The NYT City Room blog reports that RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Ongina has hand-delivered a $25,000 donation from the MAC Cosmetics AIDS Fund to NYC’s Hetrick-Martin High school, which serves LGBT students who’ve had difficulty in regular public schools.
The school is noted for being a space where students do not have to conform, where girls can declare their orientation by wearing butch hip-hop baggy wear and boys come to school in wigs, dresses, high heels and makeup. But budget cuts, as with many nonprofit groups across the country, has strained the host institution. Hetrick-Martin, which provides many services to the school, recently let go 20 percent of its staff in December because of a drop in private and government funds in its $5 million budget. At the same time, the institute has seen a surge in demand for its services for gay youth, such as hot meals and homeless support, since the summer. “Young people are coming to us to seek out those services,” said Thomas Krever, the executive director of the institute. “Our numbers are growing.”
To help with the gap, the MAC AIDS Fund, a foundation arm of the makeup company, donated $25,000 to cover operational costs. “The funding is to support our relationship with the school,” Mr. Krever said. To make that gift, a 27-year-old drag queen who started his career in New York City visited Harvey Milk School on Wednesday. Ryan Ong Palao, who revealed that he was H.I.V. positive on television, is a contestant in the RuPaul Drag Race. He started suffering harassment when he first became more flamboyant after coming out in high school in a small town in Washington State. He would have appreciated a “school that provided me as much of an education as a comfort zone.” His drag identity is Ongina, a play off his middle name.
Good work and great PR for the show. In case I haven’t made it clear by now, Ongina is my favorite to win.