Interview: Tony Paciotti, Mr. MOCHA Trendsetter

By Charles Tyson
The MOCHA Trendsetter pageant is scheduled for April 26. Tony Paciotti is Mr. MOCHA Trendsetter, while Keke Valasquez Lorde, Miss Gay Rochester, is Ms. MOCHA Trendsetter. Tony Paciotti recently talked to The Empty Closet about his life as a trendsetter and the value of the ballroom/house scene in increasing self-esteem and fighting the HIV epidemic.

How long have you been involved with MOCHA and in what capacities?

Tony Paciotti: I have been involved with MOCHA for over 11 years now; originally I only “dropped in” for routine testing, the computer lab, and MOCHA Weekend and related events.

Lately, I have become involved with their MPowerment core group, which was set up to help create different events and forums for the community and do HIV and STD training and outreach. I have assisted the staff in planning and executing events including theme nights, vogue night, spades tournaments, movie night, ballroom 101 forums and more.

Why do you consider yourself a trendsetter? Who are the trendsetters in your life?

TP: I consider myself a trendsetter for three reasons. I’m 28 years old and I have never consumed alcohol or smoked marijuana or cigarettes to have a good time, and I believe the younger community admires that about me.

I also have a unique fashion sense that separates me from other dark skin kids. Finally, my ability to balance work, school, a house life and family, never allowing my lifestyle to “wear me out,” makes me a trendsetter.

The trendsetters in my life are my gay dad DiMarrio Paciotti; my mentor Laquida Shedrick and my biological father Anthony D. King Sr.

Describe your role and work with the House of Paciotti. How has your group addressed HIV/AIDS and other social issues among LGBT people of color?

TP: I am the new chapter Father of the House of Paciotti and have been given the role of leader, father, teacher, counselor, and friend. The House has been instrumental in the fight against HIV/AIDS throughout the Buffalo area. We have participated in many AIDS walks and pride parades, made monetary contributions to the cause and have done awareness parties. All of our events include a confidential HIV testing component.

Is there a correlation between the ballroom scene and pageantry? Why are these creative outlets needed in the LGBT community?

TP: Yes, there is a correlation between the two. Both avenues allow LGBT persons to display their great fashions and undeniable talents from the depths of their minds. For many, it is also a way to gain an elite social status amongst peers and foes. I feel they both are needed because they reinforce our self-worth that has been questioned and torn down by mainstream society.

MOCHA Trendsetter 2009 is scheduled for Sunday, April 26 at Club Muther’s, located at 40 S. Union St. in Rochester. Doors open at 6 p.m. The pageant will start promptly at 7 p.m. Admission is $10.

Contestants will compete in four categories: creative swimwear, talent, red carpet, and on-stage question. Special guests include Arabia Knight-Addams, Miss National Icon; KeKe Valasquez-Lord, Miss Gay Rochester; Poison Waters; Goldie St. James; Kyla Minx and Lanier Boyette.

For more information, contact Charles Tyson, Peer Youth Specialist for MOCHA Center, at (585) 420-1400 ext 16 or visit www.myspace.com/yeahproject.

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