Drag entertainer and R House Wynwood’s resident brunch hostess Athena Dion served as the keynote speaker at Florida International University’s Spring 2022 Lavender Graduation and Leadership Recognition April 23.

Dion was asked by the university’s Pride Center to speak at the Lavender ceremony, which is the graduation event for LGBT students at FIU. The ceremony is a celebration each semester that recognizes LGBT graduating students’ academic achievements and acknowledges the leadership contributions of members of the LGBT community. 

The special event is open to all LGBT graduating seniors, friends, family and community members. All graduates receive a Lavendar medallion for their own graduation ceremony.  

For the Greek goddess known in his day-to-day life as Stavros Stavrakis, the experience was a “real full-circle moment” as Dion graduated from FIU in 2011. He said, “back then, there was no Pride organization or Lavender graduation.” Dion says he was “just so honored to be asked to speak” and is happy that the “class of 2022 has this community and visibility.” 

On Facebook the day of the ceremony, Dion posted “although I’m not shy on a microphone and speak publicly for a living, today I have some butterflies in my stomach. So, wish me luck!” 

The next day, Dion was happy to report how it went and how exhilarated he felt, posting photos from his 2011 graduation and the weekend ceremony he presided over — two photos, 11 years apart. 

“I graduated from FIU in 2011, and yesterday I gave the keynote speech for the Lavender Graduation ceremony for the FIU Pride Center at my old alma mater,” Dion wrote on Facebook on Sunday, April 24. “This moment really forced me to take pause and look back at the past 11 years since my graduation. I’m the same person…so different, yet with so much still in common. Talk about a full-circle moment!” 

Dion said 11 years ago, he was “young and curious with a head full of questions and fears.” Today, he’s “still young[ish] and just as curious but also with an immense amount of pride” for his “younger self.” 

Dion wrote: “I’m proud of his drive and his desire to learn and dive into the unexpected. I’m proud of him for being scared of every new opportunity, yet still taking it head-on and making the best of it. I’m proud of him for his persistence, even when he thought no one else was proud of him. I’m proud of him for living his genuine truth and coloring his world with every color in the crayon box. I’m proud of him for getting me this far in life, even when he didn’t know what his tomorrow would look like. I’m proud of him for inspiring himself enough to get to a point where I can now inspire others.” 

Dion continued: “This journey is far from over as I hope in another 11 years to be thanking today’s version of myself for even more adventures that will take me to higher levels of self-love and understanding. I guess a lesson I learned yesterday was the lesson of self-love. To Stop from time to time and give yourself a pat on the back because you’re still here, which means you’ve gone through a lot, but you still have a lot to do!” 

Dion closed her post by saying, “it was such an honor to speak to the graduates and leaders of the class of 2022. I want to thank Dr. Erica Jayne and the FIU Pride Center for this incredible honor. Here’s to a future of fun and adventure.”

Courtesy of Miami Gay News.