Photos by: Steven Menendez

Michael Perez Emperor XXVIII Antonio T. Ventura, The Dedicated Dragon Emperor of Involvement, Innovation and Inclusion

On Saturday, March 28, 2020, The Imperial Court of New York will present their annual benefit and extravaganza, Night of a Thousand Gowns. This year’s headlining entertainer is international recording Artist CeCe Peniston with a special performance. It is set to take place at the New York Hilton Midtown Hotel and will benefit the Hetrick-Martin Institute and the Hudson Pride Center. Tickets can be purchased at

I shared questions and answers with Emperor XXVIII Antonio T. Ventura, The Dedicated Dragon Emperor of Involvement, Innovation and Inclusion. Knowing Michael Perez many years, I can safely attest to the fact that he is one of the most giving persons on the planet, always mentoring, sharing advice and never saying no when asked to perform or do someone a favor.

Photos by: Steven Menendez


What does your involvement in The Imperial Court of New York mean to you as someone so well rounded and talented in your craft?
Moving to New York City just about seven years ago (March 2, 2013), I wanted to expand my involvement in nonprofit and fundraising efforts for the LGBTQ+ community. Finding The Imperial Court of New York three months into being here was the best thing that could have happened. This experience and organization mean the world to me.

I am super grateful to be able to use this platform to bring awareness to organizations that may not get a lot of support and to bring another level of support with a group of other dedicated volunteers, donating their time and personal energy to make sure our work continues. I learn from the members of the ICNY every day and grow from every experience.

What can the guests look forward to this year at Night of a Thousand Gowns?
Guests can look forward to a multi-level of entertainment and inspiration. From our headliner, international recording artist Cece Peniston, to the knighting of NYC/NJ community warriors (Wendy Kaplan – Trinity Place Shelter, Marti Gould Cummings, Chris Dunbar and Liz Schedl – Hudson Pride Center) to an amazing drag performance from NYC star Jahlove Serrano and Rhode Island queen, Complete Destruction. Another amazing thing our guests will be able to look forward to is being part of an amazing evening that ultimately supports our LGBTQ+ youth through our beneficiaries, The Hetrick-Martin Institute and Hudson Pride Center.

What are you most excited about?
I am most excited about sharing this evening with loved ones, both biological and chosen family. This year has been truly fulfilling and inspiring. Being able to support the LGBTQ+ community of New York City, New Jersey and Long Island has been humbling and fabulous. Being able to bring all sorts of amazing supporters of these causes together is a very exciting thing to think about. The connections that can come from this evening to grow our mission and connections that could grow the fight for equality is something that I truly hope will come from this evening.

What were some of the highlights of this past year from your point of view?
Some of the highlights for me from this year is being able to have been in a leadership position doing the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and World Pride. I am only 31 years old and love having discussions with survivors of the LGBTQ+ movement of the 1960s to 1980s and hearing what was done and thinking of how far we still have to come. This year I was privileged to meet a few Stonewall survivors and hear their stories. A truly major part of what I will take from this year is being able to join the membership of the ICNY as a team to support 18 different organizations and programs through our fundraisers and outreach programs.

How has your former experience prepared you for your role and your reign in The Imperial Court of New York?
Throughout my life, my mother always instilled in me the importance of giving back and helping others. Throughout my life I have held leadership roles in school bands and was a resident assistant in college. This and my drive to make this world a better place, I feel, helped with what it takes to be in the role of monarch of The Imperial Court of New York.

What are the benefits of becoming a member of the ICNY?
The biggest benefit to me is finding expanded family. From the second I joined the ICNY, I was taken under the wing of Sugar B. Real and Ritz Kraka, who are the parents of an amazing chosen family. The ICNY is a melting pot of LGBTQ+ individuals with varying backgrounds, life experiences and ages—currently ranging from 25 to 85 in age. Just imagine the combination of stories that can be brought to the table to evolve the LGBTQ+ community.

Personally, I enjoy the mission of the ICNY: We are a 100% volunteer organization using our personal talents and energies to fight for and support the LGBTQ+ and other communities we live in. I would encourage anyone curious about what they do to reach out, come to a meeting, come to an event, volunteer at our gala. We are waiting with open arms to welcome you into this family and have you join and bring a new bulb to our chandelier of light.

