SAN DIEGO -- The 42nd Imperial Court de San Diego Coronation that took place in the ballroom at the Lafayette Hotel in North Park in February ushered in the newest monarchs, Emperor XLII Robert and Empress XLII Miss Pearl.
Joined by family, spouses and royalty from all over North America, Robert and Miss Pearl continued the humanitarian mission that four decades of predecessors have dedicated their lives to.
Robert Rodriguez, aka Rob Rodd, is a 44-year-old Houston native who has called sunny San Diego “home” for almost 15 years, and is happily engaged to fiancé Scott Parman. Participation in the Imperial Court, Rodriguez says, has been a fulfilling experience. Despite being a self-described “shy boy,” the Imperial Court has brought out the Emperor’s inner extrovert, helping him to be a “strong man” for the greater good of the community.
Darnelle Williams, better known as Miss Pearl or Granny Pearl, is a San Diego native. Attending the coronation ceremony with her were Edward Melendrez, her spouse of 12 years, along with her mother and her sister, all of whom have been ardent supporters in her journey.
The Imperial Court has been a monumental organization in LGBT communities throughout the United State, Mexico and Canada, currently boasting of 68 chapters. The organization with its lavish royalty has been instrumental in fundraising, increasing awareness for LGBT youth, and establishing AIDS agencies throughout multiple countries.
Both regal figures share the goals of the Imperial Court, dedicated to raising money for charitable organizations and implementing better awareness to the public regarding the LGBT community. Their involvement in the Imperial Court has introduced them to a host of wonderful friends and the different philanthropic organizations that bolster the community.
In assuming the very royal position that was bestowed upon him in February, Rodriguez said his primary goal is unity. While he has fallen head over heels for the local community, he still sees room for improvement:
"My personal goal is helping to bridge some of the gaps we have within our own community. I belong to the leather community as well, and I’d love to see more events where we can all intermingle and work together for the greater good of the community as a whole. I aspire to change the minds of those that think the leather community is just a bunch of freaks. And with the help of the Imperial Court, we can do that. The leather community does great charitable work just like the Imperial Court, the only difference being that we wear leather while the court wears gowns, crowns, and some flashy costumes. But our hearts all are the same."
But an undeniable strength the community does have, in Rodriguez’s opinion, is the wide array of gay leaders. He accredits notable local figures such as San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria, California Assemblywoman Tony Adkins, and activists Big Mike and Nicole Murray Ramirez as having “paved the way for all of us” in improving the community.
Miss Pearl also heaps praise upon a rare breed of brave leaders that grace the San Diego community:
"I really admire Empress I, Mother Jose and The Queen Mother of The America’s Nicole Murray Ramirez. With their leadership, we have experienced decades of progress in the LGBT community throughout the country."
In following in the footsteps of their predecessors, the Emperor and Empress are tasked with the duties of community outreach, fundraising for charitable organizations, educating the public and fostering relationships with local businesses. For her dedication to such causes, Miss Pearl has been fondly dubbed the “Titanium R.A.M. Empress,” the acronym reflecting her inherent knack for "Revenue, Awareness & Membership." She insists that this title encompasses “my promise to my community and this is what I strive for every day.”
Together the new royalty vow to continue to stay informed and plugged into the community, expressing the voice of often-underrepresented causes. Getting more and more individuals involved in these causes is a goal that they would really like to accomplish during their reign as Imperial Court monarchs. Like Rodriguez opined, coming together as a community and helping each other isn’t reserved solely for Gay Pride -- it must happen everyday, year-round.