand and Schumer all made wonderful remarks, condemning the hate crime gang attack in the Bronx, remembering the many kids who have committed suicide in the recent months, applauding Judge Phillips for the unconstitutional ruling of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and promising to be on the supportive side of marriage equality as it comes up again in the near future of New York State. Ross Levi, Pride Agenda Executive Director, held up a sign that he used in Washington in 2000.  We have seen growth or passage of each of the dreams and goals listed: Hate Crimes Law, Dignity for All Students, No Anti-Marriage Bill, etc.  Senator Gillibrand was the keynote speaker and I very much look forward to working with her on the Safe Schools Improvement Act on a national level.


And then it was my turn. After a beautiful dinner, that I could barely eat because I was so nervous, I was honored with the Douglas Jones Leadership Award, presented by co-chair of the dinner Mitch Karsch.  As I said in my speech, I was elated when Frank Selvaggi, chair of the dinner, invited me to attend and sit at one of his tables.  Really, they could have stopped there; but to receive this award was absolutely incredible.  In my speech, I referenced my experience with leadership and how so often I felt inferior to some leaders because my channel through which to create change was in pageants.  However, that perspective has completely changed and I am able to see the power of this voice and the platform that the Miss America Organization has given me - one for which I am amazingly grateful.  Thank you, Pride Agenda, for your faith in me and recognition of the value of our message as well as the ability to share it with more people.  Miss NY ED, Kenny Mack, and Co-Business Manager, Judy Bolton, were in attendance with my parents and me, and as an organization, I think we made great progress with partnerships that will benefit the growth and involvement of Miss New York - I can't wait to pursue those together. oh yeah...I met Jimmy Fallon too :)

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