“People say ‘team,’ but I call them my family,” says Symone, the drag queen and model, of the House of Avalon, the friend group turned queer style and culture incubator. “It definitely takes a village to make all these things happen.” Some of the things that have happened to Symone since the 26-year-old won the 13th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race: attending the Met Gala, walking in Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty show, and fronting Moschino’s fall 2021 campaign.
Symone first fell in with the House of Avalon in 2015, at a drag competition called Fresh Fish, in Little Rock, Arkansas. Stylist and creative consultant Marko Monroe, performer Grant Vanderbilt, videographer Caleb Feeney, and Hunter Crenshaw, who handles much of the scheduling and keeps everyone else in line, had made a name for themselves by enlivening Little Rock’s underground queer nightlife scene. They all eventually relocated to Los Angeles, where they started to throw parties, making inroads into the creative and fashion worlds. (Monroe is the stylist behind many of Lizzo’s most memorable looks, including that tiny Valentino purse.)
A chosen family, the group has spent many holidays at one another’s homes. “I usually bring the plates and the cups, because I don’t know how to cook,” Symone says. Vanderbilt is the biggest Christmas traditionalist of the bunch, and spearheads the group’s annual A Very Vanderbilt Christmas talent show. Symone believes great holiday presents indicate you’ve actually been paying attention to the person. The best gift she’s ever received was a gold nameplate necklace Monroe gave her when she returned home after filming Drag Race: “RuPaul gave me the advice to have a totem that makes you remember who you are when you get lost sometimes. So I’ll look down at this necklace, and it will remind me.” But if you’re in a pinch, she also recommends a Sonic gift card: “That is my favorite restaurant, and I feel like everyone should have the opportunity to go.”
The House of Avalon’s Gift Guide
Hair and makeup by Zaheer Sukhnandan; photo assistant: Skye Anderson; fashion assistant: Antonio Soto. Still lifes photographed by Devin Doyle; set design by Elaine Winter; styled by Christina Holevas.