Female Factor zeroes in on Mardi Gras

Published 9:20 pm Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday,” meaning it is the last opportunity to eat rich food before the fast of Lent begins.

That, and parades, beads and booze are probably about as much as most people know about Mardi Gras. Except for the ladies who packed The Studio Wednesday for the February edition of Female Factor. 

Diana Lee, a native of Mobile, the city that gave birth to Mardi Gras in the United States, shared her fascination with and love of Mardi Gras with the large gathering of ladies.

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“Unless you know how to throw a ring of serpentine in a perfectly unfurling arc, unless you’ve heard the pounding of the bass drums of the marching bands deep down in your soul, unless you have been hit in the head with flying candy from a two-story tall float, you probably don’t get it.”

But, Lee “gets it.” After all, she was only six months old when she attended her first Mardi Gras parade.

“When I was young, I would sit on the shoulders of my dad to watch the parade and my dad roasted peanuts and sold them on the streets during the parade,” said Lee whose fond memories of Mardi Gras also include Moon Pies and beads, beads and beads.

Years later, Lee wanted to share the Mardi Gras experience with her husband and children. She was getting into the spirit of the parade – yelling, waving beads and, in short, have a Mardi Gras good time. But, when she looked for her children, they were nowhere around. But, just before she hit the panic button, she saw them.

“They were six feet behind me,” Lee said. “Looking strangely at me and saying, ‘We don’t know you! You’re crazy! A crazy lady!’”

Mardi Gras does that to people and, today, Lee is just as crazy about Mardi Gras in Mobile as she was when her kids were young. So, she wanted to shared her love of Mardi Gras with the ladies at Female Factor and also the carnival’s history in the United States.

“By 1711, the Mardi Gras carnival was officially born in Mobile,” Lee said. “A papier mache bull was pulled down the street to represent the meat fast that many people would begin the next day on Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras was also referred to as Boeuf Gras or Bull Gras.”

Hallmarks of Mardi Gras parades include masked paraders and kings and queens who paid upward of $10,000 for their dresses.

Lee said Mobile’s Mardi Gras was halted during the Civil War and also during both World War I and WWII.

The Mobile Carnival Museum is located in the city’s downtown area and features gowns, trains and crowns worn in the parades.

“The museum also has an actual float that you can get on and pretend you are a masked rider throwing beads and Moon Pies to the crowd,” Lee said. “Many different things are thrown from the floats, lot of beads, of course, bracelets, rings, toys, stuffed animals, Valentine candy and serpentine.”

The MoonPie has become synonymous with Mobile’s Mardi Gras celebration.

“The MoonPie has become so famous that, on New Year’s Eve, Mobile has a MoonPie Drop much like the ball drop in Times Square,” Lee said.

After Hurricane Katrina, many of the Mobile floats that had not been repurposed were shared with New Orleans so the city could have Mardi Gras parades.

Lee, laughingly, said anyone who is looking for her next weekend, need only to look as far as Mobile. She will be the “crazy lady” screaming for beads and MoonPies on the streets of Downtown Mobile.

Special guests for the February edition of Female Factor, were Rick Smith, CEO of Troy Regional Medical Center and his wife Sherry.

The Smiths came to Troy from Orlando, Florida in January and have quickly made Troy their home.

“Sherry and I are excited to be here,” Smith said. “Troy is a special place. Troy Regional Medical Center is the best hospital and this is the best place we could be.’