For the past four years I’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving at my “second home,” 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. I remember, back in 2015 when I first got the email saying I had been accepted to be a Holiday Decorator at the White House, thinking what an honor it was to get this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Fast forward to the present and this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has turned into a holiday tradition. I have had the honor of being invited back year after year to help decorate the People’s House. This includes lending my hand in decorating a majority of the rooms over the years, lead designing a few of them, and getting some very special behind the scenes “tours” most Americans could only dream of.
Whenever I return home from my trip to D.C., I’m always asked two questions:
1. How did this happen; how did you get the job?
It all started with a little research. I remember in high school watching an episode of HGTV that highlighted how the White House is decorated and learning that the work was done by volunteers. After a few online searches, I discovered that people get invited by applying either through the White House’s website, writing to a local politician, or knowing someone in the administration. My first year I applied through the website, which included filling out a questionnaire, supplying a resume, a portfolio of work, and an essay. Since then, I’ve been part of a very select few who are invited back year-after-year.
2. How are you able to decorate for the current President considering his administration’s take on the LGBT community?
This question is one I get either straight from people’s mouths, or inadvertently by how they begin to ignore/treat me. Like any other LGBT person, I have strong feelings about the current political climate, especially how it impacts our community. My answer is simple, though: I do it for our country! No matter who is in office, the White House is first and foremost the People’s House. By walking through those doors as my authentic self, without compromise, I am normalizing the existence of LGBT individuals in the White House. I feel that my presence behind the gates is more impactful than protesting on the outside. The only way to bring change for future generations is to bridge the gap between “us and them.”
My impact may be seen as small, but it is still my own personal fingerprint on our nation’s history. When I come home and people see pictures of me with administration members like Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, or First Lady Melania Trump, it isn’t about me supporting them or their political agenda; it is about making our community visible and heard in a respectful manner.
It’s amazing to come home and see work you’ve created in Vogue magazine, your face on HGTV co-hosting rooms, or getting Christmas cards from The White House, but there’s nothing like the feeling of walking through those gates! Again, is hanging an ornament on a tree changing the world? No. But using your God-given talents to bring more beauty into a shattered world certainly is.