Aqua Girl Celebrates 15th Anniversary
Aqua Girl, held May 10-18 in Miami, is more than just a pool party; it's the largest charity women's week in the country, celebrating its 15th anniversary this May around Miami, a key global hub for LGBT tourism. All proceeds directly benefit the non-profit Aqua Foundation for Women, which promotes wellness and equality for lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people via community service, scholarships, grants, youth empowerment and leadership.
The scholarships come with a mentoring program, where the mentor and mentee meet for a monthly lunch over a year, said Sabrina Diz, who received $2,500 per semester while completing her M.A. in Religious Studies with a focus on spiritual violence against LGBTQ people.
"My mentor was a resource and a friend who helped me understand the juggling act required to balance school, work and community action," said Diz.
The inaugural "Sweet Charity" dance drew 800 people in 1999, and raised over $15,000 for local breast cancer organizations Cancer Link and Gilda's Club. Marketing Manager Tommy Gomez expects over 3,000 to attend this year's Aqua Girl, likely comprised of 50 percent locals, 40 percent from the rest of the U.S., and 10 percent from abroad including South American countries, Canada, Australia, Germany and Russia.
With Vladimir Putin’s government-sanctioned gay bashing in the news, Gomez said the group has done some outreach to his country (perhaps they should invite Pussy Riot...).
"I started going to Aqua Girl when I first moved to Miami because it seemed a must as I was coming out," said Charo Valero, who also received a scholarship and mentor, and currently works for SAVE, South Florida’s largest LGBT political advocacy group.
"My mentor also worked for non-profits, and she was there for me with guidance, moral support and amazing, stimulating conversation," said Valero. "As for Aqua Girl, I look forward to getting dolled up and schmoozing at the VIP receptions. But the best thing this event has given me is a space where I have discovered and developed beautiful and lasting friendships. Aqua Girl was instrumental as I explored, grew and healed during my coming out process."
Go First Class at Aqua Girl
For 2014, the Aqua Girl VIP pass has been upgraded to include priority access to ten events, open bar at six events, personalized concierge service, a goodie bag and complimentary shuttle passes. Valero is excited for the added karaoke night on May 18, and the May 15 "Traffic Jam!" event will feature glow-stick necklaces: red means taken, yellow is "approach with caution," and green, of course, is "go for it."
"Aqua Girl is essential for LBT visibility and unity," Valero added. "Some ’lesbian’ or ’women’ spaces can perpetuate stigma about bisexual and transgendered women," said Diz, who’s a member of the event’s steering committee. "But there is no discrimination at Aqua Girl. It’s a safe space for anyone that identifies as lesbian, bisexual or transgender and we’re committed to keeping it that way."
Valero appreciates being "in one space, standing side by side, just having a good time and being true to ourselves."
"We encourage all locals, men and women, gay and straight, to support and celebrate with us," said Foundation Director Robin Schwartz.
Tickets and information are available at www.aquagirl.org/aquagirl-tickets/
Aqua Girl’s 2014 South Florida events include:
• Saturday, May 10
1600 E. Las Olas Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, "VIP Cocktail Reception" with performance by Es Oh.
• Wednesday, May 14 7-10 p.m., Radio, 814 1st St., Miami Beach, "Speed Dating!"
• Thursday, May 15
o 7-10 p.m., The Betsy, 1440 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach, "Sip and Savor Wine and Cheese Reception" (limited capacity, buy tickets early).
o 7 p.m.-4 a.m., Dream Nightclub, 1532 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, kick-off dance called "Traffic Jam!" featuring DJ’s Citizen Jane and Vixen.
• Friday, May 16
o 12 noon-7 p.m., The National Hotel, 1677 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, "Friday Chill by the Pool."
o 4-7 p.m., The Catalina, 1732 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, "Happy Hour."
o 7-10 p.m., Miami Beach Botanical Garden, 2000 Convention Center Dr., Miami Beach, "Miami VIP Cocktail Reception" with appetizers by award-winning chef Robyn Almodovar.
o 10 p.m.-4 a.m., Trade, 1439 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, Latin-themed dance party "Fuego" with DJ’s Tatiana and Citizen Jane.
• Saturday, May 17
o 11 a.m.-5 p.m., The National Hotel, 1677 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, "Aqualicious Pool Party" featuring hip-hop spun by DJ’s Miss M and Tatiana.
o 7-10 p.m., Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami, "#AquaSOUNDS Concert and Contest," where the winner will warm up for headliner Beverly McClellan from "The Voice."
o 11 p.m.-4 a.m., also at Grand Central, "Temptation" is a multimedia music experience helmed by Miss M and Theresa (named EDGE’s Best Female DJ).
• Sunday, May 18
o 11 a.m.-7 p.m., The National Hotel, "Beach House Pool Party and Tea Dance," with DJ’s Zehno, Laura D and Jenni Fox. Cabanas in three sizes, which will include Grey Goose, drink mixers, snacks and a cocktail waitress, are available via reservations.
o 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Riviera Hotel, 2000 Liberty Ave., Miami Beach, "Aqua Brunch," unlimited mimosas!
o 7-10 p.m., karaoke at Score, 1437 Washington Ave., Miami Beach.
o 10 p.m.-2 a.m., also at Score, "Afterglow" with DJ Gigi.