As groups of friends sat around circular tables at the Iowa Memorial Union Black Box Theater, friendly chatter and laughter could be heard in the space. Positive energy and support exuded from everyone in attendance at the Find My Style event hosted by the Pride Alliance Center.
The event was one of three programs that took place during the week of March 21 to celebrate “Pride Week” — a spring Pride celebration started last year at the University of Iowa. Savannah DeGroot, a UI student who led the organization and planning of the Find My Style event, said that while students have opportunities to celebrate in the fall with LGBTQ+ History Month and in the summer with Pride Month, there is not anything celebrating Pride during the spring semester.
The Pride Alliance Center held its first Pride Week celebration in 2021 with virtual events themed around growth through adversity.
“We were just looking to do something to bring a little bit more celebration to the spring semester, especially since some students aren’t always here over the summer to enjoy the Iowa City Pride Fest,” DeGroot said.
Three events were hosted over the course of the week, all centered around discovery. The first event on March 22 was called Find My Community, where students were invited to the Petersen Residence Hall to meet and learn more about the LBGTQ+ community.
The second event was Find My Style, where students could meet other community members and explore their own identity through fashion and style. The event featured hairstylists from Honeybee Hair Parlor who gave free hair consultations and cuts to attendees and set out a makeup and nail play station for anyone exploring to experiment with new styles.
RELATED: Queer Trans Clothing Closet launches online store, prepares for pop-up
Tables lined the walls of the Black Box Theater, completely covered in various products. Skincare items, makeup, makeup remover, and nail polish were just a handful of the various options provided for attendees to take. Individuals browsed and filtered through the items, making small talk about the difficulties and excitement of makeup and style.
UI freshman Eva Packer attended the Find My Style event after being invited by her roommates. Packer said that the event hosted a great community, and the goodie-bag element that allowed attendees to pick out items that they would like to take home was fun.
“It was friendly and welcoming,” Packer wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan after the event. “[I was able to] meet new people, discover new interests, and [it was] something to do without spending money.”
As the primary organizer of the event, DeGroot said that they felt passionate about style as a form of expression that everyone should be able to explore. They said that it can be hard to find safe spaces to express oneself, and so the goal of the Find My Style event was to create that environment for LGBTQ+ students at the UI.
“Someone’s outward appearance is often so critical to someone’s gender journey and even sexuality journey,” DeGroot said. “It can be really expensive to do that — to replace a wardrobe to buy makeup products to, you know, do all these things. It’s a lot of emotional labor.”
The Pride Alliance Center also had a QT Closet pop-up at the IMU for students to explore their style through clothing. QT Closet is a nonprofit organization that provides free, gender-neutral or gender-affirming clothing. The pop-up hosted at the IMU had an abundance of clothes and accessories in an array of sizes and styles. Shirts and shoes, dress clothing and jewelry, the QT Closet pop-up provided service for nearly anyone looking to begin their style journey.
The final event hosted by the Pride Alliance Center was titled Find My Home Away From Home and was hosted at the Pride House. The final event was meant for the simple purpose of introducing students to the location and letting students know that there is a safe space for LGBTQ+ individuals on campus.
In the future, DeGroot said that there are plans to expand pride week, hopefully with the support of the UI. Currently, all the events during pride week are coming out of the Pride Alliance Center, but DeGroot said that they are working towards increasing involvement.
“A goal for the future is to get like other campus partners to also do events during Pride Week,” DeGroot said “We can maybe make it a little bit more campus-wide.”