April 11, 2023 – Who knew that everyone from Elvis and a college advocate team, to a consultant and drag queens would perform at Mary’s Place’s “Find Your Voice” Lip Sync Competition at Victory North on Friday, April 7?!
A long time supporter of the former Rape Crisis Center (now Mary’s Place), I assured executive director Doris Williams that I had their inaugural competition on my calendar and arrive to find Doris greeting me at the courtyard entrance.
Looking like a supermodel with long hair, sparkly jewels and a sequined jumpsuit, Doris tells me, “I had this idea since COVID while watching Tom Cruise in “Risky Business.” I wanted something fun, different and engaging. With a mission of ‘Find Your Voice,’ a lip sync night would bring the community together in a fun but still impactful way for a meaningful cause. Sometimes our world can be a little dark. This is a way for us to bring a more positive light and night.”
Helping promote tonight’s event is England’s greatest import Lesley Francis and her PR team, along with emcee for the night, Mia Mance. Part of my “M & M’s trio” of Maja Ciric and Marianne Ganem Poppell, Mia is one of Savannah’s most influential radio personalities, the proud mom of Gia and is welcoming her second child with her husband Chad.
After Mia shares, “As a sexual assault survivor, it is important for me to lend my voice to a nonprofit that continues to change lives,” I am squeezing her with a fierce hug when we are interrupted by a radio personality so outrageously fabulous that we have to love her.
Say hey to Cumulus Radio I-95’s Renee LaSalle! Wearing a black fitted bodysuit and a flowing lace cover, Renee jumps into action with poses, kisses for all and her signature “I love you!” Of course, her bestie Shena Verrett is with Renee. The actor, model, writer and rocker can be found performing at Tandem or The Undergo when she isn’t supporting dozens of local causes.
Next up freelance videographer Matthew Adams admits that he has recruited his fiance, Caity Freeman to be his assistant tonight. The Richmond Hill middle school teacher may be as nice as Matthew, and is fabulous about moving around for the perfect pic.
Making the most memorable entrance of the night is Trey Norris aka Treyla Trash and JoJo Ward, a.k.a. Carmen iCandy. In full drag, the ladies graciously do a mini video session before we are offered Cha Bella appetizers like potato cakes adorned with filet strips and horseradish cream sauce.
Grabbing a seafood snack are Savannah natives Jake Moore and Antonio Wells. After commending Jake on his 28 years at Georgia Ports Authority, I admire Antonio’s burgundy plaid 3 piece suit then chat with the 25-year military veteran about his 2 tours in Iraq.
I’m going through my conversations fast because there are so many personalities to talk to, like R & R Restaurant’s Barbara Hughes. Yet another true local, Barbara is chatting with me about her love of dogs, water and clothes and then admits to having 68 pairs of shoes before we stop to talk with her good friend Laura Miller.
When I said it was a night of colorful characters, Laura Miller is one zany spirit who has always lived her life unapologetically. With 23.5 years as owner of Southern Elegance and the past year as the president of the American Auxiliary Unit 184, this redheaded “force of nature” tells me that she has a vision and love for our veterans.
Speaking of southern elegance, Savannah’s beloved songstress Kim Pilote is in the house and is one of the three judges for tonight’s competition. After many attempts to interview the performer of 40 years, I give up because Mayor Van Johnson has arrived. Attending more events than me, our mayor and tonight’s judge joins Renee, Doris and Kim for a group pic before we head inside the three-story music venue.
Weaving my way over the bar, I say hey to gorgeous Aly Herbert and art, exercise and beach-loving Kristen Herbert who tells me that the 13 tattoos she draws tell the journey of her life. While admiring Kristen’s right arm sleeve of color, I literally back into Metro Rotarian Katie Joyce. Yes, Katie is from Savannah, yes, she is a fellow lover of the great state of Maine and yes, Katie is a lover of antique jewelry.
Taking a seat with Dr. Rochelle B. Lee and Reginald C. Lee, we listen to Doris and Mia announce that it is showtime! I’m not sure how to describe the first act but if you have experienced a Club One Saturday night act, you will know exactly what I am talking about! From Marcia Banes, International Diamond Center, Focus One Consulting’s Penelope Moore and Georgia Southern University’s Sexual Assault Response Team, there is such great talent that I wish we could have a live lip sync competition every night!
Taking a break to snack on Cha Bella’s assorted cheeses and fruits, I get a little amped when I see their “farm-to-table” owner Michael Lacy head over. The former surfer, guitarist and skate boarder tells me that they are finishing 17 days of the Savannah Music Festival. With over a decade of catering to diverse talents and their palates, I commend Michael and his team for maintaining such a stellar reputation.
As it always happens, my most fascinating people are the last people I talk to! Say hey to my good friend Karen Bogans and her twins Hannah and Jordan. I met these totally different young ladies over a decade ago and have followed them through sweet 16’s, proms and soon, their college graduations.
Hannah is a senior studying biology at Georgia State University and hopes to become a physician’s assistant while Jordan graduates Spelman College in December and launches a wellness brand “Take Caution” for mental health. Posing the twins with their mom for my last pic of the night, I have a moment of gratitude for Karen for opening doors with International Paper that have led to traveling for this fabulous company.
With a final lap around to say goodbye to Jamaican native and new photographer Gailon Wisdom, I track down Doris to commend her for an event that raises funds to help survivors of sexual assault. For the past 40 years, this mighty team has covered seven counties in the Coastal Empire while promoting prevention and advocacy programs. Well done Doris!
For more information about Mary’s Place visit www.marysplacega.org and follow the organization on Facebook and Instagram.