Photo: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images
Christina Aguilera, Eve, Tove Lo Highlight Music At 2018 Los Angeles Pride
Leather and glitter. Gold hot pants and rainbows. Lots of rainbows. But most importantly, community, celebration and music. That's what the Los Angeles Pride festival was all about on Sunday, June 10.
This year has perhaps been one of the most inclusive and diverse iterations of the annual festival in recent memory. Los Angeles Pride 2018 included a stacked lineup representing the full spectrum of the LGBTQ community with headliners Kehlani and Tove Lo, the event's "Just Be" slogan, and enthusiastic music fan attendees. Thanks to the focus on inclusion, this year's festival sold out for the first time ever.
You may have heard that the festival reached capacity on Saturday, but the celebration continued long into the night on Sunday. From the parade kicking off the day to Christina Aguilera's surprise appearance to killer sets from Eve, Tove Lo, Allie X, and Leland, music had a central role in the festivities. That's not a mistake. We captured a taste of how music showcases all that Pride represents.
Each year, the second day of Los Angeles Pride starts with its annual Pride parade, which drew more than 125 participants this year from companies and brands, schools, advocacy organizations, politicians, TV shows and films, and many more. Activist Michaela Mendelsohn served as the grand marshal and spectators were flashed with glitter and rainbows, fierce fashion, balloons, custom pro-LGBTQ T-shirts, and impossible dance moves.
— LA Pride (@lapride) June 10, 2018
But the moments during the parade when the crowd really responded all featured music, whether it was bumping from a car festively decorated with a unicorn horn or a bus full of drink-wielding dancers. And it's no mistake that Pride and music go hand in hand.
"Music is one of the oldest forms of protest and it's been one of the best ways that the community was able to speak our truth dating back to the Harlem Renaissance, which was carried by LGBTQ people of color," says Thomas Davis, a parade participant and founder of the music and arts HIV advocacy organization The Catharsis Project. "It's always been a way for people to voice their beliefs and who they are and just really be themselves."
This sentiment was echoed by musicians such as singer/songwriter Parson James, who took the stage late Sunday with the festival's closing headliner Tove Lo.
"I grew up in South Carolina as a closeted biracial gay man and [I grew] up hiding a part of myself and not being able to be open with who I was and celebrate myself," says Parson. "Ever since I've been able to have a platform to make music or create content that's widespread I've always made an effort to use my platform to help those people that felt like I did when I was growing up."
Like James, for singer/songwriter Jessica 6, music has been a powerful way to shape her own identity. During her performance at L.A. Pride, she led by example with a strong set that included a stunning performance of a remixed version of her song "Prisoner Of Love." While creating music has been a driving force for Jessica 6, she also identified that her LGBTQ fans have helped her build both her career and confidence.
"From the beginning [my fans have] always been there and made me stronger," she says. "When I first started out I was a little insecure and really, it's a lot being a trans artist and dealing with media, sometimes it's really frightening. And my fans really are the ones who made me feel stronger and proud of who I am."
Taking the stage for her own set decked out in a stunning green coat with gold-glittered hair and an overall look that we're sure Lady Gaga would approve of, singer/songwriter Allie X also had many positive words for her LGBTQ fanbase.
"I wouldn't be anywhere without my LGBTQ fans," Allie X says. "They make up my entire fanbase pretty much and that's something I'm so happy about and so proud of. They have understood me when music executives have not understood me. They have lifted me up, supported me, made me feel confident."
Like Allie X, other featured artists at L.A. Pride committed their talents to giving back to the community that has helped nurture their careers. Tove Lo, whose song "Disco Tits" happens to be a favorite in the gay community, and Eve, whose killer Pride set of many of her top hits that had the crowd roaring in appreciation, are just two examples. Both of these artists have passionate LGBTQ followings, and their messages of acceptance and empowerment certainly resonated at Pride this year.
In addition, GRAMMY winner Aguilera showered the LGBTQ community with her appreciation during a surprise appearance appropriately clad in leopard print onstage during a drag queen show. She took the opportunity to debut a new remixed version of her single "Accelerate" and took a sugar sweet run through her track "Candyman" while the crowd went wild.
— LA Pride (@lapride) June 11, 2018
Leland, who has made a name for himself writing songs for artists such as Troye Sivan and Selena Gomez, has found inspiration in similar musical heroes. For him, icons Elton John and Dolly Parton helped him find a sense of identity while growing up in South Mississippi where he wasn't able to truly express himself when he was younger. Now he has the chance to share the message that when you're free to be your authentic self, opportunities arise.
"For me to … be given this opportunity to perform at Pride and for me to do anything with music and for people to hear it I think is a representation that as long as you just pursue your dreams — I know as cheesy as that sounds — but as long as you do that and you figure out who you are on your own time, opportunities will come."
Artists and fans alike who celebrated at Los Angeles Pride this year were able to "Just Be," and thanks in large part to the music, it's so much easier to bring together a diverse community to celebrate love and acceptance as a collective and as individuals. And that's a beautiful thing.
"To come to Pride, that's what it's all about," says James. "It's about loving each other and lifting each other up and just showing all that love onstage and celebrating everyone."