Tag Archives: Pride & Passion

Ask The Locals: Okesene Tilo

Okie Tilo Ask The Locals 2014
Ask the Locals: Okesene “Okie” Tilo of the RITZ Ybor
by Heidi Kurpiela

Okesene Tilo is the director of public relations, marketing and events at The RITZ Ybor. He arrived at the storied theater in 2008 after it had undergone a transformation from seedy nightclub to hip new concert venue.

Tilo –– known as “Okie” among Tampa Bay artists, musicians and Ybor clubbers –– is a 34-year-old social butterfly; an Ybor denizen with a weakness for Madonna, music festivals and comfort food.

An Army brat, Tilo was born in Berlin, Germany and moved to Tampa in 1991, where his knack for bringing people together made him the obvious choice for senior class president at Armwood High School in Seffner.

He studied political science at the University of South Florida and in 2005 produced his first fundraising event. The project proved the perfect outlet for a party-going extrovert with an admitted “OCD streak.”

For five years Tilo served as the managing director of Square One Creative, a collective of artists, designers and entertainers best known for hosting raging art parties at venues across Tampa.

In addition to his work at The RITZ, Tilo is the managing partner of the Up Up Up Group, a special event, festival and attractions planning company. He serves on the steering committee for Pride & Passion at the Tampa Museum of Art and the planning committee for Festa Italiana.

Best Ybor watering hole: First Chance Last Chance in Ybor. “It’s not too overwhelming or too loud. It’s a good place to have a conversation with someone over drinks.”

Best place to people watch: The bench in front of Honey Pot. “You’ll see rockers, hipsters, drag queens and people in fetish costumes coming and going.”

Best reason to cross the Howard Frankland bridge: Sake Bomb. “They make my favorite saketini. I’ve tried to replicate it at home and I can’t.”

Best cheap date: Five Bucks Drinkery in St. Pete. “Nothing costs more than five bucks. You can get loaded tater tots, a root beer float and a Frito pie. It’s like a Jack in the Box.”

Best weird food fusion: Nitally’s Thai-Mex Cuisine. “Thai food mixed with Mexican food is a nice little twist. It’s an interesting place. You’ll always leave with your nose and eyes burning from the spices.”

Best food truck: Aloha To Go. “Whenever they feature the Loco Moco I go nuts. It’s a hamburger patty over rice with gravy on top. Their Facebook page tells you where the truck will be. They go to Tampa General a lot. I’ve got no shame. I’ll follow that food truck to the hospital.”

Best hidden park: Edward Medard Park and Reservoir in Plant City. “It’s a gigantic park with hiking trails and tons of outdoor activities. It feels like you’re in North Carolina.”

Best act to play the RITZ: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. “Everyone I know was going crazy for her and she actually lived up to the hype. She was at the merch table at the end of the show talking to every single fan. She was very down-to-earth and natural. I felt like I’d known her for years.”

Best place to stretch out: Yoga Loft. “Yoga actually works! I started going two and half years ago. Now I can completely touch the floor.”

Best new local band: The Sh-Booms out of Orlando. “They’re amazing. I saw them at The Hub. I’m somewhat of a Sh-Boom stalker now.”

Best wild Friday night party: The Filthy Richard Party at The RITZ. “If you want to full-fledge drink and dance this is the place to go.”

Best all-American eating: The Florida State Fair. “I don’t eat fair food regularly, but when I do go all out. My friends and I go on rides first, then eat every ounce of fried food we can find: fried Pepsi, fried bubble gum, fried butter, funnel cakes, elephant ears … This isn’t just one day of cheating, it’s destroying your entire eating plan for the month.”

Best way to burn off fair food: Spin class at Powerhouse Gym. “I take Mike Hammonds’ class every Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m. DJ Jason Krouth spins EDM, dance, Top 40s and 90s hip-hop. The guy has a following because his class is always full.”

Best bargain basement finds: Revolve Clothing Exchange in Ybor. “I once found this Michael Jackson Thriller jacket. It was such a rare find I got a call from someone at the store asking if I still had it. Apparently it was in high demand.”

Best way to tick off your dentist: Binge on croissant donuts at Piquant. “Everything they bake gets reserved. Basically you have to call and place an order. There’s a waiting list. My friends made fun of me for loving this place and then they had a croissant donut and now they’re hooked. It’s heaven.”

Best guilty-pleasure greasy chain: Church’s Chicken. “I’ll go to get my fried okra on. A big box of okra at Church’s is cheap!”

Best way to spend a silly Sunday: At an auction at Myers Fine Art & Antiques. “Once or twice a year my friends and I get dressed up and go to Myers in St. Pete. We don’t go to bid. We go to watch. It’s crazy what some of these things sell for. People are actually on the phone with bidders. You’ll see someone throw down $5,000 for a spoon.”

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Pride & Passion 2014: an avant garde wedding

Yet another Pride & Passion event gone by!

