KELOWNA, B.C. — The mayor of a city in B.C.'s picturesque Okanagan Valley has turned an insult into his own proud, tongue-in-cheek persona.
Colin Basran, now known as Kelowna's "Sugarplum Mayor," is working with the city's Young Professionals Collective to host a Sugarplum Ball on July 9 to show support for the region's LGBTQ community.
The event comes one year after the city installed a rainbow crosswalk at a downtown intersection in an effort to promote inclusion.
But while the crosswalk had unanimous support from city council, it gained unexpected backlash from a few residents.
In an online forum, one community member referred to "Mayor Sugarplum" in an effort to insult Basran for supporting the installation of the crosswalk. The comment had the opposite effect.
"I actually found it kind of funny and I kind of liked it," Basran said.
Recognizing the opportunity to increase support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, Basran said the Okanagan Pride Society approached him with the idea of hosting a Sugarplum Ball.
The event will include two dance floors, locally produced beer and wine, and a lounge with a wig bar and photo booth for attendees to dress up and capture the night.
"This ball is about being whoever you want to be and that's something we want to be promoting in our city," Basran said.
And for Basran, that means becoming the Sugarplum Mayor. As a participant of a drag makeover at the ball, he will be wearing makeup to reflect his character, which he likened to David Bowie's 1970s Ziggy Stardust persona.
Although Basran said he will be swapping his usual mayor's attire for a more colourful look to embrace the fun event, he won't be in full drag.
"Anyone wanting to see me in a dress and heels is going to be disappointed," he said.
A number of other local figures will be getting makeovers as well and organizers promise that at least one person will be in full dress-and-heels drag.
The ball, however, is not solely for the LBGTQ community and attendees are welcome to wear what they want — from jeans and T-shirts to costumes.
Like the crosswalk, Basran said the ball is intended to make people feel welcome and build connections, which is why he partnered with the Young Professionals Collective to host it.
Organizer Drew Vincent said there is an effort to attract and retain young professionals in the region, and giving them fun, inclusive events to attend is part of that effort.
Supporting the Okanagan Pride Society, including donating proceeds from the ball, is one way to build and foster connections, he said.
"In order to achieve equality we need to be fighting for those who are marginalized or oppressed... and when there are a lot of people who get together and, form meaningful connections, we are a lot stronger as a whole."
Linda Givetash, The Canadian Press
©2016 The Canadian Press
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