the voice and vision of a new generation
Image credit: Christian Balderas

'29Rooms' pop-up educates, empowers, and inspires with a social justice spotlight

December 12, 2018

Refinery29, a digital media company dedicated to female empowerment, invited those in Los Angeles to #ExpandYourReality in a funhouse of culture, technology, and creativity. The downtown pop-up called 29Rooms showcases, you guessed it, 29 Instagram worthy art installation 'rooms.'

The exhibit welcomed everyone, young and old alike. But in the spirit of my recent 21st birthday, what other choice did I have but to visit their other offering, Party After Dark, the late-night experience solely for adults. And so, with a peppermint cocktail in one hand and a camera in the other, I explored 29 thought-provoking rooms filled only with the aesthetic.

The exhibit collaborated with a host of brands and artists to create the most imaginative backdrops for your new Instagram post. From a bright full moon in the sky to neon galaxy jellyfish tentacles, guests had a list of backdrops to choose from. But this was more than a mere photo-op.

The Trans Chorus of Los Angeles sings at Refinery29's 29Rooms. (Mike Roe/LAist)

In line with Refinery29’s philosophy and mission, many rooms were dedicated to larger conversations about empowerment, inclusivity, and equality. GLAAD partnered up with 29Rooms to create Room 21, 'A Different Tune.' The room featured speakers, microphones, and a stage to welcome Trans Chorus of LA and Tonality, two local LA choirs who leverage music as a vehicle for self-expression and empowerment.

Additional social justice-minded rooms included, ACLU’s Room 10 which strove to educate the public on the rights of marginalized communities in a colorful game show themed room; TNT's Room 8-9 that boldly displayed the statement “Hollywood can’t win without women;" and Unbothered's Room 7 was dedicated to the black female experience and the celebration of a black woman’s hair. LGBTQ stars, Kesha and Lena Waithe also hosted their own rooms.

More experiential rooms encouraged guests to have a phone-free moment and step out of their comfort zone. One standout experience paired people with strangers and challenged them to answer intimate questions. Another guided guests through an ASMR sensory experience. There was also a room that led a painting workshop with a local LA artist.

But it was the late night party, and to catch the performance one had to visit during the day. Nonetheless, guests were not left bored. In the spirit of inclusivity and creativity, drag queens slayed and sashayed the night away at the bar to tunes like Little Mix’s “Touch” and Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda.” The sassy performance was then followed by a graceful interpretive dance and a fist-pumping DJ to close out the night.

As I walked down the red carpet stairs back to the parking lot with my friend, we scrolled through my phone to look through our photos. “These are cute!” I exclaimed. And while I am sure to bombard my Instagram with posts recapping the event, oddly enough, I am grateful that the highlights of my night weren’t captured—the best moments are phone-free.

Chris Balderas is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and senior at UCLA studying communication, film, television and digital media. He has collaborated with experienced reporters and editors from top tier media outlets like The New York Times, CNN and People to break and manage headlining news stories and media campaigns.

the voice and vision of a new generation