It really is a hot gay Summer, wow. Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter threw a day of talks and tongue pops at the first-ever Pride Summit, which was held at the uber posh 1 Hotel West Hollywood. The event promised to be productive, powerful and pugilistic, a strategic gut punch to an entertainment industry still rife with queerphobia.
The day kicked off with a dynamic emerging artists panel featuring Daya, Parson James and a mercurial new talent, Shea Diamond, among others. Diamond stood out immediately, telling the crowd her pronouns are ‘goddess.’ That wonderfully queer answer set the tone for the panel and the day, with creativity flowing from every corner. Daya talked excitedly about the changing face of queer representation in media, ’That’s why I love shows like Euphoria and shows that are really naturally bringing in those narratives,’ she said.
The drag and music panel featured high day drag from some of the world’s most renowned queens: Alaska, Peppermint, Blair St. Clair, Trixie Mattel and Manila Luzon.
‘I don’t really think about the audience when I’m making the music,’ said Luzon. ‘I feel like as an artist you’re just creating something of your own and letting whoever listens to it [interpret it how they want].’
I’m pausing here to note how breathtaking these queens looked on a hot ass Los Angeles day, with bright lights beaming down on them. Peppermint, in particular, was a vision in her purple jacket and pants with solo cup lining. Pure heat.
‘Im really trying to peel back all those inhibitions and all those things that stopped me in the past. I’m just writing exactly what my experience was in the past year as a black trans woman who does drag and was on Broadway,’ she said.
The Queer Headliners panel was the highlight of the day, if only for Big Freedia’s larger-than-life personality and sage, seasoned wisdom. She was joined on the panel by stars Hayley Kiyoko, ILOVEMAKONNEN and Tegan and Sara.
ILOVEMAKONNEN made possibly the most prescient point of the day: if straight superstars would acknowledge the queer people who support their careers, the success gap between queer acts and straights wouldn’t be nearly so big. ‘Everybody is kind of praising the artist onstage, and the artist on stage never really tells about the team. The team is really the queer team that’s making it look so majestic.’
Freedia talked at length about working her way up in New Orleans, and how she got straight men to come around to her music. “I had all the girls in New Orleans. I had all the women around New Orleans. And it was a journey to get the men to like it. Once the guys were like ‘you bring all the women, you make all the girls shake their ass,’ I learned that once I got all the girls, the guys would follow.”
The main event was the Televised Revolution: The Beings of Pose Panel, which featured stars from the hit FX show. You could feel the air tighten as the panel started, all of us rapt for this capital M cultural Moment.
Indya Moore, who plays wide-eyed Angel on the show, talked a ton, each word gilded with wisdom. They were also cuttingly funny, coming for cis white actors who want to play non cis white roles.
‘Do you even know why you want to take on the role? Oh you just wanna expand and stretch and show people that you can act? You wanna play a tree?’ they said.
MJ Rodriguez got emotional when talking about the show highlighting fully-fleshed out characters, saying she’s grateful to be part of a show that respects the fullness of all people. ‘Yes, we are trans. Yes we are African-American and Latino and Latina, but we’re much more than that. We’re human,’ she said.
Later in the panel, when a young audience member talked about, in their words, their struggles with disliking their own dark skin and buying skin-lightening products, Rodriguez was overcome. ‘Promise me you’ll never give up,’ she said. That moment nearly brought me to tears.
The panels ended, folks networked and chatted and drank. I got excited because Cuties Coffee, a Silverlake fave, was pouring hot coffee for the tired masses. After a minute I shuffled out of the hotel and across the street for some hot wings, hoping to fortify myself for a very-turnt after party.