It’s not every day you see an Academy Award-winning actress, a Top Chef, a hardcore punk singer, and a drag queen sitting at the same table watching two transgendered dancers battle it out in heels.
But that’s what happened at the W New York Union Square this week, when Jennifer Hudson, joined by Padma Lakshmi, Courtney Love, and Lady Bunny, among others, judged a voguing dance-off.
It was the city’s first look at Turn It Up For Change, a new initiative from W Hotels and the Human Rights Campaign, with Jennifer Hudson as the program’s ambassador. Each month, W hotels across the country will host concerts and DJ parties promoting marriage equality in the United States.
W has pledged a portion of the proceeds from these parties—one percent for every state that recognizes same-sex marriage—to the HRC. This week, thirty-two percent of the event’s profits went to the organization, but Anthony Ingham, W's North American VP of brand management, sees that number rising fast. “Momentum has accelerated to such an extent that we may soon see gay marriage in every state,” says Ingham, knocking on a wooden table.
Ingham notes that just because many states already allow gay marriage doesn't mean the fight is over there. “Raising awareness is a national issue,” he stresses. “It’s just as important in New York and LA, where gay marriage is legal, as it is in New Orleans, where it is not."
For W, Turn It Up For Change fits seamlessly. The famously-cool brand already hosts concerts and other music events, and its commitment to LGBT equality earned it a spot on T+L’s list of America’s most gay friendly companies. Ingham explains that Turn It Up For Change is the brand’s attempt to “amplify its message with a more actively political voice.”
To that end, W is planning parties in New Orleans, Boston, San Diego, Washington, San Francisco and Austin in the coming weeks. Beginning next month, guests at every US property can book a Turn It Up For Change room package, which will come with a year-long HRC membership. For each package booked, W will donate $10 to the HRC.
Describing her own commitment to the cause, Hudson cites the overwhelming support she had received from the gay community. The Grammy and Academy Award winner tells T+L, “This campaign is my way of returning that support and love.” Hudson will sing at the HRC’s annual gala in Washington DC this weekend.
Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure, and a member of the Trip Doctor. You can find him on Twitter at @pschles08.