What inspired you to join?
I was inspired to join the ICNY when I saw the fun that goes into these fundraisers and events. Our members Grandpa and Q.T. Pie introduced me during Pride 2013, and I was immediately drawn in seeing the costumes the ICNY members were wearing that year and then hearing how they accomplished things like fundraising and successfully providing a new shower to a youth shelter in need, bringing entertainment to care facilities where the residents aren’t able to leave the facilities and so much more. Being able to bring joy and love to our community is the basis of the work I do and what the ICNY’s mission is all about.

If you could use your platform to say anything you wanted to, what would you say?
I would encourage our community to be more loving and inclusive within ourselves, especially when it comes to the age gaps. I would encourage the younger generation, of which I am part of, to listen to stories of our LGBTQ+ seniors—we are living and working on the backs of these amazing humans. They paved the way for us to have the voices we do. Trust and believe, I am a better human because of those who came before me, that I am able to talk to every day and work to build on their efforts to evolve the fight and mission. And on the opposite side, to our seniors: Encourage our youth to rise up and continue the fight. Be open to evolution, and come together with our youth to be a truly powerful voice for change within our world and equality and acceptance for all.

Empress XXXIII The Goodness Empress of Love, Jubilance and Philanthropy Chuleta Devine

Photos by: Steven Menendez

The Emperor XXVIII Antonio T. Ventura, The Dedicated Dragon Emperor of Involvement, Innovation and Inclusion, and Empress XXXIII, The Goodness Empress of Love, Jubilance and Philanthropy Chuleta Devine, cordially invite you to join the celebration of the 34th annual Night of a Thousand Gowns, an extravaganza and benefit hosted by the Imperial Court of New York. The event will take place at the Hilton New York Midtown Hotel on March 28, 2020.

Headlining the entertainment will be dance icon CeCe Peniston doing a special performance. Dinner, dance and a red carpet spectacular as well as a silent auction will be included within the festivities. I spoke with Empress XXXIII Chuleta Devine regarding the event and the Imperial Court of New York.


What are some of the things that the ICNY does throughout the year?
The ICNY membership supports various LGBTA community organizations by hosting and attending events in local bars, shelters, hospitals and long-term care facilities, raising money for youth scholarships and supporting our local shelters, and bringing awareness into the community.

What is your title and involvement in the ICNY?
I am Empress XXXIII, The Goodness Empress of Love, Jubilance and Philanthropy Chuleta Devine.

How will this year’s Night of a Thousand Gowns be different from prior years?
This year’s Night of a Thousand Gowns will be a celebration for all our membership’s hard work throughout the year raising much-needed funds to support our community.

What were some of the highlights of this year from your point of view?
The highlights of my year was the month of June, the celebration of 50 years and marching in the World Pride parade. I’ve been attending the New York Pride parade for the past 40 years, and this year left me speechless! It was a truly amazing month-long celebration with love in my heart, joy in my soul and pride in every step in my march!

What are you most looking forward to this year at Night of a Thousand Gowns?
I’m looking forward to a night of celebration with everyone from all different courts and the community coming together to celebrate the Imperial Court of New York’s hard work for the year.

Where can people purchase tickets?

We will be celebrating the new reigns of Emperor XXIX Graham D’Craquer and Empress XXXIV Madelyn Keyth

Support Night of a Thousand Gowns by entering our ONLINE RAFFLE!!!

Enter to win a $2,000 gift certificate for custom jewels by MOANS!! Tickets are $25 each. Benefiting Hudson Pride Center and Hetrick-Martin Institute. Access raffle using QR Code below.

Winner will be pulled and announced via Social Media 3/29/20 weekend.

Join us in supporting LGBTQ+ youth of New York City and New Jersey!



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Eileen Shapiro
Best selling author of "The Star Trek Medical Reference Manual", and feature celebrity correspondent for Get Out Magazine, Louder Than War, and Huffington Post contributor, I've interviewed artists from Adam Ant, Cyndi Lauper, and Annie Lennox to Jennifer Hudson, Rick Springfield, LeAnn Rimes, and thousands in between. My interviews challenge the threat of imagination....