After a long, long, long wait, Fashion Cares is back. The motherlode of Toronto gay events bursts back to life on Sept 9 with more star power than we’ve seen in a long time. It has enough wardrobe to make Jeanne Beker jealous, and moneyed and activist gays alike will be contributing to good causes: the AIDS Committee of Toronto and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

ACT’s theme for the night, Glitter and Light, is one I’m intimately familiar with (and just wait till you see the ensemble I’m putting together), but if you worry that glamorous parties and superficial glitter overshadow ACT’s important work, stop right there. This night is about celebration; as ACT’s Adam Ferraro told me, “Fashion Cares is about raising money for the work that we do but also celebrating the work that has already been achieved and how far our community has come.”

The insanely starry lineup guarantees a night that will be talked about for years: yes, we are talking Elton John, Linda Evangelista, Janelle Monáe, Dean and Dan, Scissor Sisters, Jully Black, Anjulie, Greta Constantine, Marty Rotman, Sky Ferreira, Billy Newton-Davis — and that’s just for starters. Frankly, this year’s lineup obliterates previous years’, where attendees loved Jennifer Holliday or pre-“Teenage Dream” Katy Perry. Even Miss Shirley Bassey’s two performances of “Diamonds Are Forever” doesn’t compare!

After three years off, such heavy artillery is not accidental. “We wanted to come back with something bigger and better and reincarnate Fashion Cares as something truly unique. It took some time to figure out how we could benefit both ACT and EJAF with a massively well-rounded event: fashion that encompasses local and international talent, huge production and having Canadian performers come together while figuring out the coordination with international talent to create the best possible event to raise the most possible funds,” Ferraro says.

Not an easy task, but then again, ACT is known for digging in both hands. Fashion Cares is possible thanks to a huge and wonderful volunteer team, but I’ve always been impressed with ACT’s outreach the other 364 days of the year. Ferraro reminds me exactly how targeted that outreach is. “Our women’s program, our positive-youth outreach programs; we have specific outreach programs directed to trans and cisgender men. Our harm reduction focuses on safer ways of partying and trying to help people understand what their goals and needs are. We’re not only looking to do outreach in the downtown community; we aim across the city with programs geared towards empowering the queer community and ensuring there is adequate sexual health information that’s relevant to everyone.”

Dealing with HIV/AIDS issues in 2012 is a world away from what it was like 30 years ago when ACT came on the scene, and as HIV rates continue their steady climb it’s important to remain educated, aware and equipped. ACT uses social media and multimedia technology to great effect, but one of the best things about this year’s Fashion Cares is that ACT and the EJAF are looking to spread the wealth. The last Fashion Cares, in 2008, raised nearly a million dollars and hopes are high to top that this year, but where exactly is the money going?

The answer is pleasantly surprising.

“ACT’s programs and services need to continue to be up to par, but EJAF partnered with us to create a set of funding grants that can be accessed throughout all of Canada. Purchasing tickets means not only ACT is benefiting from this event, but AIDS service organizations and not-for-profits across the country can access funds as well.”

From the little bubble of Toronto nightlife in which we sometimes get lost, it can be easy to forget that a big wide world exists outside of the 416. Think it’s not easy being HIV-positive in Toronto? Imagine what it’s like in a smaller town or city.

As for the night itself? Expect to be dazzled. Art and fashion from Fashion Cares’ 25-year history will be on display. Elton John’s costume archives are also sending over some standout pieces. The setting will be spectacular. Red-carpet entrance. Eeeeeeeveryone will be there. All this before the actual show, and artistic director Philip Ing’s set is already creating buzz. Nights like this become legend.
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