The Hollywood Reporter
Pride Events Go Virtual: How to Celebrate in L.A., NYC and Beyond
By Kirsten Chuba
Rainbow sweats and TV specials featuring Billy Porter, Shonda Rhimes, Dan Levy, Hillary Clinton, and more will replace parades: “It might actually feel more meaningful.”
With large gatherings still prohibited due to the novel coronavirus, Pride celebrations this year will be looking different: Weekend-long festivals, parades, and parties have been replaced by TV specials, virtual gatherings, and rainbow sweats while sheltering at home.
Billy Porter tells THR that he’ll mark Pride “cozied up with my hubby,” while American Horror Story regular Leslie Jordan vows: “I have decided to celebrate this year in my apartment, hunkered down, all alone. Oh no wait, that decision was made for me. Oh well.” Producer-director Janet Mock says she’ll “twerk to ‘Savage Remix’ while donating to the Trans Justice Funding Project,” and Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Stephanie Beatriz will be “donating every week to a different group — like The Sylvia Rivera Law Project — and sharing on my social media so that others can donate.”
Organizers, though, will not let the historic event — marking 50 years since the first Pride March — go uncelebrated for those looking to gather, even if virtually. New York and L.A. Pride festivals will each air star-studded broadcast specials on local ABC affiliates in place of traditional crowd-drawing events. New York’s LGBTQ celebration, co-hosted by Carson Kressley, will air June 28, with performances from Porter and Janelle Monáe, and Schitt’s Creek’s Dan Levy as virtual grand marshal. Says Levy: “It’s sad that I won’t get to be there physically this year to march with my friends and castmates, but I hope that by celebrating from home, it might actually feel more meaningful — the idea that we are all connected even though we may be separated by tragedy.”
NYC Pride also is teaming with GLAAD for Pride 2020 Drag Fest, a three-day digital event, June 19 to 21, that will raise funds for local drag performers. Says D.J. “Shangela” Pierce, star of the new HBO drag reality series We’re Here, of the pandemic’s toll on the community: “These are entertainers who don’t work on a payroll; they earn their keep through tips from fans, and they’re not able to do that right now. It’s really hitting very hard.”
Los Angeles Pride’s 90-minute special will air June 13, and it will reschedule its blowout in-person 50th anniversary celebration to 2021. Following days of recent protests, on June 3 Christopher Street West, the nonprofit behind the LA Pride Parade and Festival, announced it would host a march in solidarity with the Black community on June 14, leading from Hollywood Boulevard to West Hollywood.
Chicago will have its own broadcast celebration featuring Hillary Clinton, Shonda Rhimes, Lena Waithe and Keke Palmer on June 28. And Santa Monica will hold a virtual Pride concert June 20, in which actor Wilson Cruz is taking part. “I like to remind people that the first Pride was a riot — it wasn’t a party,” says Cruz. “We were fighting for something, we’re still fighting for that thing. And during this pandemic, there are young people who are stuck in homes that are less than welcoming and anxiety-inducing.”
House of Pride, a new virtual Club MTV-inspired LGBTQ dance party, will feature live DJ sets and planned appearances by Cher, Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler. Event founder Jake Resnicow is in talks to broadcast the show on network TV on an ongoing basis while raising funds for The Trevor Project and encouraging voter registration, but exact plans are being reworked due to the current climate.
Companies that traditionally have taken part in Pride Month also are making virtual plans. Disney will host an online celebration for employees; Disney Channel will promote a “Celebrate Pride” segment with Raven-Symoné; and Freeform is partnering with GLAAD to send out “Pride in a Box” kits, including company swag, to the group’s leading supporters. And Amazon will launch “Pride History,” where Alexa will share a story from queer history, paired with a song, when a person says, “Alexa, open Pride history.”
Among the agencies, UTA is hosting “Inside and Out,” its first-ever virtual Pride Week, starting June 1 for clients and colleagues, with a lineup including a conversation with Cheer star Jerry Harris and a baking challenge with My Drunk Kitchen’s Hannah Hart. CAA employees are participating in New York AIDS Walk’s virtual fundraiser June 7. Personally, CAA agent Joe Machota says that he sent several of his friends Human Rights Campaign Pride Boxes, which include flags and decorations, so that “we will each be able to celebrate as people drive by or people are coming over for social distancing of some sort.” And ICM has launched the LGBT InQlusion Initiative, which will distribute masks and hand sanitizer to groups that serve at-risk youth. ICM Partners comedy agent Michael Grinspan adds that he plans to check out digital performances, “one streaming fee at a time,” on IG Live, Facebook, StageIt and Looped, and “my friends and I will be brushing up on the classics with a gay movie club on Saturday nights.”
Ellene V. Miles, senior VP intersectional marketing at Sony, says this year’s Pride feels particularly special as it’s her first as a married woman. She’ll celebrate by gathering “some close gay women of color for a Zoom call.” She adds, “The goal will be to share stories, empower one another and simply be visible and discuss issues that are unique to our communities.”