Siddhesh Joshi (Editor)

Aisha Diori

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Period  1990's -

Name  Aisha Diori
Aisha Diori
Occupation  community mobiliser, educator, performer (Women's Face), and "legendary mother" in Ball culture.
Notable works  Mother of the House of Iman, an all-women's House, founder of the Kiki Ballroom Scene: an HIV prevention intervention for LGBTQ youth in Ballroom culture, House of Prodigy Godmother, and Overall Mother Latex through GMHC.

First fridays update with aisha diori on live with the humble prince sept 2nd

Aisha Diori (born 8 Sep, in Lagos, Nigeria) is a community mobiliser, HIV/AIDS preventionist, educator, performer and named "legendary mother" in Ball culture. Her father is Abdoulaye Hamani Diori, a Nigerien political leader and businessman and her mother is Betty Graves. Diori holds a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising & Marketing Communications from Fashion Institute of Technology where she graduated Magna Cum Laude. Diori's HIV prevention work with LGBTQ youth in Ball culture, an LGBT subculture, has been influential in the field of public health. She is the founder of the KiKi Ballroom scene and is considered an expert in engaging this historically difficult-to-reach population. Her expertise is requested for grants/program development, research and curriculum development. She worked at the Hetrick-Martin Institute as Assistant Director of Health & Wellness and is the Mother of the House of Iman, a WBT (women, butch and transgender) people House in New York City. In February 2014, Diori joined the renowned Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem as an employee. Serving as Special Events Manager for the Schomburg, Diori continues to mentor and lend her expertise to anything impacting lgbtq people involved in the House Ball Community.


Live with the humble prince with nigerian co host aisha diori april 1

Early years

While Aisha's father was in exile, he had a relationship with Betty Graves, who gave birth to both Diori and Chris in Nigeria. Betty Graves was a tour operator and moved to America to further her career at New York University. When Diori and her brother, Chris, came to America to visit their mother on vacation when Diori was about 9, they both refused to move back to Africa, and remained in New York City ever since.

Diori was an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer through the Council of Churches of the City of New York. She developed programming for inner city elderly people.

Career & ballroom expertise

In the summer of 1997, Diori attended the Mooshood Ball and became enamored with the gender nonconformity, queer pageantry. The Ball was not simply a gay dance party, she notes in her biography on her blog, "It was full of safer sex messaging, freedom, pageantry sexiness, beautiful feminine women, strong handsome butch women…" Diori approached Arbert Santana, who was then the Mother of the House of Latex and a tireless LGBT and HIV awareness activist. Though unable to make contact at first, Diori connected with fellow Fashion Institute of Technology classmate the Legendary Big Boy Runway Ricky Revlon. Revlon, who later became Diori's "gay father", along with Santana who later became Diori's "gay mother", helped Diori into the House of Latex, forever changing her commitment to the LGBTQ community. The House of Latex is a program of Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) that gives life to youth in the House and Ball scene and empowers the community to promote HIV prevention and awareness. House of Latex balls have attracted many celebrity guests, including Janet Jackson Patricia Fields, Estelle, and Jay Alexander from America's Next Top Model.

Diori began working as an outreach worker at the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), hosting HIV prevention balls to effectively curtail the number of newly HIV infected youth. Diori began participating in "walking" balls. Under the guise of her gay parents, Diori was advised to walk in the Women's Face and Big Girls Runway categories for her first ball, The Black Pride Ball. Diori won the top prize in both categories. Her interests in the Ballroom culture began to shift from active participant to community organiser and intervention specialist. Diori received the title of "house mother" from The House of Latex, due to her commitment to Ballroom culture, a title she held for nearly 5 years.

In late 2007, Diori opened the House of Iman, pairing safer sex and prevention messages that specifically targeted the Women, Butch and Transgender (WBT) ballroom scene. Aisha infused progressive safer sex and educational messaging with pageantry. The House of Iman, a name that pays homage to Diori's Nigerian heritage, continues to provide leadership in the WBT community.

Acknowledging youth were not best served in the mainstream Ballroom scene, Diori and Mother Arbert Santana created the KiKi scene: a ballroom-infused HIV prevention intervention and movement focusing on LGBTQ youth ages 12 – 24, where the young people Vogue, hang out with friends and get connected to services, like HIV testing, counselling and connection to healthcare. KiKi Lounge, a drop in group for LGBTQ youth to vogue and connect to services and Vogue Femme Fridays, KiKi balls led by LGBTQ youth infused with prevention messaging, are offered at Hetrick-Martin Institute and are being replicated by other CBO's across the country. Since its inception, the KiKi scene has conducted over many safer-sex/harm reduction functions through different providers including resources for some 20,000+ at-risk LGBTQ youth.

