Under any other circumstances, Las Vegas is one of the last places I’d opt to visit. I don’t cope well in heat or humidity and gambling is not my jam. But in January 2023, under guidance and support from Aiden, Andre and Loreia, I submitted my application for the 2023 Legacy Scholarship to attend the APP conference, hosted at Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas, Nevada.
The process included filling out an application, having two industry peers write a recommendation, a video submission and a series of interviews. These were examined and discussed by a panel of APP members and 12 people were chose as scholars (due to unforeseen circumstances, two scholars have been delayed until next year and so we were only 10). Despite all the support and reassurance from everyone around me, I never believed that by the end of February I would receive a call from Ryan Ouellette to confirm my place on the scholarship programme. The feeling was indescribable. I was excited, anxious, in a state of disbelief. It took awhile for the reality of the opportunity to sink in.
Cut to June 8th, I drove myself to Heathrow airport and boarded a 10 hour flight to Las Vegas. If you’d have told me last year I would be navigating a trip like this by myself, no way would I believe you. But I did it. A short taxi ride later, I was throwing my suitcase into Planet Hollywood and heading out to meet a group of piercers, headed by the wonderful Caitlin (back-bone of the conference and overall incredible human being) for some food and a wander around the Vegas Strip. Holy shit Vegas is wild. It’s huge, it’s overwhelming, it’s hot. The sheer amount of people, noises and lights at all times is insane. It’s not a city for the introvert. But I was swept away immediately.
The way Legacy Scholars were a diverse, tight knit group but we were welcomed with open arms and open hearts by the APP Volunteer Group. Piercers from all over the world, joined together as a little team to make sure the conference was a success. Every single volunteer was helpful, kind, thoughtful. It was incredible to be part of such a wonderful family. I miss you all always. Work started for us on the Friday evening, and over the weekend we helped to set up the conference area to be ready to host over 1400 piercers from around the globe for 5 days of classes and events.
Sunday night was registration and hundreds of piercers filled Planet Hollywood to register for the conference, collect their badges, purchase merchandise and catch up with friends they haven’t seen since the last event. After the initial rush of wrangling hundreds of excited people, the Volunteer Team had a pizza night to decompress and get ready for the first full day of classes Monday morning. I’m thankful for the quiet times with good people and good pizza. I’m especially thankful for Jammie Biggers for taking me around Vegas in his car and giving me a break from the bustle.
Monday started with a meeting at 8am and then right into attending classes, working class doors, assisting the attendees, working on the merch booth and at 8pm, we headed to the Flamingo for the opening pool party. I’ve never been to a pool party before, it was nice to see people in a more relaxed setting. And the tacos were good. I also met the legendary Brian Skellie which was a party highlight for sure! The volunteers cleared down the party at midnight and we headed back to the hotel to recover for Tuesday.
In between classes, I worked various jobs around the conference, always supported by other volunteers. It was a really wonderful experience to work and learn from new people every single day. I’ll insert a list of the classes I attended over the week here:
Outside of the classroom, I bonded with so many amazing people. I met a lot of people that I really respect and admire as industry professionals. I met a lot of people that I hope to see again soon. It’s really hard to express the impact that the Scholarship has had one me. As a piercer. As a person. I feel so privileged to be a part of something so wonderful. I’m looking forward to hopefully being able to start to repay this industry for the experience, knowledge, support and family that it has provided me with.
Oh, did I mention I went on a guided tour of the Punk Rock museum. Guided by Fat Mike himself! He liked my hair, I liked his sense of humour.
Until next time Vegas, thanks for having me.
The list of people I want to thank is endless. But I will list and link the profiles of the 2023 Legacy Scholars and their respective countries. But to each of the Volunteers both this year and all yeats, thank you for being the best family some of us have. Once a duck, always a duck, right? Wouldn’t be possible without ya.