Robbie Guevarra of Quintessentially New York talks to the Editorial Director of Bloomberg Pursuits, Chris Rovzar, who oversees the luxury franchise across all platforms, including print, digital, TV and radio.

Most of New York will be familiar with Jeffrey Fashion Cares (JFC) as one of the most prominent and impactful fashion lifestyle charity events in the city. Since 2002, JFC has raised more than $9 million for respected charity organisations supporting human rights, HIV prevention and research, and education for LGBTQ youth. Aside from its contributions, the event is a consistent reminder of the power of true self-expression and the strength of community.
 
Chris Rovzar discusses this year’s annual Jeffrey Fashion Cares charity event, touching on changes within the LGBTQ community, as well as how he strives to offer support to others in his professional environment.
 

Quintessentially: Hi Chris, how long have you been involved with Jeffrey Fashion Cares?

 
Chris Rovzar: On and off for about 10 years. I ran the young professional committee for the Empire State Pride Agenda and through that, someone I met got me involved in Jeffrey Fashion Cares. I started helping out on the committee, drumming up silent auction items and public ticket sales. One year, I was the red-carpet/on-camera reporter. This past year, the three co-chairs from 2018 had to bow out and so I took over for one of them.
 
The amazing thing about the event is that because JFC represents three charities and is not its own organisation, it’s all volunteer-based and depends on the co-chairs, the committee, and a production company to volunteer their time – the models, make-up artists from Aveda who donate their product and services, and the PR team volunteer, too.
 
For the past several years, the event has been held in The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, which is one of the only spaces in New York City large enough to host a big cocktail party and move to an entirely separate location to have a runway show. It’s a big part of why we hold JFC there.

 

Quintessentially: So, event logistics, planning, and the like- that is a separate skillset, and a departure from what you do at Bloomberg Pursuits.

 
Right, it has nothing to do with what I do as a day job. Luckily, Benson Cohen, one of the co-chairs, has a lot more experience fundraising and Adam Patrizia, the other co-chair, has event experience and has worked in PR. We work well together. I have learned a lot about fundraising, event planning, event logistics - and event nightmares!

 

Quintessentially: In terms of planning, how far out does this event begin?

 
General planning begins over the summer and then committee meetings open in September, and that’s when we start mapping out the corporate requests we’re going to make and any major changes to the event. This year was the first time we had a woman walk in what is generally a menswear show, but there are a lot of different ways to express masculinity, and for a while, the fashion show has dealt with that. I would love to keep playing with that.

 

Quintessentially: You mentioned there are three organisations that make up JFC - what are they?

 
This year it was The Elton John AIDS Foundation, The Ali Forney Center, and Lambda Legal. Jeffrey Kalinsky, the founder, likes to support the fight against HIV and AIDS, support LGBTQ youth, and if we can, we support the fight for equality and legal protection for the LGBTQ community.

 

Quintessentially: Reflecting upon advocating for equality and supporting the LGBTQ community, there have been certain dominating headlines, such as the announcement that Pete Buttigieg will be running for the 2020 presidential campaign. How do you think this impacts our community?

 
I think Pete Buttigieg is a bit of a blank slate because he’s so calm and doesn’t give anything away. For better or worse, this allows people who listen to him, and watch him, to project whatever they want onto him. The fact that he had to live in the closet for so long means he views the world with more compassion and empathy. In a way, that is commensurate with being a good leader. Seeing him embrace his husband after his election campaign announcement meant a lot to me and countless others.

 

Quintessentially: Another sign that our community is gaining more mainstream recognition is RuPaul moving from Logo to VH-1. 

 
Yes, I think he has a very big impact beyond the audience, not only on the people who tune into VH-1 but to anyone looking at the channel guide for example. RuPaul’s Drag Race is an incredible show in terms of mentorship – especially last season when it honestly and truthfully addressed the subjects of class and race. Viewing the world through the lens of someone who changes who they are in such a dramatic way, is not something that everyone thinks about, [but] I think it’s pretty important.

 

Quintessentially: RuPaul’s message is completely transferrable.

 
A friend of mine works in marketing at Google and had to give a presentation last year in front of something like 400 people. He came out in heels, in drag, and he’s not a person who normally does that. The point is that you don’t know who people are behind their clothes, even if you work with them every day. When a show can stop and make you think about that in this busy, modern world, that is super helpful.  

 

Quintessentially: And would you say your work at Bloomberg also grants you the opportunity to engage your readers for the greater good on occasion?

 
In my section of Bloomberg Businessweek, we do a philanthropic special every year around the holiday period. We look at how to spend your time and money in ways that will also help others. We create pretty detailed guides as to how to do that, featuring companies that have placed sustainability at the heart of their mission. It’s clearly something that people are interested in now. Our audience is made up of young people and discerning people – and they all want to buy the products and experiences that have a story behind them and that will engender meaningful impact.

 

Quintessentially: Is there cohesion between the causes you support and the audience and industry you talk to [between New York Magazine, Vanity Fair and Bloomberg Pursuits]?

 
I always wanted to be a journalist, a storyteller, ever since I was a little kid. I always knew that being in politics just wasn’t going to be for me. When I started working for The New York Daily News, I wrote for a gossip column. I wanted to bring people stories that entertained, stories that brought them joy. I really respect journalists and what they do, but my desire to tell stories that make people happy and move them is a direct reflection of my love of theatre and performance.
 
Anything that I’ve done in terms of activism or social justice has been to let people’s stories be heard, so that people can understand other people. I do something silly for a living, while my husband works Gay Men’s Health Crisis; he really does good. I try to take what I do and see what I can do to also make it helpful.

 

Quintessentially: Aside from the annual JFC event, how can we support others throughout the year and are there any other events we can mark on our calendars?

 
You can always donate to Jeffrey Fashion Cares throughout the year, but the Ali Forney Center in New York City is a great place to help if you can’t give money but can give time. It’s also crunch time for Lambda Legal having to defend and stand up for people affected by the military ban and gay families trying to adopt kids where local laws prevent them from doing so. So, there are lots of different things you can do to help others in your own way.

 

Quintessentially: Are you going to do it next year [JFC event]?


Now that I know how it all works, I will do it again. As the Luxury Editor of Bloomberg News, I deal with fashion. It was nice to be able to go to all my contacts in the fashion industry and talk to them about working together on this project, helping good causes.  I would love to continue to do that.


For more information on upcoming events, how to donate and updates on how they are making an impact, click through to Jeffrey Fashion Cares, Elton John Aids Foundation, Ali Forney Center and Lambda Legal.