In its 8 years, the event has slowly transformed into a fashionable night out downtown to dress up and party.  This year’s theme was an avant garde wedding celebrating the union of art + community + diversity.  I decided to play with the theme, and turned the pimp factor level up a few notches when dressing as my interpretation of an avant garde groom.  And that’s one of the many things that I love about Pride & Passion: how one can be decked out in leather and fur with opera goggles in Florida during the summertime, and not one person bats an eyelash at the ridiculousness of it all.  Pride & Passion is a night to play dress up, and an evening to play with one’s Uncle Karl Lagerfeld André Leon Talley Okie Fierce alter ego.

However, the true importance of this event is the $75,000.00 net that was raised from just one evening for the Tampa Museum of Art, its exhibits and community programs.  As an avid supporter of the arts and of Tampa raising its profile, I applaud this year’s Chairs Kevin Reder and Rick Scherer, the Museum staff, and the Pride & Passion steering and host committee for a spectacular event.

P.S.  Next year, I plan to dress even more ridiculously!

Photos courtesy of Nicole Abbett, Owen Hunt Photography, Todd Montgomery and Nicholas Cardello.

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“I Can’t Keep Up” by Tourist featuring Will Heard:  There’s just something in the way that Will Heard sings SANGS this song that does something to my soul.  When the frenetic pace changes up at the 3:00 mark, the song becomes pure, unadulterated audio ecstasy.

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The Event of 2013!

Okie Group 07

The beginning of summer.  The time of year when your AC thermostat lowers while your electric bill rises.  The start of beach season and sunbathing.  And that time of year when Pride & Passion, arguably one of thee top events in town takes place.

The 8th Annual Pride & Passion was held on Saturday, May 18, 2013 at the Tampa Museum of Art, which this wonderful event has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for each year.  In the four years that I have attended Pride & Passion, it has rapidly become one of Tampa’s signature fashion events known for its pomp, flash and extravagant entertainment and decor.  This year’s event was no exception and easily tops previous celebrations in grandeur and eminence.

This year’s Pride & Passion also happens to be the first that I sat as the Public Relations, Marketing & Host Chair.  So it was fulfilling to not only attend this kick-ass party but to also help plan this event with the rest of the fabulous Steering Committee members.  If you missed out on this year’s festivities or have (gasp) never attended a Pride & Passion, mark your calendars for May 2014 and make plans to be there!

Pride & Passion 2013Okie Boys Group 01Cake Areis Rayda 01Shane Aimee Mike 01Group 01Group 03Okie Boys Group 04Okie Jonathan Cheri Linley JocelynOkie Jess 02Okie Linley 02Okie Linley Billy 01Okie Jocelyn 01

Photography by Radko Keleman
Select Photography by Todd Montgomery & Ruslana.Studio
Noticeable Photography by Okie Tilo’s cellphone

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…and in dedication to my fan that became the it-prop of Pride & Passion 2013:

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The Event of 2012!

Pride & Passion
Saturday, May 19, 2012
@ The Tampa Museum of Art

Jocelyn’s wedding to herself.  Tampa’s Gay Prom.  Despite what others may have called last Saturday, the truth of the matter is that last Saturday’s Pride & Passion event is the 2nd largest fundraiser for The Tampa Museum of Art that SOLD OUT.  It just so happens to also be a buffet of fun.  Congratulations to the entire event steering committee, hosts, Tampa Museum staff, entertainers, performers and volunteers for putting on such a class-act event!  Looking forward to next year’s bash!

Photography by Radko Keleman

All Hail the Queen!

with Mayor Bob Buckhorn

One the of many thrilling performances by New Century Dance Company


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Pretty in Pink

Jocelyn and I attended Pride & Passion last year at the Tampa Museum of Art.  Pride & Passion is the Museum’s 2nd largest annual fundraiser, and last year’s event was a handful of fun.  The only major problem with last year’s event was that the majority of our friends weren’t there to experience it with us.

This year, Jocelyn and I both decided to raise the bar.  I was helping this year’s Steering Committee and Jocelyn signed up to be an event host.  A host’s responsibilities included spreading the word about the event and selling tickets.  An internal competition between others hosts ensued to determine who could sell the most tickets as each host received their own personalized ticket url link.  Game on!

Jocelyn and I “harassed” and “badgered” all of our friends to purchase their Pride & Passion tickets.  We enticed friends from Chicago, Los Angeles and Orlando to come in to town for the event.  We also decided to throw a “P” party with free drinks & appetizers at TAPS downtown Tampa for any guests that purchased tickets through her link as an additional incentive.  The “P” Party was our Private Pride & Passion Pre-Party with Personal Paparazzi.  (FYI: Jocelyn hired professional photographer Radko Keleman to document her evening of fun and follow her and her friends around.)  Eventually, the “P” Party also became a Pink Party as most of our guests decided to all incorporate the color pink into their attire.

Dressed in Hugo Boss and Betsey Johnson

We are still awaiting final word on whether Jocelyn won the host competition, but at last count… the Blonde Ambition Queen was leading the pack!




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