Chip McKenney in conversation with LA POLO
Breaking the stereotypes is brought into life with Chip McKenney introducing Gay Polo League. He made it a point that the vibe of the Polo League will be no bubbly pom-poms. He maintained the idea to establish pride with it. In a close conversation with LA POLO Chip McKenney discloses his dream, aspiration and future outlook towards Gay Polo League.
Here is a complete insight into what he said.
LA POLO: What inspired you to create a special Polo league for the LGBTQ community?
Chip McKenney: I want to expand my social network within the LGBTQ community. I wanted to engage with other gay people around an activity, not a professional group. The first day I took a polo lesson, I realized polo was the perfect sport of LGBTQ people. It's ancient, a team sport, internationally played so travel could be part of it and horses are magnificent.
LA POLO: Was the Gay Polo League was created as a step to support the LGBTQ community or is it a step to create a platform for the community?
Chip McKenney: Both really. Team sports are a fantastic way to support individuals. Competing on a team or as a team member was not an experience I had as a young closeted gay man. In fact, I assumed team sports weren’t safe for me. So I pursued solo sports equestrian show jumping, skiing, water skiing, etc. Once I began to play polo - I understood and appreciated the value of being on a team has. On a different level, once GPL really caught fire with new members and events, I looked for ways GPL can give back to the community, how athletes can be role models for young LGBTQ youth, and help others less fortunate than us.
LA POLO: How has the league helped in strengthening the LGBTQ community?
Chip McKenney: GPL has helped strengthen the LGBTQ community by raising the visibility of LGBTQ athletes competing as open and proud athletes in polo. Our members play on GPL teams throughout the year in non-gay tournaments - which in turn raises awareness that gay people can be competitive and skilled at sports.
LA POLO: When was the Gay Polo League constituted and who are all the players and people associated with the league?
Chip McKenney: GPL was founded in 2006, in Los Angeles CA. Most of the players were people who had little or no riding experience. We used to organize polo lessons at the Santa Barbara Polo Club once a month. Modernly, we have members in 13 countries - the membership consists of people of all levels of play, from beginner to advanced. GPL welcomes everyone who shares the passion of polo and a commitment to celebrating diversity.
LA POLO: Gay Polo League must have a deep-rooted cause and history behind it. Could you throw some light on the history of the league?
Chip McKenney: It would go with what I just said above. Also, originally, GPL focused on creating a wonderful social network opportunity by bringing together people who wanted a unique experience within the LGBTQ community. A few years later, GPL had established a strong base of supporters and players that the organizers decided GPL events could be used to for more political reasons. Elevating and advancing out & proud gay athletes, raising funds for charities that work for the benefit of LGBTQ causes, to help people who are in need.
LA POLO: The Gay Polo League has been a huge success. How do you plan to expand the tournament in the forthcoming years?
Chip McKenney: Our vision is to create and produce international gay polo tournaments in other countries. In 2017, GPL held a tournament in Argentina, with Eduardo Heguy, a world-famous polo player. In 2018 GPL produced a tournament in England - bringing LGBTQ players from 6 different countries to compete. This year, there are plans for a return to England for another GPL tournament in September. GPL will also send a team to compete in the first-ever LGBTQ polo event in India in October!
LA POLO: What's new in this year's edition?
Chip McKenney: This year, we introduced a second bracket, the futures cup, for players less experienced in competing and/or playing. Two teams competed in the bracket and it was a great way to include and inspire newer players to the GPL.
LA POLO: The Wigstock Party is considered to be one of the biggest Polo parties. How did you plan it out to create such a marvelous party?
Chip McKenney: Every year, our tournament week includes a GPL Polotini party which was a more traditional cocktail party format. A friend of mine who attended one year suggested we create a theme party to make it more fun. And that was the birth of Wigstock! The great thing about the party is it is easy to participate. The first year, about 30% of the guests wore wigs and this year about 90% of people wore wigs and we had more than 200 guests! We added entertainers, disco music, great food, and open bar! It is great fun!
LA POLO: How was this year's Wigstock celebrated?
Chip McKenney: This year, GPL Polotini presents Wigstock! Was a fundraiser for sage, a national organization that advocates and services LGBT elders. It is a wonderful organization that we believe in and wants to support.
LA POLO: Were there any celebrities attending the Wigstock this year?
Chip McKenney: We had several polo celebrities attend Wigstock and our entertainers impersonated her, Donna Summer, and Liza!