In February 2014, Diori joined the renowned Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem as an employee. Serving as Special Events Manager for the Schomburg, Diori has secured many successful rentals and has brought many exciting and culturally relevant events to the Schomburg. On 9 June 2014, Diori moderated Visually Speaking: LGBTQ Cultures in Photography, a talk curated by Terrence Jennings and featuring photographers Gerard Gaskin and Samantha Box

Professional memberships, consulting, research contributions & evaluation development

  • C2P: Connect to Protect, NYC Year-Current.
  • Research Committee for Edgar Rivera Colon's dissertation, Getting life in two worlds: power and prevention in the New York City House Ball community, 2009.
  • Marlon Bailey's interviews for his book, Butch/Queens Up in Pumps: Gender, Performance, and Ballroom Culture in Detroit, 2012.
  • HIV Vaccine Trial Network, Community Convening
  • National House & Ball Leadership Convening, a project of REACH L.A. 2011–Current.
  • (TEACH) 2003–2004.
  • Diori developed a governing body, made up of community organisations, parents, leaders and stakeholders in the KiKi ballroom scene, called The KiKi Coalition. It continues to meet monthly in NYC to discuss and tackle trending topics, strategies and updates on best practices for HIV/STI prevention and treatment in the KiKi community. Year-Current.
  • New York City and New Jersey Council of Houses board member.
  • Advisor for "Newark is Burning" New Jersey Performing Arts Center, theatrical performance about Ball culture. 2011.
  • Evaluation development of House of Latex Ball and House of Latex Project Surveys. Created the framework for evaluating interventions.
  • National Minority AIDS Council's United States Conference on AIDS, New Orleans, LA. "Effective Youth and Young Adult Prevention Leadership Programming in the Kiki House Ball Scene," 2013.
  • Honors & awards

  • House of Latex Ball's Ross Infinite Creativity Award, 2013.
  • The NY State Department of Health's AIDS Institute's World AIDS Day 2012 Commissioner's Award for her HIV prevention intervention Stars of CHANGE for Kiki Ballroom House scene youth through Hetrick-Martin Institute.
  • NYC Heritage of Pride for Most Outstanding Message and Contingent, Hetrick-Martin Institute, 2012.
  • NYC Heritage of Pride for Best Political Message, Hetrick-Martin Institute, 2011.
  • NYC Black Pride Heritage Award for Community Leadership, 2011.
  • Project HEAT Kiki Ballroom Scene Community Mobilization Award, 2011.
  • Hetrick-Martin Institute's Damien Staff Award, 2009.
  • NYC Latex Ball's Legendary Women's Face, 2008 (Ballroom culture, honour, designation).
  • Philadelphia Dorian Corey's Women's Face of the Year, 2007 (Ballroom culture honour).
  • NYC Awards Ball's Women's Face of the Year, Mother of the Year, and Woman of the Year, 2005, 2006, 2007 (Ballroom culture honours).
  • Pride in the City's Community Mobilization Award, 2005.
  • Women Face of the Year, Woman of the Year, 2004 (Ballroom culture honour).
  • House of Blahnik's Humanitarian of the Year Award, 2004.
  • New York City Department of Health TEACH Award for Highest Honors in the HIV/AIDS Social Marketing Track, 2003.
  • GMHC Soul Food Program Award for Effective Intervention for MSM of Color, 2000.
  • The Izod Company Award for Outstanding Event Planning Concept, competition through Fashion Institute of Technology, 1999.
  • Advertising Women of New York Award for Outstanding Scholastic Work in Advertising, 1998 and 1999.
  • Promotions, communications & event planning work

    Diori's social awareness campaigns at Hetrick-Martin Institute and GMHC including the You Are Loved campaign and the No Shade campaign, highlighting the importance of self-love and self-efficacy amongst LGBTQ youth surrounding education, sexual health and civic engagement. She also created Crystal Meth Campaigns, Soul Food Programs campaign, Transgender Health and Condom Kit campaigns targeted to specific LGBTQ communities, as well as promotional materials for outreach and program advertising through GMHC. Diori created advertising materials and event planning for Department of Health, Public Health Solutions.

    Diori was also a DJ and event planner during her college years. She continues to plan and promote all of her own balls and events for various Houses and programs. She creates graphics and promotional flyers.


    "Young people know AIDS is still a problem but it's kind of hidden. Too many take a 'see no evil, hear no evil' approach by not taking it seriously. We try to make it serious by continuing our outreach, making testing and information available. We develop relationships with the young people we're serving. We've opened up our doors. We let the kids who might feel forgotten in the gay scene know that we're here for them." Aisha Diori, House of Latex, on reaching youth, a high-risk group.


    Aisha Diori Wikipedia

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