Richard Lawson & Tina Knowles Lawson visiting at Hotel Granduca
Pregnant with twins Beyonce signs on as honorary co-chair.
The Wearable Art Gala invitation
A rendering of the WACO Theater Center in Los Angeles
The WACO mobile theater
Rendering of one of several galleries in the WACO Theater Center
As we chatted over espresso and bottled water in the cozy lounge of Hotel Granduca last week, the conversation with Tina Knowles Lawson and her husband, actor Richard Lawson, was part love story, part tale of a noble enterprise and part tease for what she calls “a good ole throw-down party.”
The high-profile duo was back in her hometown, beating the drums for an event they are planning in Los Angeles and the theater that will benefit. Far beyond the ordinary charitable fundraiser, the April 29 Wearable Art Gala boasts a New Orleans theme and enjoys impressive celebrity clout. Miss Tina, as she is affectionately known, has signed up her daughters, Beyoncé and Solange, as honorary co-chairs along with Kelly Rowland and Bianca Lawson, Richard’s daughter. And, yes, they will all be in attendance. “If they aren’t, I’ll get ’em,” Tina Knowles says.
The party takes place at the California African American Museum, where Miss Tina plans on introducing the celebrity-spiked California contingent to a taste of the Big Easy. Recalling the 60th birthday bash that her daughters threw for her in New Orleans, the artist/fashion designer says, “New Orleans just knows how to party. So we’re gonna bring some New Orleans to LA.”
That includes a second line brass band, a zydeco band and a cornucopia of creole and cajun dishes including Miss Tina’s legendary seafood gumbo. Food stations spread across the museum lawn will be decorated like Mardi Gras floats with that gumbo post outfitted in “big, beautiful conch shells.”
The real attraction of the night might just be the costuming as guests are encouraged to create “fabulous wearable art,” which will be judged in a friendly competition. Top three winners will not only receive cash prizes but will also have a photo op with the Lawsons and the honorary chairs.
“New Orleans just knows how to party. So we’re gonna bring some New Orleans to LA.”
Proceeds from the evening will support mentoring and art programs at the Lawsons’ Where Art Can Occur (WACO) Theater Center in LA’s NoHo Arts District . The new 3,600 square foot facility is expected to open by the end of the month. There, Lawson will continue teaching his acting classes, which he says “under the hood is actually an empowerment class,” and Miss Tina will continue her Tina’s Angels, a year-long empowerment/enrichment program for girls aged 14 and 15. The project includes a mobile theater that will travel through Los Angeles’ underserved neighborhoods in the summer months.
“Throughout the years, she and I have always done things for other people,” Lawson says. “We’ve been helpers. It was always about doing what you do but finding a way to help others. And I think that’s one thing that we mutually have shared.” Though they had been friends for many years, Lawson acknowledges that their shared inner altruism was the spark that brought them together on a more personal level.
“There were so many things about us that were contiguous. We were on a similar track— creative, artistic, design wise, music wise. . . WACO Theater is really an extension of our mutual interests.”
A number of Houstonians, many personal friends of the couple, will be jetting west for the big night that is expected to draw national media attention, Tickets, $500, are limited to 350. Reservations can be made here.
Now about that much-ballyhooed gumbo. Miss Tina won’t reveal what’s in it other than seafood, saying only that it’s her mother’s recipe and everybody loves it, especially Richard.
“It is good,” he says. “I like it when she makes it where you have to have a towel.” She explains that that means the gumbo is so spicy that it makes you sweat. Tina Knowles shakes her head. She won’t be making it that strong for the gala.