School’s Out—And Summer Is In

“The definition of love… Is it limited?” Tracy Anderson asked. “I sure hope not.”

Anderson, the fitness guru known for making celebrities feel fab, had love written all over her this weekend. Literally. She wore a custom-designed, multi-colored dress—with the word “Love” scrawled across the front—made by her 18-year-old son, Sam, to this year’s School’s Out benefit, which took place at the East Hampton home of Lisa and James Cohen on June 17.

“He and his girlfriend wanted to make this for me tonight so that they can show that they are behind everyone loving whoever they want,” she said.

School’s Out raises funds for Hetrick-Martin Institute, an organization whose mission is to provide a safe space for LGBTQ youth, especially during the summer months when school is closed and resources are scarce. The A-list affair, co-hosted by Anderson, Margaret Russell and more, was sponsored by Broadway ticketing platform TodayTix, GQ, and Facebook, among others. “The values that HMI supports are the exact things that TodayTix considers part of our core values,” said TodayTix CEO and co-founder Merritt Baer.

The most stylish and sexy LGBTQ supporters and community members were escorted to the lawn party by way of a revolving slew of MINI Coopers, the premier sponsor of the day. As they exited the cars, some socialized on the estate’s tennis court, some hit the Ketel One bar for special School’s Out cocktails, and some expressed their pride in bright rainbow colors at the TodayTix photo booth.

Posters were laid out under the big white tent on the Cohens’ front lawn that read “#PrideIs…,” and guests were asked to finish the sentence in rainbow marker. They read: “#PrideIs… Being Yourself,” “#PrideIs… Knowing You’re Awesome,” and “#PrideIs… Living Your Best Life!”

And that is just what everyone in attendance at School’s Out did.

“I am the reason why you guys are here,” said the evening’s speaker, HMI alumni Jazmine Perez, in a red-and-white polka dot dress. “When I first found HMI, it was the mid-’90s… I was nervous, I was scared. I knew I needed to explore myself, but I was very scared because, my whole life, everyone kept telling me that I shouldn’t be who I am—no, no, no. I can’t transition. I can’t be who I am. Finally, when I went to HMI, the adults, the counselors, and the staff there were extremely supportive and accepting. The kids who were in the drop-in space were just so free with being who they were.”

“The LGBT community is great at expressing themselves,” she said, emphasizing the importance of the arts for LGBTQ youth.

Her date, Jason Morales, added, “Art, itself, is all about embracing community, each other and each other’s work and respect. It’s one of the greatest communities in the world—the arts community.”

Thomas Krever, CEO of HMI—looking sleek in a white suit, which he said symbolized “hope”—explained: “The arts are a fundamental critical component of adolescent development. We know that LGBT youth live in environments of high trauma, distress, anxiety. We still live in a country where 30 percent of young people coming out will be evicted from their homes. When we’re young, we don’t have the words. We don’t have the language—the way to articulate that trauma—or that joy in celebrating who we are in authentic ways. The arts allow us to do that. Music, art, dance, drama, spoken word, playwriting—it allows young people to be creative… As a young person, dealing with all of the trauma and stress, the arts are a powerful tool, and it really evens out the playing field so that young people can find a way to express themselves and live authentically.”

Guests ranged from actors to designers to influencers to millennials to matchmakers, including LastFirst.com’s Emily Holmes Hahn, dressed in Diane von Furstenberg. “Who doesn’t love the arts?” she said, “It’s a common language.”

Larry Milstein, styled in a floral jacket and distressed white denim from AllSaints, added that events like School’s Out are so important because “for the first time—at least for millennials’ life cycles—we had this shock where we realized we could no longer be complacent in our political activism, particularly when it comes to social organizations and opportunities to really support the most at-risk youth.”

“I was the chair for this event for many, many years,” recalled former HMI board member Brendan Coolidge Monaghan, chief industry officer of fashion and luxury at Conde Nast, alongside boyfriend Mark Herman, senior manager of brand partnerships at Marriott Hotels International. “What HMI does is very important, especially today… [and art is] a reflection of culture and a way to express ourselves in ways that we can’t do in politics or any other traditional way.”

“When you can’t live your truth, or you’re bullied from living your truth, you develop in a damaged way,” added Anderson. “So it’s really important that we get education for these children and support for these children…and to really fight for them—to fight for people’s minds to be untapped and unwrapped, so that everyone can love who they want to.”