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    Mercedez Munro and LGBTQ+ Community Save the Day for Smuin Fundraiser for Project Open Hand After Star Tests Positive for COVID-19

    Behind the scenes drama almost derailed Smuin Contemporary Ballet’s LGBTQ+ Night performance of The Christmas Ballet on December 21, 2021, but a remarkable groundswell of support from members of the community saved the day, enabling the ballet company to recently present Project Open Hand with a donation check for $4,500.

    Plans for the fundraiser evening came to a screeching halt when San Francisco drag queen extraordinaire Lady Camden (alter ego of former Smuin dancer Rex Wheeler, currently competing on season 14 of RuPaul’s Drag Race) tested positive for COVID-19 two days before the show.

    No longer able to act as hostess or to perform in the gala evening, Lady Camden put out an urgent call to fellow drag queen Mercedez Munro, who dropped everything to step in and don the red-hot high heels of the iconic “Santa Baby” for this festive night, getting a roar of approval as she dragged “the world’s longest feather boa” across the stage.

    Said Munro, “What I’ve gained from the losses [due to COVID-19] is a deeper respect for artists—their time, their commitments, and their passion. Being an able-bodied person and having one of my closest friends reach out to me and trust me with something as huge as hosting the LGBTQ+ Night for Smuin was just a huge honor.”

    The beneficiary of the evening, Project Open Hand, is a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve health outcomes and quality of life by providing nutritious meals and groceries to vulnerable populations in San Francisco and Alameda counties. Founded in 1985 to provide nutritious meals to people with HIV/AIDS, the organization has since expanded to serve older adults and people fighting other illnesses, helping them to recover, get stronger, and lead healthier lives.

    Every day, Project Open Hand prepares over 2,500 nutritious meals and provides more than 200 bags of groceries to help sustain clients as they battle serious illnesses, isolation, or the health challenges of aging. “We are humbled and truly honored that Smuin made us the beneficiary of The Christmas Ballet LGBTQ+ Night,” Project Open Hand CEO Paul Hepfer told the San Francisco Bay Times. “Not only is Smuin at the forefront of contemporary ballet, but they are also at the forefront of supporting and helping their community members in need. We are grateful to them, to Mercedez who ‘saved the day,’ and to all the others who stepped in to make sure the show went on!”

    Others who stepped in to make the night a success included Tito’s Vodka, poured at the afterparty in a special signature cocktail created for the evening, and John Konstin of John’s Grill, who provided nibbles for the festive gathering in which supporters gathered with dancers to toast the night’s performance.

    Published on January 27, 2022