When Tony Lima took the helm at SAVE in September 2013, he was inspired by the young activists that he met working within the community.
"Generally, people are recognized at the end of their careers, and I thought, how inspiring to uplift the stories of young people that are also doing great work," Lima said. "How wonderful would it be to highlight these folks for their merits and also show them as glowing examples for other young professionals and the community at large."
It was then that the SAVE Luminaries were born. The first event was celebrated as a cocktail party in October 2013, honoring professionals like Dr. Hansel Tookes of University of Miami, Tori Bertran of SunServe and Victor Diaz-Herman of Pridelines. From there, the Luminaries have continued to honor local LGBT people accomplishing great things and giving back to their communities.
On Wednesday, Dec. 6, SAVE hosted its fifth annual Luminaries ceremony at the CIC Miami. Lima and local drag superstar Tiffany Fantasia emceed the event and gave out awards honoring the following individuals: Broward County State Rep. Shevrin Jones; MJ Castells, program director for the Aqua Foundation for women; Pioneer Winter, Miami choreographer and director of the Pioneer Winter Collective; Rick Morgan, philanthropist and community volunteer, who works in politics and helped pass protections for transgenders in 2014; Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, founder and CEO of Radical Partners, a startup and management consulting agency; and local drag entertainer and hostess of The Lab Fridays at Score and the Sunday drag brunch at R House Wynwood, Athena Dion, who volunteers her time to visit and perform makeovers on burn victims at the the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital Burn Center.
Jessica Fernandez, president of the Miami-Dade Young Republicans, presented Dion with her award.
"Athena's not just a pretty face in our community. She uses her platform to affect positive social change as she often agrees to emcee and support fundraisers and charities throughout our community," Fernandez said. "She uses her talent to be a volunteer at Jackson's Burn Unit, dedicating her time and energy and talents to teaching people with burns and disfigurements how to apply makeup. She brings confidence and hope back into people's lives."
A humble Dion happily accepted the award, thanking Lima, SAVE and the community at large for empowering her.
"I've never been this honored in my entire life," Dion said. "When you start doing drag, you do it because you like the clothes, the makeup, just being a little gay boy and fabulous. To be able to use this platform and to be recognized...for me, it just leaves me speechless."
Additionally, Melba de Leon was named the Super Volunteer and Community Hero and Juan Claudio Oves Jr., co-chair of Latinos Salud, walked away with the People's Luminary Award. Also nominated in this category were Adrian Madriz, project lead of SMASH, or Struggle for Miami’s Affordable and Sustainable Housing; Daniel Anzueto, co-founder and board chair at Maven Leadership Collective; and Ashley Mayfaire, director of operations at TranSocial South Florida.
"I am honored and humbled to accept this award on behalf of Latinos Salud and to join past recipients who I have long admired and respected," Oves said. "Being Ryan White’s birthday tonight, this award goes to him and every person who fought and continues to fight against HIV stigma. This People’s Luminary award belongs to each one of you who are continuing the fight against HIV stigma. We all play a role in this epidemic. Latinos Salud believes in the power of community, and together we will turn around this epidemic and move into an era of health equity for all regardless of your sexual orientation and gender identity."
Among the major attendees and supporters of the SAVE Luminaries were newly elected Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and the LGBT liaison for the City of Miami, Officer Christopher Bess. Suarez applauded SAVE for putting together an "incredible annual event to commemorate its champions." He also congratulated Bess for highlighting "LGBT issues as they relate with policing."
"It really is an honor to have someone in our department who is leading the forefront of police-based LGBT issues," Suarez said.
Interspersed with the honors throughout the night were complimentary bites and cocktails, raffles and prizes and performances by some of Miami's most popular drag entertainers. These included Tiffany Fantasia, who brought the house down to Mary J. Blige's "No More Drama;" Missy Meyakie Le Paige, who performed Diana Ross' "The Boss;" Noel Leon, who executed her signature split to Mariah Carey's holiday classic, "All I Want for Christmas is You;" Athena Dion, who performed Christina Aguilera's "Telepathy;" and Tlo Ivy, who wowed audiences with her sexy performance of Camila Cabello's "Havana" and a medley of Selena Quintanilla Perez's hits, including "Como La Flor" and Bidi Bidi Bom Bom."
Lima called this year's Luminaries a success. He said as CEO of SAVE, it is important for him to "show the passion and talent of our next generation of leaders. This event tonight did that," he said.