Adonis Exposé and Donna Glapion have forged a friendship that started in junior high and ultimately made them business partners. You could say it’s a friendship fit for a king, and a queen.
When Exposé was elected last year as the Zulu king for the 2017 Carnival season, there was no doubt that he’d choose his longtime friend as his queen.
They met while attending Gregory Junior High, graduated a year apart from McDonogh No. 35 and even attended the University of Louisiana-Lafayette at the same time. Their major as Ragin’ Cajuns? Mass communications.
More recently, the pair formed an alliance as co-owners of the event-planning company Funkshuns, which mainly organizes corporate gigs. And now, it’s royalty for these friends, who presented themselves at the Zulu Coronation Ball on Friday night at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
“Most Carnival organizations select the king and the queen, but Zulu is unique in that they allow the king to select his own queen,” Glapion pointed out. “That is why I have the good fortune to be queen, because the king can select his queen.”
That was the easy part. As with most Zulu elections, the campaigning to become king was the hard part, and Exposé laid out a painstaking campaign to earn the crown from his peers after having been a member of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club for 14 years.
He’d already built an impressive body of service over that time, serving on 15 different committees (chairing at least three of them) as well as having served in 2008 as the “Mayor” — one of the iconic Zulu characters. (His first lady? Glapion, of course.)
But that doesn’t guarantee a spot as the Zulu king, so Exposé spent several months campaigning in the run-up to the election last May. Exposé, like others before him, organized his own committee of fellow members.
“I had a good committee,” he said, smiling after a photo shoot with Glapion at her home in eastern New Orleans. “I got together guys who were willing to work. We staged different events, sent out mailings, made campaign calls. When I’d give a campaign party, they’d help me set up.”
A typical Zulu campaign season runs about two months, but because Mardi Gras fell so early last year, the campaign was more like four months long — meaning more room for error.
Exposé recalled an outdoor party he’d planned, but when a weatherman friend predicted rain, he postponed the big party and instead held an intimate indoor gathering. It didn’t rain that day, and so he held a second, larger outdoor party and basically got two gatherings instead of one.
Exposé said he built his campaign around three key words: "Service, commitment, respect."
"People know me as a generous person. And when it comes to service, people don’t want to think that you just popped up out of nowhere. They want to know you’ve served. And I respect all of the members.”
Glapion watched him work the campaign season, just as she’s watched him as a member over the years. She was familiar with the workings of a Zulu queenship, having planned the parties for a queen one year.
And she appreciated the respect that her old friend has among his comrades.
“I’ve heard the other members say that since the very beginning, he's thinking of others,” said Glapion, the daughter of former Orleans Parish School Board President Gail Glapion. “(At Zulu functions) before he takes a seat and gets refreshments, he speaks to others, he shakes hands with every member in the room.”
While Zulu members always love to say, "It’s good to be the king," this year’s monarch has the added responsibility of carrying out the organization’s “Stop the Violence” campaign that has had Exposé making appearances at New Orleans-area schools.
“Many of these kids are from low-income families or have no role models,” said Exposé, a former strategic planning analyst and later director of communications for the Housing Authority of New Orleans. “So when these young black males see me, and they see Zulu, they realize you can do whatever you want.
“You have a dream, and it can become a reality. They realize they don’t have to get involved in negative activity.”