A visit to the Mardi Gras Indians was the elegant excitement when the Young Men Illinois Inc. held its 2016 Carnival ball at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Reigning was Miss Lauren Elizabeth Bagneris, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Emile A. Bagneris III. Two sisters of her majesty preceded her on the YMI throne. Miss Bagneris herself enjoyed her journey from a page to a princess in the organization before her queenship.

Prior to ascending the 2016 throne, she was honored as queen-elect during a party in the Crystal Palace Ballroom in Harvey. The theme was “A Flawless Soiree: The Perfection of a Diamond.” According to her parents, the hosts, “Lauren is our diamond.”

Culture, Pageantry and Pride

Quite a few attributes are associated with the town’s Mardi Gras Indians, who tell a great story of survival. Their legacy helped marquee the glorious ball of the Young Men Illinois Club.

Her majesty Lauren Bagneris was royal and radiant in her Allure gown reminiscent of Baroque embroidery that was beaded with an intricate crystal and pearl inlay. Customizations were made by Elite Fashions (Bobby Tandon). Her 18-foot train was designed for the Bagneris family and previously graced the royal attire of Misses Brittany Bagneris (later McBride) and Jessica Rene Bagneris, who reigned, in turn, in 2004 and 2012.

Also designed for the Bagneris family, and worn by the above sisters of the 2016 monarch, was the mantle that contained more than 10,000 Austrian and Swarovski crystals. The latter crystals glittered on the crown and scepter.

Last year, the royal ensemble was donned by Miss Jaelyn Courtney Vigee, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Courtney Vigee.

The debutantes in the court of queen Lauren were M isses Cameron Whitney Bernard, Kristen Emily Byers, Ashley Cione Duncan, Kayla Simone Goudeau, Angel Maria Hite, Sidni Cheri Johnson, Brianna Trichelle McKay, Mia Nicole Quetant, Bria Keion Taylor, Dominique Kellie Williams, Cionne Katia Wilson and Rhonda Maria Wilson.

Nine princesses also graced the court: Misses Payton Jillian Bates, Clarke Joelle Batiste, Grace Abbey Delpit, Asia Edwards, Grace Felice Hammond, Jaylah Jonique Louis, Brianna McKinley Robertson and sisters Elise Amina Wright and Lauren Aliya Wright. The page to her majesty was Miss Chyler Veronica Hampton.

Among the many features of the gala evening were the orchestral music of Clark Knighten/Black Cat Productions; the awarding of scholarships to queen Lauren and to Bria Taylor; the club’s performance of the traditional waltz; the recognition of a former queen, Allison Wright, who held the scepter of 1987; and the presentations. Special ones were made to the Original Illinois Club President E.J. Roberts and ball captain Mark Joseph; to Zulu, king-elect and queen-elect Jay H. Banks and Artella Banks, President Naaman Stewart and various chairmen, such as Charles Hamilton (board), Dennis Robertson Sr. (coronation) and Andrew Pete Sanchez (Carnival activities); and to NOMTOC President James Henderson Jr., ball Chairman Ed DeBiew and King and Queen NOMTOC Select 46 Dr. Philip Lundy and Miss Jada Pierre.

Among the other presentations were those to Lawrence Robinson for outstanding dedication as the ball captain and to Rosalind Kay, YMI Club etiquette specialist.

Most fitting, the entertainment for the 2016 queen came from Tyrone Casby and the Mohawk Hunters, an Indian group from the West Bank, who perform during the Mardi Gras season and the St. Joseph Day Parade. Excitement abounded.

Noted were a number of ladies in lovely ball gowns. Suzette Peychaud Bagneris, the royal mother (now of three YMI queens), wore a Fabuluxe Couture design; Kelly Smith, a cold-shoulder, coral gown layered in silver sequins by Aidan Mattox; Kelly Batiste, a red satin mode; Dr. Wanda Augillard, a Teri Jon blue lace mermaid gown; and Dr. Yolanda W. Page, a strapless, black Tadashi Shoji “feather” design.

The officers of the club headline Mr. Bagneris as the club’s president and Dr. Terrence M. Augillard as the vice president. Others are Messrs. William D. Aaron Jr., Clinton T. Smith Jr., Cardell Ross Jr., Robinson, John R. Murchison, Wayne M. Preyan Sr., Milton M. Brown, Marion D. Floyd (magistrate), John E. Wilson (Dr.) and Craig B. Mitchell.

Messrs. Mario R. Anderson, Joseph L. Batiste III, Omar L. Duncan, Wayne J. Encalarde Jr., Anthony M. Faciane Sr., Carlos O. Hampton, Leslie R. Hightower (Dr.), Anthony A. Legeaux II, Omar K. Mason , Alden J. McDonald Jr., Fitzpatrick S. Nedd, David D. Page, Kent A, Smith, Albert A. Thibodeaux (magistrate commissioner), Bernard H. Robertson III, Corey A. Robertson (Dr.), Vigee, Michael E. Watts, Gregg J. Williams (Dr.), Eric A. Wright, Maurice A. Brown, Garron M. Johnson and Damon I. Singleton complete the membership roster.

Of course, the evening’s sure cynosure at the ball, which traces its first monarch, Mable Saulsby, to 1927, was her majesty Lauren. She continued a royal legacy within her family as she charted her own magic moments.

‘Diamond’ Delights

To launch the revelry at Lauren Bagneris’ debutante party in the Crystal Palace Ballroom, the Rev. Isaiah R. Stewart gave the invocation.

The presentation occurred at 8 p.m.

All eyes turned to the beaming honoree, who wore a custom princess-cut ball gown with a fully beaded bodice, covered with crystals and pearls. The skirt was of white tulle. Her mother, Suzette Bagneris, donned a long-waisted and richly embellished mermaid gown with a matching bolero jacket. Both customizations were by Elite Fashions (Bobby Tandon). Formal ball gowns and crystal masks were worn by the debutantes, princesses and the little page.

Among the many attending were the two above royal sisters, Brittany Bagneris McBride with husband David and Jessica Rene Bagneris, Lily McBride, David L. McBride Jr., state Sen. Wesley Bishop and spouse Judge Shannon Bishop, state Rep. John and Shyrl Bagneris, Judge Dennis and Rene Bagneris, the Paul McGoeys and daughter Kendall, Queen Tucks XLVIII Anne Eckert and William, King Zulu and Mrs. Jay Banks, Zulu Big Shot 2016 Keith Thomas and spouse Lady Big Shot Leslie Thomas, spouses Dr. Marcus Ware and Irena Foxman, Craig and Kianna Aaron Mitchell, and Eric and Saffiya Wright.

Entertaining them were Robin Barnes, Q-93’s DJ Wild Wayne, The Original Royal Players Brass Band Inc., Mardi Gras Indians, and Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club – Tramps.

All admired the pretty thematic setting that incorporated an archway wrapped in silver sequins and centered with a chandelier, crystal pedestal stands with white light, white sofas, a head table draped in sparkling silver table linen, jewel names (sapphire, ruby, emerald) for additional tables and a stage with the queen’s chair and those for the debutantes. Behind the stage was a double staircase from which the court and the honoree were introduced.

The thrills of the “Diamond” evening were manifold, all fusing into a multifaceted and fabulous party.