Red Dress Ball 2020, Interview with co-founder Brandon Hamilton

Please share a little about who you are in your daily life - career, hobbies, etc.

My name is Brandon Hamilton. I'm a Personal Trainer, exercise therapist and group fitness instructor. I currently have a fitness business I'm building. I play water polo and travel for competitions. I consider myself a lightly active artist. I haven't painted in a while and I have a couple sewing machines out in my home. I do the Friends for Life Bike Rally where I cycle from Toronto to Montreal for charity. I'm a globe trotter. In the last three years I've been to Mexico, California, Hawaii, Asia and Australia. I am queer and try to stay vocal and active in my communities.

The Red Dress Ball is not your first charity event. What drew you to raise money for charity and what have you been involved with in the past?

Brandon, Barrett and Matthew posing for
Red Dress Ball 2020 promo photo.
I grew up in a strict household and I lacked social skills so my school counselor, in an attempt to give me purpose and probably get me out of his office every recess and lunch, assigned me a lunch time buddy. This boy had no friends and wore a lambskin jacket even in the summer because it hurt less when kids hit him. I think this was the first time my sense of empathy and patience arose. It felt good to help him stay out of trouble and to offer kindness.

Later as a teenager, I learned from watching my brothers that our parents would allow us out of the house if it was for extra curricular activities. I joined everything. The yearbook club, peer helpers, the photo club, the stream team ecology program, physical outdoor leadership education, students counsel and more. Inadvertently, I won the Outstanding Volunteer Award two years in a row at our school. Those awards and volunteer positions gave me more of a sense of purpose, value, and altruism than I could have anticipated. This is where my life as a volunteer began.

I moved on to volunteer for the YouthCo AIDS Society, Vancouver Fashion Week, Health Initiative for Men, the YMCA, PFLAG, and more, including picking up volunteer shifts while I traveled. I landed on HIV charity work because it was an issue my queer community still suffers from. I have many passions including, human rights, empowerment, and health. I'm sure they will continue to evolve. As of late my attention has turned to the oppression and violence that people of color still face.

How did the idea for your very first Red Dress Ball come about in 2018? Is there a significance to the colour RED? Can you share a favourite memory from that evening?

In the 80's and 90's, during the AIDS crisis, Red Dress Ball fundraisers were thrown in support of those suffering with AIDS. Our theme is educational and inspired. The Bike Rally I mentioned earlier is in support of the Toronto People with Aids Foundation (PWA). Red is the colour of the AIDS ribbon, so during the ride we have a dress in red day. Of course many of the gays transform this into a Red Dress Day. It's a fun and whimsical day where we ride into Queens University in Kingston, Ontario in all kinds of red garb. Some in red cycling clothing, some in red clothes, some in red dresses (hiked up high as to not get caught in their chains) and some in full drag. This makes the people of Kingston smile and we hope to bring awareness to our cause.

PWA Bike ride 2018 Dress In Red Day
 My partner Barrett and I wanted to create a fun way to meet our fundraising goal that would embody the spirit of Red Dress Day and the original Red Dress Balls. After all, the bike rally community already had all kinds of red to wear. We wanted to give them somewhere more to wear it. Matthew Hyams loved the idea, hopped on board and we brought it to life. My favorite memory was simply standing in the ball room in full drag, looking at what an incredible amount of effort our attendees put into their looks and outfits, knowing we had already raised tens of thousands of dollars before the night even began. It looked great, ours was a well oiled machine, people were having a blast, and the entertainers and DJs seemed sincerely excited to be there. We had pulled it off, and it was epic. I still can't believe we got sponsorship from Viiv HealthcareAir Canada and Scotiabank and that we raised almost $140,000 in two years from this event. 

Readers would love to know more about The Red Dress Ball 2020? What can they expect to experience while there? Is there anything new in 2020 that wasn't a part of the previous Red Balls?

The Red Dress Ball is a fun night where we ask everyone to wear Red, although there is no official dress code and everyone is welcome. We start the night off with fun local live music and a silent auction. Air Canada raffles off a trip for two across the world, while drag queens entertain the crowd with their talents. We have a few heartwarming speeches from the sponsors and PWA themselves, followed by the infamous DJ Kitty Glitter who flies in all the way from Australia. Drinks and snacks are served and is always a fun time for all.

This year we were to have Ongina from Rupaul's Drag Race Season 1 and All Stars 5 fly in, but unfortunately due to COVID19 we've had to transform this into The Red Dress Web-a-thon. If you're a fan of Drag Race, you should tune in because we're expecting a few familiar faces! This year is more important than ever. The bike rally and the Red Dress Ball account for 40% of PWA's funding. Since both cannot occur in group settings, our online platforms need you more than ever. Follow @thereddressball on Instagram to tune in and support.

How did you choose the charity that the funds raised at The Red Dress Ball are donated to? Can you share a little about all this charity does?

The Toronto People With AIDS Foundation is a service based charity that supports local folk who need assistance by providing funding for medications and treatment, an in house food bank (lovingly called The Essentials Market), housing costs, transit fare, hair cuts and more. They will provide a representative to sit with people while they come out to their friends and family about being HIV positive, providing support and education. They also work to offer public education and to collaborate with other community organizations.

PWA also supports people of colour. In fact POCs are their fastest growing group of clients. PWA runs a program exclusively for positive women of colour and half of their staff are POCs. The organization has released many public statements fighting for racial justice as they feel strongly this issue is an important component of HIV support. PWA has hundreds of programs and really embodies all of the love that any HIV charity should give.

Where should readers go to get more information on how to be involved with this fabulous evening?

The Red Dress Ball 2020 will be held on August 8th as an online event.  The entire evening of performances and more will be aired on our Instagram and Facebook pages with donation links for supporters and attendees regularly shared. Please follow us on social media to get regular updates on what is sure to be an amazing night!

Anything else you like readers to know about you either personally or professionally?

My passion for fitness comes from the same place my passion for charity work comes from. I'm here to give back to vulnerable people and communities, to enable people to grow personally and professionally. If you live in a strong and healthy body, you can continue to strive for success with confidence and love. 

Promo video for Red Dress Ball 2020 - PreCOVID.  

Please share a favourite quote - or something in your own words - about the importance of giving back to the community.

If you have the privilege to be able to make this world a better place somehow, it's your duty to do so. And it's honestly a pleasure to bring more love into this world. - Brandon Hamilton

Links - 


  1. Amazing event was there last year

    1. I so wanted to be there and couldn't organize it. Love this event. Love the organizers. Love the charity.


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