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A New Orleans Mardi Gras Ball: How To Be Queen

What does it take to be queen of a New Orleans Mardi Gras ball? My grand-niece Gigi Bienvenu showed us all as the queen of the 2016 Acheans ball, one or the many such private affairs the folks of New Orleans have during the carnival season.

Your humble correspondent attended as an invited member of the committee dressed in the costume de rigeur – in other words “tails” you know like they wear in Downton Abbey – with other family members, to watch as Gigi reigned over the proceedings next to her king.

How To Be Queen of a New Orleans Mardi Gras Ball

Gigi Bienvenu queen of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Ball Acheans

Gigi Bienvenu queen of the 2016 Mardi Gras Ball Acheans. Photo Daniel Erath The New Orleans Advocate

As is the custom with a New Orleans Mardi Gras ball, the name and identity of the king is not revealed. He wears a beard and blonde wig underneath his crown which makes all kings of Mardi Gras balls look almost exactly the same. Only members of the organization (“krewe” in NOLA lexicon) and the queen know his identity.

new orleans mardi gras ball the acheans 2016 carol bienvenu

Carol Bienvenu, the mother of Gigi Bienvenu flanked by Lauren Fitzpatrick and Lydia Scanlon. Photo Daniel Erath The New Orleans Advocate

Nell Nolan of The New Orleans Advocate explains this year’s theme:

For the Achaeans, Athena was summoned to guard Odysseus home to Ithaca and a reunion with spouse Penelope, whom he had not seen for years, and who was beseiged by suitors. As the program stated, “Retrieve his wife, his home, and his friends” after his long odyssey.

With such a spirit of return and welcome, it was most fitting that her majesty would be surnamed Bienvenu. Reigning as the queen was Miss Genevieve Marie Bienvenu, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Albert Bienvenu IV. 

Her majesty Gigi related shortly before appearing in her majestic glory in the Sheraton’s Grand Ballroom that she was “excited about the whole experience” of being queen. She learned about her honor in April of 2015, when her parents took her to Antoine’s Restaurant for dinner. On the baked Alaska dessert was inscribed in icing “Queen of Achaeans.”

gigi bienvenu queen acheans new orleans mardi gras ball 2016

Gigi Bienvenu strolls through the pre-ball throng gracing her subjects with her beautiful presence. (Taken with my little old-fashioned flip phone.)

Vera Wang protege Suzanne St. Paul created Gigi’s bead-embellished silk satin gown with Rows of Swarovski crystals.  The organization’s traditional ermine-trimmed mantle and Medici collar as well as the glittering crown and scepter were her queenly accessories.

Before the ball there was a pre-party affair at her parents’ home where the maids of honor and the queen were toasted with champagne and the proper edicts were announced regarding the evening.

Afterwards at around 10:30 PM the queen’s supper was held in the hotel’s Armstrong Ballroom where the fantastic cover band Liquid Blue from San Diego entertained on into the night not letting up once during their spectacular 3 hour “reign” over the late-night proceedings. You name it they played it, all styles with equal ability and gusto.

Gigi said at the end of it all, “I had an experience of a lifetime — a truly magical evening.”

So how does one be queen of a New Orleans Mardi Gras ball? With grace, generosity, beauty and elegance. Gigi showed us all how to do it.

Posted in New Orleans Culture, New Orleans Festivals, New Orleans History, New Orleans Life.

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