King Zulu 2017
GREG MILES PHOTOGRAPH
There is a limit on how many Facebook friends a user is allowed. Adonis Expose has learned that: “So that’s how many I have.” Expose’s 5,000 online friends aren’t the typical far-flung former classmates and second cousins. He just saw 750 of them on Dec. 14 at his annual birthday extravaganza, which doubles as a Christmas toy drive. And he expects to see a few thousand more on Feb. 28, when he takes his seat as the 2017 King Zulu.
Q: Of what parts of Zulu’s history are you most proud? The history of giving back to the community. Some people see Zulu as more of a parade organization, but there’s more to that. They have bicycle giveaways, they have the toy drive in which we get over 1,500 toys during Christmastime and probably 1,000 bicycles. And we have food and basket giveaways during Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have a mentoring program through Zulu, too.
Back in the day, I was the president of First Friday [a monthly mixer for black professionals in New Orleans]. We would highlight different African-American businesses every month, and we’d have a social at their business to let the community know they were there. In my current fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, we do highway cleanup. We do toy drives. We do any sort of drive. So, I’ve got a good background of helping the community. When I saw that with Zulu, outside of the parade aspect, that really caught my attention.
Q: What are you looking most forward to this year as King? At this point, I have 25 to 30 elementary, junior high and senior high schools where I’ll go talk to the kids. I didn’t think as a kid when I’d go see a Mardi Gras parade that ever in my wildest dreams, “OK, I’m going to be up there one day as King Zulu.” I’ve had some barriers along the way, and never would I have imagined that I’d become King Zulu. That’s my role to these kids. “This is possible. You can achieve this.” They see a positive role model, and they know this can happen. If you don’t see it, you don’t know it can happen. But you see it, and you know.
Q: How did your birthday party become a toy drive? I’m 48, and I started this when I was 30. The first few parties I had at Sweet Lorraine’s on St. Claude. It was an every-year event, and at some point it was hundreds of people. After about three or four years, I thought, “I can start doing something with this. People are coming out, and I’m not charging.” My birthday’s Dec. 14, so it’s right near Christmas. I said, “You know what? I’ll do a toy drive. I won’t charge admission, but you can bring a toy.” So, that’s how it started. In the past two years, since we’ve had our new building, I actually charged a $5 admission or a toy. The money and the toys go to Zulu. The money we collected would go to purchasing bikes, because we’re always in need of bikes. We always have an abundance of toys, but we always need more bikes. You have people who don’t normally go out, but for them this is an annual event. They’re going to come out for that. It’s like a reunion. People who don’t normally go out throughout the year? They’re going to come out in December for my party and see everybody they haven’t seen in a long time. It’s become a tradition.
Q: What were your Mardi Gras traditions growing up? The Zulu parade would start at 8 a.m. As a kid, I’d think, “OK, I’ll get up at 5 in the morning.” I’d say, “We gotta go! We gotta go! We’re gonna miss the parade!” Now I know that the parade starts at 8, so we won’t even see it until 10 or 11. But as a kid, you get so excited. You wanna be there early. So the thing I remember is fixing hot dogs at 5 a.m., wrapping them up and eating them cold later on. And asking for a coconut.
Q: What do you love about New Orleans? People know me as Mr. I Love My City. There’s always something to do here. After Katrina, I moved to Houston for six months. I hated it. It was too big for me. In New Orleans, I socialize a lot. They call me a New Orleans socialite. I could go to four parties in a night. In Houston, if I even knew about four parties, I couldn’t get to them in one night because one party would be 45 minutes from the other.
at a glance
Age: 48 Profession: Regional Transit Authority, Procurement and Contracts; co-owner of event management firm Funkshuns, LLC, with his 2017 Queen, Donna Glapion Resides: New Orleans East Born/raised: 7th Ward, then Upper 9th Family: Three brothers and two sisters Education: University of Southwestern Louisiana Favorite book: Grandma’s Hands by Dr. Calvin Mackey Favorite movie: The Color Purple Favorite TV show: Good Times Favorite food: Mexican Favorite restaurant: Drago’s Hobby: Singing and entertaining
A lot of people that see me nowadays don’t know I was 315 pounds back in 1991. I don’t eat red meat and I do a low-carb diet.