NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) —To go to the world famous Zulu Ball, you need a lot of things from a caterer, to purchasing a table, to having a stellar tuxedo or dress.
The dream for many little girls is to go the ball. It’s the same concept that is in storybooks of dragons, princesses and queens.
Rhonda Manison-Johnson was the Zulu Queen of 1981 and says, “I grew up always watching Zulu and I always saw the queen and saying that I wished I could be her one day.”
Wishes came true for Rhonda. She became the very definition of regal in 1981. Rhonda remembers the night saying, “the first thing I thought, was wow! All these people are looking at me. I was terrified at first. Just seeing everyone looking at me as I was waving that sceptre and putting that crown my your head. It changed my life forever. When I walk through the ball today and I am looking at that year’s chosen Queen, I always remember that used to be me.”
With all of the pomp and circumstance, the Zulu maids and magic; the Zulu ball has been simply beautiful and the place to be the Friday before Mardi Gras for a long time.
Queen Rhonda is a nurse and community advocate. She is also a good person to talk to about how to prepare for the ball. It wasn’t always about buying the perfect dress. Rhonda’s mother made her dress, during 1981.
“My mother was a seamstress. She worked diligently and she made everything I wore, from my blouses to my suits, to everything I wore the night at the ball.”
The Zulu ball is a lot of fun, but there are rules. Men must be in black tuxedos. Women must be in full length gowns. Zulu ball tables can be purchased at the Zulu Club every year.
Over the year, the Zulu ball has grown into the premiere formal event for African Americans in the region. It’s history goes back to the first ball in 1941, at the Coliseum Arena, before it found it’s home at the Morial Convention Center.
“Years ago they used to call it the greatest indoor picnic ever and the food is really good. The entertainment is amazing. Over the years, we’ve had the likes of Teena Marie, The Ojay’s, and Cameo but Maze steals the show all the time.”
The year of 1981 will always be one of the pinnacle snapshots of Rhonda’s life. Once a queen, always a queen!