Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter’s Pride Summit and Pride Prom – operating digitally this year amidst the coronavirus pandemic — opened on Saturday (June 13) with a strong call for “every single one of us” to stand up against racism and police brutality. Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors reminded participants in the digital summit that Stonewall was started by black queer and trans activists, and the “police played such a terrible role” in that landmark uprising that kickstarted the modern LGBTQ equality movement. After Cullors’ opening statement, singer and activist Shea Diamond used her astonishing voice to convey a related message with her bone-chilling song “Don’t Shoot.”
Black Lives Matter was a common thread throughout the panels as well. During a discussion featuring the director (Ryan White) and executive producers (Wilson Cruz, Jessica Hargrave) of Apple TV+’s Visible: Out on Television, Cruz addressed the need to step up even within the LGBTQ community. “How can we finally acknowledge that we have some work to do within our own community about how we navigate race?” Cruz said. “We really need to question our own biases and figure out how to truly take care of the African American, black and brown people within our community who have been trying to have this conversation for decades.”
Outrage against police brutality was a topic of Boy George’s panel with Billboard staffer Taylor Mims, too, with the iconic singer declaring, “If you’re not affected [by everything going on], you have no soul.” George also talked about being unabashedly out his entire life and getting bullied from a young age but not understanding it: “Why is everyone calling me a girl? Girls are amazing! Is that an insult?”
In a different panel, Lena Waithe (wearing an incredible Public Enemy shirt) and Jonica T. Gibbs (rocking a Boyz N the Hood tee) discussed the importance of representation – and not just in the broad strokes people often think of. Waithe pointed out there’s heteronormative assumptions that LGBTQ people make, too: “When you see two masculine-presenting women [in a relationship] people go, ‘Well who’s the woman? I don’t get it.’ It’s this silly thing in our own community, there’s a weird discrimination and judgement there.” That concern inspired a scene in Waithe’s series Twenties on BET, which finds Gibbs playing a role partially inspired by Waithe.
Waithe also spoke about amplifying black voices in politics and Hollywood, the latter of which Todrick Hall and Pose co-creator/executive producer Steven Canals addressed in their illuminating panel. “We have our own stories to tell. Just create space for us to do that,” Canals said of industry players’ loath to greenlight original content from black creatives. “And give us the same budget and the same billboards and the same promotion and the same everything that you would have given had it been another show that featured mostly white people,” Hall said as a follow-up. “That’s another thing I see. Okay, we’ll give you this, but it’s not going to be at the best time slot and it’s not going to have the best promotion until you prove yourself.”
Director Lilly Wachowski and actor/comedian Abby McEnany (both of Showtime’s Work in Progress) talked about the importance of effecting real change. “There’s a human rights struggle that’s going on right now,” Wachowski said. “We’re hand in hand with queer liberation and trans liberation and black liberation. We have to keep pushing our shoulder to the wheel of progress. We have to stop being so lazy, white people have to stop being so lazy. We have to all participate in this. I have to stop being lazy.” Wachowski also added that we need to “defund the police” and “stop killing black trans women.”
Sprinkled throughout the summit were various performances. After frontman Sam Bettens recounted his experience of coming out as trans, Rex Rebel played a socially distanced “Big Boy.” Madame Gandhi touched on the power of sharing Pride Month with the Black Lives Matter movement and the need to “go inward and say ‘how can I be better?’” before singing “See Me Thru.” Additionally, Drag Race All Stars winner Trixie Mattel also popped up to deliver her sweetly buoyant “Malibu.”
The Pride Summit also included two glam tutorials as a fitting lead-in to the Pride Prom: a hair how-to with Chris Appleton and a makeup tutorial from Patrick Starrr, who mixed in advice about supporting the LGBTQ and black communities.
As for the Pride Prom, it was a veritable who’s who of LGBTQ stars and true blue allies, with Shea Diamond hosting a night that brought together everyone from Cyndi Lauper to Billy Porter to Drag Race luminaries (Bob the Drag Queen, Jan, Eureka and Jackie Cox) to the House of Lanvin (delivering a fierce digital vogue-off) to Debbie Gibson to Bobby Berk to Big Freedia to Justin Tranter. Billboard’s cover star Todrick Hall was crowned prom king and queen, and Randy Rainbow opened up about his “bittersweet” memories of attending prom not once but thrice with girls when he was closeted.
The Pride Prom also boasted at-home performances from Tituss Burgess, Noah Cyrus, Lauren Jauregui, Tove Lo, Perfume Genius, Shamir and Pabllo Vittar, who helped light up the dancefloor that is your quarantine bedroom.
Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter’s second annual Pride Prom and Summit supports The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people.