Almost 50 years after the founding of House of Chanel, the ballroom house is creating the Chanel Cares Charitable Foundation to give back to the community.
The foundation will organize community engagement projects, including an upcoming toy drive and holiday dinner. With an official launch planned for January 2022, overall queen mother Tatyana Moaton said that Chanel Cares was born out of a continued push for service.
"When I say service, this is not just us taking the talent from the community, but truly making an intentional investment within the community," she said. "We are not an organization only existing in name."
Because of that, Moaton said House of Chanel members will be required to complete volunteer hours. Later on, she hopes that Chanel Cares can provide microgrants to community-based organizations.
This effort is rooted in the rich history and values of the house, Moaton said. Founded in 1974, the House of Chanel is one of the longest-standing ballroom houses. It also has never closed or merged with another house.
"There are not many houses around that can say that," she said. "Chanel Cares is showing that we're continuing to evolve and continuing to be that beacon of light for those marginalized and ostracized within their communities."
Moaton said the new foundation aligns with the start of House of Chanel's story. After pioneering icon RR Chanel asked to join the House of Dupree, ballroom legend Paris Dupree told him he needed to win a trophy first. Yet when Chanel came back with an award, Dupree still laughed in his face.
"This was during the height of the AIDS epidemic, and people were feeling like this is the only place that we can kind of find some solace and community," Moaton said. "Even within (the ballroom scene), people were still being ostracized, and so he started the house."
Now, she said she's proud to add Chanel Cares as the next chapter of history. Legendary overall father Derrick Barry said the foundation fits into the overall vision of the house. That's something Barry takes incredibly seriously.
He said he always looks for opportunities to take the house to the next level. But he also understands that he is one of only a few people to hold his title in the lifetime of the house, and so he wants to make past generations proud with every decision he makes.
"This is something that we've never done before and I feel like it will help us take a step into the forefront," he said. "Ballroom is going more mainstream, and as an overall father of one of the oldest ballroom houses, I want to be sure that we can stay innovative, be excited, and keep the flow going."
They can do all that while also caring for the community, he said. At its core, ballroom was built on shade. But it was also built on people who came together to make new families and care for one other after being cast out from society.
According to Moaton, the house empowers its members to be good citizens and strive for excellence in all areas of life.
"Ballroom happens for a moment maybe once or twice a month, but then life happens," she said. "We are always supposed to be good stewards of our community by advocating for those issues that we are passionate about."
In particular, Chanel Cares will focus on social services and public health, Barry said. That includes promoting HIV prevention and care, as well as mental health care.
With a holistic viewpoint, Chanel Cares will advocate for resources surrounding health, like housing, food security and education.
"In this day and age, a lot of house parents are just worried about the kids competing and not worried about their mental health situations or their physical health," Barry noted. "It's important that we bring those kinds of issues forward."
This type of care isn't new for House of Chanel, Barry saidboth he and Moaton are heavily involved in their children's lives. But they hope to spread this emphasis on health to the entire community. This work will not be exclusive to house members, he said. They want to involve people in the ballroom scene as a whole as well as partner with community-based organizations.
As they plan their first events and gear up for a full calendar of projects next year, Barry said they hope the announcement of Chanel Cares will make people excited to participate in community service in the long term. And with more than 10 chapters, some international, the House of Chanel will create a broad impact, Moaton said.
For its first event, Chanel Cares will be feeding houseless people at Breakthrough Urban Ministries on Nov. 28 from 6 to 9 p.m. As they plan further events and gear up for a full calendar of projects next year, Barry said they hope the announcement of Chanel Cares will make people excited to participate in community service in the long-term. And with more than 10 chapters, some international, the House of Chanel will create a broad impact, Moaton said. (See https://breakthrough.org/.)
"Chanel Cares is showing that we're going to put our mouth and our minds and our hearts to work in the same places we've committed ourselves," she added. "We want to give more to ballroom than take from it."