Exclusive interview with Creator of Dallas Mardi-Gras, ‘Krewe de Etoile’

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Mother daughter duo, Annia Jenkins and Cynthia Hightower-Jenkins took on the responsibility of bringing Mardi-Gras to Texas with the Official Mardi Gras Krewe of Dallas, also known as Krewe de Etoile. This year they are presenting their third charity gala with entertainment, food and an otherwise unforgettable night for Dallasites. Party-goers better get ready for the marci-gras traditions of king cakes, masquerades and bead tossing for the ultimate celebration.  This year’s gala theme is Dallas Mardi Gras: A Whimsical Wonderland and will take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10 at the Fashion Industry Gallery (FIG).

Today we have the exclusive interview with co-creator Annia Jenkins, who moved to Dallas in 2009 and started Krewe de Etoile in 2013 with drive to spread awareness of the authentic celebrations of Mardi-Gras that Dallas otherwise lacked.
DFWSD: Other than the lack of knowledge about Mardi Gras in Texas, what makes you so passionate about specifically Mardi Gras? 
Annia Jenkins: I am a Louisiana Girl born and raised, so I grew up with embracing the Mardi Gras season. Mardi Gras has a rich history, and it a beautiful culture. It is important to me to dispel the myths that many associate with Mardi Gras, it’s more than just beads and bourbon street.  There is an elaborate, royal elegance about authentic Mardi Gras that makes it a unique celebration that we desire to share with the Dallas Metroplex.
Your business partner in all things is your mother. What has that been like and what kind of connection have you developed together over the years?
“My mother and I have diverse business perspectives, but they each seem to complement each other. Our talents, and strengths in different areas complete our vision for every project that we embark upon.”
Every year you pick a charity or two to spotlight during the event. What makes City Square the right charity spotlight choice for Krewe de Etoile 2018?
“Many potential charities were suggested to us, and we thoroughly vetted and even visited several, but CitySquare stood out, as we saw their approach to impacting the mindsets, and outlooks of those they serve.  They enact a friendship and community spirit for those displaced, and this was not a typical component that we found with programs whose mission is mainly to address homelessness.”
There are many Mardi Gras celebrations throughout the Dallas Metroplex. What do you think puts Krewe de Etoile above the rest?
AJ: “We stay away from comparing ourselves, as we respect all organizations who chose to give the Dallas area a taste of their versions of Mardi Gras yet, many of the events in the Dallas Metroplex have a Mardi Gras them but are not necessarily authentic Mardi Gras presentations.  As A “Krewe” we are an official organization with memberships, historically created to bring the season of Mardi Gras and all of its trapping (Bals, Parades etc.) to an area. Our breathtaking, theatrical twist and over the top production distinguishes us.”
What is the process that goes into picking members of the Royal Court and why is this important to the Mardi Gras tradition?
“We have solicited the help of many individuals and organizations representative of the philanthropic and socially elite community to help identify and nominate potential Royalty.  It is important for us to choose persons who those in the community want to see esteemed in a Royal aura.”
Tell us more about your business, “All Things Beautiful” and how it has played a part in the development of Krewe de Etoile?’
“All Things Beautiful is A Lifestyle Design Brand created by my mother and I.  Our services embody every aspect of Lifestyle from Consulting, Re-branding, Custom Fashion and Design, to interior design, luxury concierge, travel, and our unique twist of blessing the lives of those we come across in need across the globe. We have taken all of our successful talents  and the things we love and created a Brand to assist those who may be missing the right pieces to complete their vision whether personal or business.”
What is your view on the creative culture in Dallas and how does the Krewe de Etoile play a part in supporting and developing that culture?
“Dallas is truly a cultural melting pot, so many undiscovered gems waiting to be embraced to expose what makes our city so unique. It is the prime backdrop for promoting the essence of  Mardi Gras and all that it offers.  And even moreso, everything is BIGGER in Dallas, and we believe that one day Dallas Mardi Gras will be highly anticipated.”
What aspect(s) of Krewe de Etoile made you believe that Dallas would be a good fit/beneficial for the community?
“Of course, the festive spirit, the over-the-top, vibrant visuals, and the elegance of the Bals that are associated with the season. And most of all Dallas is known for its overwhelming charitable contributions to our community so adding that twist was icing on the cake.”
What do you hope the people of Dallas will gain or have gained from continuing the tradition of Mardi Gras in Texas?
“Our desire is that the true spirit, essence, and beauty of the season will be realized. Mardi Gras represents genuinely pausing from our busy schedules to enjoy a great time with one another. The Dallas Metroplex is the perfect place to expound upon the season with a festival and parade as well.”
As a successful business owner and influential member of Dallas’ creative scene, what advice would you give to those who aspire to be in your position?
“Do not be afraid to follow your Dreams. Dream BIG and Think outside of the box.  Do not wait until you are comfortable and sure of your plan, sometimes what makes you uncomfortable is the very thing needed to make your vision a success.  Faith is key.”
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This is a unique experience coming to Dallas you won’t want to miss. You can find more information here and tickets here.
Images courtesy of Krewe de Etoiles and Bob Manzano
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