Anne Davis Mulford—better known as Princess Anne—has long loved the limelight. She’s famous for her big personality, the crowns she wears at parties, her work in the arts community and her role as a gay-rights activist. Now she’s ready to leverage her theatrical streak into an acting career.
When Mulford landed in Las Vegas in 1991—fresh out of a heterosexual marriage and new to the gay scene—it was to pursue a master of fine arts degree at UNLV. A 32-year-old ceramic artist exploring homosexual culture, Mulford approached The Bugle (now QVegas) to ask if the gay publication might run a story on her thesis show, Lesbian Heaven, in which she debuted her “Flying Vaginas”—13 winged works painted with pussy cats, cherries and fish that, employing humor and beauty, undermine ugly stereotypes.
In the wake of the story, Mulford landed a job selling ads for The Bugle, then a column called “An Audience With Princess Anne.” Her stature began to grow within the gay-rights community. “It was like watching the city wake up,” Mulford says of her time as the development director for Aid for AIDS of Nevada from 1997 to 2000, when she saw both the AIDS Walk and Gay Pride Festival grow from 100 people to 10,000—due in large part to her success in soliciting corporate sponsorships.
Her community role grew to the point that it nearly eclipsed her art. Then, in an ironic turn, AFAN dismissed Mulford, accusing her of soaking up too much of the spotlight. “I know I need a lot of attention, but if my need for visibility gets us hundreds of thousands of dollars, people lining up to volunteer because we have the funnest parties … who’s losing?”
Mulford gathered up her savings and moved to San Francisco to take up her artwork. That’s when she began to put her energy into acting. She returned to Las Vegas in 2004 and has landed a handful of roles since, including that of Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and a homeless meth addict of unidentifiable age, gender and ethnicity in Erica Griffin’s play, Casa de Nada, at last summer’s Vegas Fringe Festival. Now she plans to leave again—this time for Hollywood or New York. “I’m always searching to be visible.”
Mulford’s need for attention stems from her 1960s childhood as the youngest child of busy parents. She remembers running away when she was 5 years old and returning three hours later to find that no one knew she’d been gone. “I felt invisible,” she says. When her parents split, her mother took the kids and moved from Connecticut to Santa Fe, N.M., to be with her female lover, although she never actually came out. “My mother never admitted anything,” Mulford says. “She lived hidden and shameful.” Not so, the lesbian daughter with the fine collection of tiaras. “Here I am. I have something to contribute. And if you don’t notice, I’m gonna jump up here, and jump up here, and jump up here …”