The perfect Gothic, Steampunk, Vampire Proposal By Catherine Campbell “None of us really changes over time; we only become more fully what we are.” – Anne Rice, “The Vampire Lestat” This is the love story of how a Gothic woman who was already leading an interesting and creative life found a Steampunk man who made her feel more fully “herself” than she’d ever been… And how she got the surprise of her life! Hilary Branner, designer and CEO of Hilary’s Vanity, has been a creative force on the Gothic, Vampire and Steampunk scene for many years. She is especially known for her elegant umbrellas that are not only the perfect accessory but are necessary to maintain that perfect deathly pale completion. As you can imagine, as one of LA’s premiere designers of Gothic & Steampunk clothing, she and her man Marc Fuerst love to dress to impress, and there’s nowhere better to show off your dark finery than in New Orleans. Hilary’s recent birthday provided the perfect opportunity for a new adventure. For more years than she wants to admit, she has spent her birthday at her usual haunts like Bar Sinister and or Father Sebastian’s Vampire Ball Los Angeles. But this year, she wanted to sink her teeth into something different. And Marc knew just the thing to make it magical in every way… but first, the back-story… Hilary and Marc have been dating for nearly 4 years, and Hilary professes loudly and proudly that she is “madly in love with him”. Marc is well-known in Steampunk society in his own right, having won “Best Costume” at both Time-Traveler Day at the Southern California Renaissance Faire and at the Gaslight Gathering in San Diego, multiple times. In fact, he eventually stopped entering the contests to give others a chance to win! He’s best known for his over-the-top, top hats and his mechanical arms – true works of art that he builds himself! He and Hilary are perfect counterparts – the Gothic Queen and her Steampunk knight in mechanical armor! They first met at a Renaissance Faire – both were dressed in full Steampunk costumes. They looked so well-matched that people who saw them together kept commenting that they looked like a “perfect pair,” and asking if they’d coordinated their outfits. Hilary says that as they walked around the Faire together, they naturally fell into a perfect rhythm, as though they’d known each other for years. Hilary describes that first meeting as “love at first sight”. “Ok Full Discloser it was lust at first sight and a costume crush” but it became clear that it was true love within just a few short weeks. They are a couple who are truly meant to be seen, and they love the limelight. For the past few years, if you look at the pictures from all the best Cons, clubs, parties, and Renaissance Faires you’re sure to find Hilary and Marc. They each have used their expertise in different styles to influence and enhance each other’s fashion and accessory choices. Whether the look is Gothic, Steampunk, Pirate or Vampire, Hilary and Marc always take it to the next level. This brings us back to that “the surprise of her life!” in New Orleans for Hilary’s birthday… For years, Hilary’s Vanity has dressed one of New Orleans’ best “Krewes,” and this year they invited her to be on their Mardi Gras float. The timing was perfect – it was going to be her birthday weekend AND Hilary proclaims that New Orleans is her “favorite place in the world.” “When other little girls wanted to be ballet dancers, I kind of wanted to be a vampire” – Angelina Jolie Like most Goths, Hilary describes herself as being “obsessed with Vampire culture”, and she knew that there was nowhere better than New Orleans to share her love of all things Vampire with Marc! From the minute they’d arrived, she’d been showing him all her favorite places related to Anne Rice, The Originals, brothers John and Wayne Carter, the Casket Girls, and other stories (both “real” and “Hollywood”). And, of course, there were Vampire Tours and even the New Orleans Vampire Café, which is where Marc took her for her special birthday dinner. This is where the “real” fun began… “I’m going out to get a bite to drink” – George Hamilton, “Love at First Bite” Upon arriving at the Vampire Café, they were both eager to try the “Blood Bags” – one was vodka and punch, the other sangria, both delicious! The day had been so much fun, and now drinking blood bags in a Vampire-themed restaurant in New Orleans? Hilary says her inner-Goth-Girl was “satiated with gothy, vampy goodness!” Marc had found the perfect place to celebrate her birthday – the food was supernaturally good, and all diets were forgotten as they ate, talked, and laughed together. Finally, as the server cleared their table and said “don’t leave just yet,” Hilary was expecting that perhaps the wait-staff was going to sing “Happy Birthday”, as she was pretty sure that Marc had told them it was her special day. Their waiter returned with a small plate that had 2 chocolate bats on it, a cocktail, and a candle, which he left on the table, said (not sang) “Happy Birthday,” and walked away. Marc flashed his trademark handsome smile, sang the birthday song to Hilary, and told her “Make a wish” … As she closed her eyes, Hilary wished for the one thing that was missing from her life – the thing she wanted more than anything, “Please let him propose to me.” She opened her eyes and there was Marc, on one knee, holding out an engagement ring! He asked “Do you know what I love about you the most?” Almost afraid to answer, Hilary softly replied “No, what?” and as her wish came true Marc said “How much you love me! Will you marry me?” Hilary couldn’t help but scream “YES!” Hilary looked around and realized that this was the one time that no one was pointing a camera at them, so she followed up her “YES!’ with “He’s proposing! Someone take a picture!” A fellow diner ran over and said “Give me your phone,” and captured the moment for them as the whole restaurant applauded. Marc got up from one knee, and he and Hilary stood there hugging, kissing, and crying for a long time, drinking in the moment. Hilary described it as being in a “little magic love-bubble.” After a night of celebrating, Hilary says they just had to go back to the Vampire Café the next day, dressed to kill in Hilary’s Vanity clothing, to quench their thirst for blood with another delicious blood bag cocktail. So, in a perfect ending to a perfect Vampire proposal, the Steampunk King is going to marry the Gothic Queen, and they might just live happily-FOREVER-after!

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