For the past 25 years, the Life Ball has been regarded as one of the biggest fashion events in the world. But at the heart of it, is CEO and Life Ball Organiser Gery Kezler’s passion to end HIV and AIDS. The annual gala is known for its ostentatious costumes, celebrity mingling and drag performances, but Keszler - along with advocates of the Life Ball - are quick to remind attendees that the event stemmed from a desire to reduce the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS and get closer to finding a cure.
In 2018, the Life Ball decided to pay homage to Austria’s most well-known piece of art - The Sound of Music. The theme was ideal for 2018, as the movie hones in on the limits of freedom and acceptance in the world.
Despite the serious focus, every single person who had attended the Life Ball in the past told me that it was going to be the best and craziest weekend of my life: they weren’t wrong. The weekend was filled with overflowing champagne, a surplus of cake pops, a plethora of celebrities and endless partying. I haven’t slept more than four hours a night in half a week. That being said, I’d do it all again.
Here are the eight craziest moments from the trip.
The Life Ball charter plane
“Please wait to ‘un-keister’ your drugs at 35,000 to 40,000ft,” warned Kelly Osbourne over the aeroplane’s intercom. Instead of the standard flight attendant crew giving passengers safety tips, Osbourne made vivacious announcements prior to take-off. Within an hour of the flight, there was an open bar in the rear of the plane, bottles of liquor were being passed around, and the party had already started for the club kids coming from New York City. One woman stood up in the middle of the seats to soulfully sing while a saxophonist performed a random selection of melodies. The back of the plane was the place to be, for once. First and business class were filled with celebrities, but they would wander throughout the back of the vehicle for the excitement. Caitlyn Jenner even went around the entire back of the plane saying “hello” to everyone. Drag performers put on exquisite makeup and costumes in the aisles. At one point, two people were even having sex three rows behind me. To say this was the craziest flight I have ever been on is an understatement.
Conchita Wurst portraying Maria in The Sound of Music performance at the Life Ball pre-show
Austrian singer and drag artist Conchita was borderline unrecognisable on the red carpet with platinum blonde extensions and a beard - a different style from his dark, swooping waves and beard. But there was a reason for it: the 25th Life Ball anniversary was paying homage to The Sound of Music. The audience was instantly surprised by Conchita who burst onto the stage singing “The Hills Are Alive” and portraying Maria in The Sound of Music for two hours, weaving in themes of HIV and AIDS awareness and LGBTQ rights.
The red carpet
The Life Ball’s red carpet was anything, but typical. The more extravagant your outfit, the better. Drag performers clad in feathers and exquisite gowns strutted down the red runway while many people appeared almost nude in full body paint. Conchita wore a shimmering Saturday Night Fever-inspired jumpsuit, while Patti LaBelle entered the carpet on a float. Adrien Brody entered with a group of drag artists twirling around, while Paris Jackson showed off her vibrant tattoos in a black strapless number
The opulence of Vienna City Hall
City Halls are not usually the most interesting of places, but Vienna City Hall is just the opposite. Situated in downtown Vienna, the structure resembles something between a church and a castle. Thirteen rooms in City Hall were uniquely designed for the Life Ball including a VIP area crafted by event producer Susanne Bartsch, a casino-themed room, an area dedicated solely to pop music and a hidden room where Kim Petras and Betty Who performed.
amfAR’s motorcycle ride to the Life Ball
For three days, six bikers travelled from Zurich to Vienna, stopping in an array of cities along the way. The group included actors Brody, Katee Sackhoff, Michiel Huisman, Gilles Marine, Ian Bohen and JR Bourne. The riders went on the trip in an effort to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS and raise money for research to help find a cure. The bikers ended up doing a stage performance with their motorcycles during the Life Ball pre-show.
Caitlyn Jenner's presence at the event
Perhaps one of the most fascinating and most talked about parts of this excursion was Jenner’s presence at the Life Ball. The event - which was the same weekend as her son Brody Jenner’s wedding - had people wondering why she was missing her son’s wedding to travel with her friend Sophia Hutchins to the Life Ball. It was reported that Jenner was missing her son’s wedding for a “lucrative business opportunity” before the weekend.
Patti LaBelle singing 'Lady Marmalade'
During Conchita’s portrayal of Maria, LaBelle emerged singing a tune from The Sound of Music. However, the audience was delighted when the iconic singer surprised everyone with a performance of “Lady Marmalade.” There wasn’t anyone standing still in the crowd
Trans model Yasmine Petty’s entrance at the Welcome Ceremony in Salzburg
On the way to Vienna, the Life Ball flight stopped in Salzburg for celebrity photo opportunities. Celebrities like LaBelle and Jenner were escorted by a variety of flight attendants and Life Ball employees. But some people seemed like they had been waiting their entire lives to walk down the red carpet stairs in Salzburg. Trans model Petty wore a ball gown the entire flight and managed to stop every three steps laying over the railing doing a Jackie Kennedy wave. It was the definition of extra, but it was the Life Ball so it was acceptable.
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