More than two decades of memories from the Queer Fashion Show (QFS) have been kept in a storage room. In celebration of Pride, current QFS directors and their advisor are sharing a rich collection of prideful stories from the LGBTQIA+ community at UC Santa Cruz. They are unveiling these memories and keeping history alive with a digital archive collection and streaming event highlighting the legacy of the QFS.
The QFS dates back to the mid-1990s, when Porter students created the show to encourage inclusion of queer identities at UCSC and shed light on the critical social problems affecting the community. QFS is a charity event as well, with all proceeds from ticket sales going to local LGBTQIA+ support organizations.
“By having a show that’s proudly, unabashedly, joyfully queer, we are reaching out to other members of our community to celebrate each other,” said fourth-year Lilian Aravanis, current co-director of the QFS. “This is not some ‘queer spectacle,’ it’s a display of acceptance and support for everyone in our community.”
The QFS has been a pillar of creativity for the queer community on campus. Originally known as the Alternative Fashion Show, the production changed its name in 1997 to the more assertive QFS, signaling a move away from just clothes and toward embracing queer culture as a whole.
Porter Activities is partnering with the QFS by putting on screenings of previous shows. At the screenings, archives from 2019, 2001, 2002, and 2003 will be shared with brief video messages from the current QFS directors, and some QFS alumni.
Just last month, VHS tapes from shows in the early 2000s were digitized. At the same time, Porter College Assistant College Programs Coordinator Althea Pearl Carlson was working with some of their other colleagues on Pride and LGBTQIA+ history month programming. In the Porter offices, they found a closet filled with photo albums, VHS tapes, pamphlets, and posters of past shows.
“As an alum and as a mentor, my hope is just that it continues in whatever fashion that the directors of that year wish it to be, and that it continues to be a spot where students can create and connect,” Carlson said. “We’re modeling what we want in our own world and breathing life into transformative goals and ways that we want to be.”
Typically held in the Porter/Kresge Dining Hall, the QFS has in the past featured fashion, music, spoken word, theatre, and burlesque. The event has always been student-run, with students both organizing the event and performing on a voluntary basis. The beginning of QFS saw students modeling the clothes from their closets in front of an about 200-person crowd.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, QFS lost two years of outreach, so they are hoping to draw in more students to help sustain the fashion show after older members have graduated.
“It is very important to me that we use our voices to make injustices known, and I hope that the tradition will remain for many years to come,” said fourth-year Baily Donlin, social media coordinator and co-director of QFS. “But that’s only if others are willing to take up the mantle and help organize the event.”
Since the QFS wasn’t able to have its show these past two years, the archives are a way to share some of its history and the fashion show culture with everyone. Porter College wanted to unite their community with these archives to collectively celebrate the LGBTQIA+ experience at UCSC.
Carlson saw this as the perfect opportunity to celebrate Pride. From their home, Carlson scanned and compiled hours of footage and hundreds of photos from past shows, providing a unique opportunity to see all of the QFS’s history.
This history will be featured at its streaming events from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on May 27 and 28, and June 4 and 10 on Zoom. All recordings are from the QFS Archive.
“It’s such a wonderful celebration of the UCSC queer community and is a huge community-building event,” Aravanis said. “It brings together coordinators, performers, audience members, local organizations that donate to us, and every single person who has felt a little more proud of themselves through our outreach.”
CHP is publishing this story during the week of June 7 as part of a backlog on unpublished content from spring 2021. The article was originally written on May 26