November 14, 2018 at 1:57 pm PST | by Troy Masters
A trans runway of empowerment

Mother Karina Samala leads the Pageant of Legends. (Photo by Troy Masters)

It was a trans empowerment super-event that certainly lived up to its name: Groundbreaking Activism Redirecting and Reforming All Systems (GARRAS) Fashion Show.

Call it the ACT-UP of trans rights.

“I need you to clap if you hear my voice,” said Maria Roman, one of the event organizers as show participants gathered. “This is one of the most amazing things we can do for our own community. By being part of this tonight you are helping us with our greatest dreams and helping us establish a place where trans-people can stay, get better, get healthy and say ‘Fuck this administration.’”

Maria Roman, center, advises a model on her garment. (Photo by Troy Masters)

And that was just the backstage beginnings of the TransLatin@ Coalition’s fourth annual GARRAS Fashion show, as trans Latina women sorted through their fashion choices from select designers that they would wear for the highly choreographed event.

“We’re all together for the same goal, making trans people part of this society and standing up to say we will not be erased,” said Roman.

The ladies were proudly set to rule the runway.

Opening with a spectacular and energetic African drum and dance performance by the Rhythm Arts Alliance, the event kicked off with a parade of legendary survivors. And when they took to the stage, a spirit of love filled the room with a profound joy that beamed with the same intensity as the dancers.

Serving beauty, pride and “Long-fucking-gevity,” Karina Samala, or Mother Karina as she is known, led the Pageant of Legends, walking proudly. And she was followed by several other women in their 50s, 60s and 70s.  Many of them survived life in the streets, poverty and brutal violence, overcoming many obstacles and finally witnessing the rise of a trans community that today is coalescing around a very public and nasty fight to preserve recent social and political gains. Their stories were incredible and the audience went wild.

Susanna Hernandez is a proud 62-year-old Latina trans woman who “loves true friendships and values honesty,” Roman boomed as she took to the runway. Hernandez serves the trans community as a volunteer to groups like TransLatin@ Coalition. 62-year-old transgender advocate Zulma Velasquez has worked for the past 20 years in her community, her message was “Si Se Puede.” Chocolate, an educator, says she loves her job because it is the future of America. Candy Rios, a 75-year-old activist who has helped build her community since the 1960s, says she feels lucky to have survived. She was Miss Mexico Gay 1971 and has continued to be active in the trans community. Cheryl Hoffman, 61, the daughter of an Air Force colonel has worked for decades in HIV prevention. Rosalyne Blumenstein, 60, is a licensed clinical social worker, author and addiction specialist. Grecia De Pablos is a 77-year-old health educator with over 25 years experience working in HIV prevention. Duchess Mila, 71, has been an out trans woman since she was 15 years old. Loretta Loraine, 77, a former Miss Universe, stunned the crowd in a special gown designed by Ruben.

As the show broke out into the various houses of fashion, models of every age, size and shape took to the runway working fashions by leading local transgender fashion designers.

About 300 people were in attendance.

Bamby Salcedo, the nationally honored Los Angeles based trans activist and group’s president and CEO, took to the stage to great applause and raised tens of thousands of dollars in donation for the agency.

Bamby Salcedo, president and CEO of TransLatin@ Coalition (fourth from left) and staff members. (Photo by Troy Masters)

Jazzmun Nichola Crayton, who is gender fierce and works as a health and policy coordinator at Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team (APAIT), says the GARRAS Fashion Show was a “spirited event full of glamour, beauty and elegance. It was a fabulous fashion fundraiser with a purpose. It provided the trans community an opportunity to dress up and dazzle in the City of Angels.”

Jazzmun Nichola Crayton took her star turn. (Photo by Troy Masters)

The event exceeded its fundraising goal of $100,000, funds that will be used to help provide social, health, legal and financial assistance to trans people in need.

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