On Thursday, June 16, Artistic Director Robert Battle led Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Ailey Spirit Gala as part of their 2022 Lincoln Center. Including Honorary Chair Grammy® Emmy® and Tony® Award-winning actress, singer, and producer Cynthia Erivo, other star-studded guests included prominent figures in the worlds of entertainment, business, philanthropy, and politics attended the gala such as Lena Waithe, Legendary Damon, Tremaine Emory, Savion Glover, Ally Love, Amy Poehler, Amy Sherald and, TK Wonder.
While standing towards the far left of the red carpet, a tall, fabulous figure standing at 6’5″ approached me. It was none other than renowned runway coach Miss J Alexander – looking as fabulous as always with a beautiful natural accompanied by violet-purple hues of glam to match his sleeves and scarf from his ensemble.
“The floral printed silk brocade suit, I created myself from fabric I took from the donated fabric room at [The Savannah College of Art and Design] in Savannah, GA about three years ago, but I never wore it until that night including the purple chiffon long sleeve top underneath,” Miss J told me in detail about his red carpet look for the spirit gala. “[The] floral corsage was just an added touch.”
Rather than asking for the inspiration behind the outfit, I decided to ask the former America’s Next Top Model judge about what gala fashion means to him. “Being creative, being over-the-top, and just being your authentic self. That’s what gala fashion means to me,” he said confidently as he strutted away.
“Ailey gala fashion is different from gala fashion. Ailey gala fashion is dancer fabulous. I’ve seen more Lamé and trains, and those are on the boys. It really is such an artistic expression of who you are. You can look around and tell who people are by what they’re wearing, and that’s always fun,” Lorraine Toussaint chimed in during our red carpet interview. The Equalizer actress graced the Ailey Spirit Gala with a midi dress from Dress The Population, complete with Stuart Weizmann and a vintage clutch from the 1960s that once belonged to her mother.
Keeping up with the spirit of our conversation, I asked the former The Fosters actress about what her outfit said about her that very night. “Middle-aged, still cute, still able to wear the heels, but I’m going to take them off as soon as I sit down,” she laughed. While gushing about her love and appreciation for the Ailey legacy, Toussaint noted how Black beauty and style are always embodied on any stage that the dance company graces.
“Ailey embodies the diaspora, and they embody all of the different ways in which we identify as Black, and all the varying shades of Black,” she said powerfully.
Following the performance, which included Battle’s choreographed Love Stories and the iconic Revelations finale, Ailey’s Board of Trustees and 475 guests joined for a soiree on the promenade with musical stylings from DJ Angel. During the soiree, ESSENCE caught up with Lion Babe‘s own Jillian Harvey about her experience at Alvin Ailey’s Spirit Gala.
“Because Alvin Ailey is a beautiful mix of brown and Black bodies, you can express yourself. Always elegant, always graceful, but then, a little bit of sass, a little bit of color, vibrancy. It’s fun,” Harvey told me joyfully. “You get to feel like yourself, and be in these amazing spaces and institutions in a new way.”
The Cosmic Wind songstress attended the Ailey Spirit Gala in a black dress by KikiRiki from Trash and Vaudeville with a custom corset David Dalrymple and vintage Christian Louboutins. Harvey described the dance company as almost awe-inspiring as she reflected on how their art as dancers influencers her own take on style and beauty.
“To me, they’re the epitome of iconic Black imagery – elegant, lean, beautiful bodies that are strong, graceful fluid,” she added. “They literally command the stage. They’re fierce, they’re vulnerable, they’re powerful, they’re everything.”