“RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum Mayhem Miller glanced at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Models of Pride Festival crowd, ready to speak from the heart.
“You are all being your authentic selves and that is something that is beautiful,” Miller said at the festival. “When I was young, we didn’t have anything like this. You are going to change our future and I love every single one of you.”
Nearly 400 LGBTQ+ youth, allies and parents attended the live entertainment portion of the festival hosted by Miller, according to LGBT News Now. Presented by Toyota, the event featured workshops, food, carnival games and booths.
Since 2019, this is the first year Models of Pride has returned live. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Center held a virtual conference in 2020 and canceled the event in 2021.
“People have been asking for us for two years ‘When is Models of Pride coming back?’” said Kevin McCloskey, the Center’s director of community-based programs. “I think the community really wanted to come back together and is ready to have events like this to be back together in person and to reconnect with one another.”
The event was held in conjunction with the current spread of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric nationwide. Lawmakers have proposed more than 200 bills limiting the rights of LGBTQ Americans, according to LGBT News New.
Measures such as restricting LGBTQ issues in school curriculums, permitting religious exemptions to discriminate against LGBTQ people and limiting trans ability to play sports, use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity and receive gender-affirming care, LGBT News Now stated.
In support of their queer middle school-aged teen, parents Rachel and Dan attended the festival.
“It’s so positive and everyone’s friendly,” said Rachel. “It’s such a nice way to bring people together. It’s super scary everything that’s going on with these (anti-LGBT) laws. It’s a really important time for people to speak out and to be supportive.”
“We need to be as vocal as the other side,” Dan said.
Planning for the Models of Pride festivals began as COVID-19 numbers dropped, but the certainty remained, according to McCloskey.
“Because of what is going on politically, it really kind of put a fire under us to make sure this event and events like this happen,” McCloskey said. “I said, ‘We don’t have the green light but start planning it because this needs to happen. We have got to bring queer youth together, celebrate them and honor them, regardless of what they are hearing in the political sphere. We want them to know that they are valued, they are perfect, and we celebrate them.”
Workshops included a variety of topics such as taking charge of your Coming Out story, exploring the LGBTQ+ community’s subculture to find your chosen community, and learning the history of drag and taking first steps of becoming a fabulous drag performer, LGBT News Now reported.
Mayhem included, Models of Pride brought singers Jim and Sasha Allen from The Voice Season 21; musician and content creator Sam Tsui and husband Casey Breves; actor, singer and dancer Keiynan Lonsdale; recording artist and songwriter B.K. Habermehl; aerialist Amanda Ritchie from Grounded in Flight; and drag performer Drew Mi Moore to the live event.
“Believe in yourself every step of the way,” Lonsdale said during his set. “I know it’s not easy. We’re all in this together. Let your colors shine!”
Classmates Valeria and Sam said they enjoyed being on a college campus for Models of Pride which will mark its 30th anniversary with a full conference in November, according to LGBT News Now.
“It is so cool to be here,” said Sam. “I feel so comfortable here and being around everyone. I was really nervous coming in. It feels comforting to know there’s other people like me here and such a large crowd of them too.”
Valeria said she was still processing that she didn’t have to pay anything for the Fix Burger meal and food from a food truck.
“I brought money expecting only a few things to be free but even the food is free,” she said. “It is amazing.”