Creative director Jacquie Lawrence and publisher Linda Riley share their memories of a trip to The Big Apple for the mother of all Prides 🍎🌈

BY JACQUIE LAWRENCE

World Pride in New York was indicative of the city in which it was held: big, bold, brash and beautiful.

Diverse and inclusive, it was a perfect mix of the corporate and counterculture with a wide range of events spanning the weekend – an accumulation of a month’s worth of celebration and remembrance.

The trans flag flying proudly for Stonewall 50

Much is being made of corporate support of Pride but my opinion is their money opens doors that simply may have remained closed. Also, corporate companies have fast growing LGBTQI networks who have just as much right to march as anyone else. I guess it is about getting the balance right, which is what New York Pride managed to do. 

Linda was lucky to get onto the Virgin Pride Flight, which was an onboard extravaganza of entertainment, including Titus Burgess from Netflix hit Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and DIVA favourite Saara Aalto who walked up and down the plane singing the Pride official song Dance Like No One Is Watching.

Actor Titus Burgess on Virgin’s Pride Flight
Saara Aalto performing on board Virgin’s special Pride Flight from London to New York

Jodie Harsh DJ’d and watching the whole flight practically dancing in the aisles to Jodie’s tunes was a sight to behold. Comedian Suzi Ruffell was also on board as were three time DIVA cover stars Rose and Rosie. 

Former DIVA columnist Munroe Bergdorf, right, with Drag Race star Courtney Act

I arrived earlier, on a less proud flight, but was able to pop along to the Stonewall Rally, a heartfelt nod to the 1969 riot against police prejudice, the moment recognised as the birth of Pride.

The rally, which congregated outside the Stonewall Inn, was kicked off by the most beloved native New Yorker, Lady Gaga and the crowd went crazy.

Jacquie outside The Stonewall Inn in New York

Local lasses BETTY were there as Stonewall 50 Ambassadors, their video and Spotify song HAPPY PRIDE (which you can hear on this week’s Radio DIVA) was played and such was the heat, singer Elizabeth succumbed to heatstroke.

Jacquie, far left, and Linda, centre, with BETTY

Luckily, the paramedics sorted her, but not without her autographing the blood pressure monitor for a star struck paramedic who happened to a huge BETTY fan. As Elizabeth says, “It was thrilling and we were so proud and happy to be a part of that historic event.”

On Saturday, we interviewed Virgin boss Richard Branson, where the power of the L, B and T was emphasised as being just as important as the G. 

We asked if Virgin would ever sanction a lesbian marriage onboard a Virgin flight as we are developing a series about LBT weddings for DIVA Box Office. Absolutely, he said. Not only that, but he would be happy to officiate. Just need to find the willing brides now! 

Jacquie interviews Sir Richard Branson

Saturday afternoon saw us at the 27th Dyke March; less of a parade and more of a protest, and much less corporate than other events. It ended up in Washington Square, the site of many historical protests and the vision of hundreds of women loving women coming together to protest against lesbophobia, biphobia and transphobia, added to that legacy. 

“Love is HIV stigma free”

On Saturday night we were at what we called “the party in the sky” at the One World Observatory, where the sight of Virgin red uniform clad hostesses dancing on a platform with the DJ was this lesbian’s fantasy come true and although I got back to my hotel in a reasonable state and at a reasonable time, the rest of the Greenwich Village district partied until dawn! 

The next day every building was festooned with the rainbow colours and I wondered if there was even one straight person left in the Village. New York does Pride with, well, pride. 

Pride Parade Day itself saw Linda and I flitting between the main parade (where DIVA Award winner and Advisory Board member, Lady Phyll was one of the Grand Marshalls) and the Queer Liberation March.

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, World Pride Grand Marshall

The latter held an alternative party in Central Park, where we witnessed the outrage of pressure group, Black Trans Media, which seeks to amplify and strengthen the voices and experience of black trans women, especially those black trans female sex workers often targeted by the police.

“None are free until all are free”

It was humbling to hear the stories that often get lost in the noise of intersectional struggles. Our besties BETTY took to the stage again and their anthem Rise had even more resonance than usual. 

Jacquie takes a selfie with BETTY

We were literally on our last legs – having taken the wrong turn in Central Park – before we arrived at Times Square for the post Pride party. Our media wrist bands (although probably our weariness) got us seats in front of the stage but we couldn’t sit still for too long, once Jake Shears Scissor Sistered his way across the stage and Spice Girl, Mel C, vogued along with her posse of “Spice Girls in Drag”. 

Linda dancing to Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears

We sashayed our way back to our respective hotels along with thousands of other blissed out revellers.

The next day, we flew back on separate flights but sharing similar memories of the our time at The Mother of all Prides! 

Only reading DIVA online? You’re missing out. For more news, reviews and commentary, check out the latest issue. It’s pretty badass, if we do say so ourselves.

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