This past weekend, as California's L.A. PRIDE festival was underway proudly celebrating the LGBQT community, across the country that same society was mourning the loss of 49 of its members when news broke that there'd been a mass shooting at a popular gay club in Orlando, Florida.
Here, five of PRIDE's performers talk to REVOLT about the how the tragedy affected their appearances, audiences, and emotions during a time of should-be celebration.
Bionka Simone: As 2016 Miss Gay United States, star of Fuse's new trans-centered docuseries "Transcendent," and acclaimed illusionist at Asia SF, one of San Francisco's most popular cabarets, Simone has become a figure of inspiration within the LGBQT community and she did not let her people down when she blessed L.A. Pride with a resilient and reliable presence.
"There was a certain somberness, but once you were there, people were still celebrating life. My mindset was a little shaken—I hadn't heard about it until I was leaving my hotel, on my car ride to PRIDE, and I was taken aback—but I have a tough exterior. Being homeless [and] my life struggles in general, it's like, 'the show must go on.' I was trying to remain professional and make sure the people that I was around remained in good spirits because we had a job to do. But we'd talk about it in private, like, we can't let that get us down. I did think, what's this anger that's built up in everybody? What is this domino effect that's happening? I'm just glad to see that the community came together to pay respects."
Michael Blume: The self-proclaimed "progressive R&B" singer is a New Jersey-born, Yale-educated, New York resident (and gay man) who isn't afraid to deliver messages—be they on self-love, relationships, or injustices—through his music. Met with the task of performing just hours after news of the tragedy broke, Blume notes that he recognized his responsibility to the masses.
"It was definitely a challenge to balance the mourning I needed to do personally with the call to do my job, which is to be an artist, to heal, to unite, to lead through music. It was so great to be there with everyone—the vibe at the festival was super positive. I think everyone knew what was up—we were not going to let fear and violence get the best of us. If anything it's the moment to be prouder and louder than ever."
"My heart is of course very heavy - this was hateful crime of an an attack of the queer community, especially queer POCs. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims and their families."
Rilan: The New Orleans-raised singer, who you may have seen on the final season of Glee, has been described as a "male Lady Gaga meets early Bowie" and saw his debut EP produced by Dallas Austin. Though he performed at PRIDE on Saturday, hours before the mass shooting occurred, he recounts the emotional aftermath.
"I performed on Saturday and the energy was incredible. Everyone was carefree and happy like they should be. Sunday, I woke up to the news. I was shocked. I still am. Between the Orlando club shooting and the armed man arrested Sunday morning en route to the LA Pride Parade, I felt unsafe. I kept thinking that it could have been me and my friends early Sunday morning. It makes no sense to me how someone could target an entire community of people during a time of such joy and celebration. I think the best way to cope with this tragedy is to be unafraid, to be proud, and to persevere in the face of adversity, and that is exactly what Los Angeles did. Sunday's Pride continued, with a heavy heart nonetheless, but it continued. The LGBTQ community has a particular resilience that should be admired and celebrated. I like to think that Sunday's festivities honored those lives lost."
Tyran Brown: Having made waves among college audiences after writing for Wiz Khalifa, finding a mentor in G.O.O.D. Music's poet Yusef Malik, and dropping both an applauded mixtape and EP, the Los Angeles rapper was invited to take the stage at L.A. Pride, an event he had never been to before and had, admittedly, had a hard time developing a set for upon hearing the tragic news.
"The only thing I could relate something like this to, being a young Black man, is when I see the Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Mike Brown situations. The way I was enraged and infuriated, the way I looked at how certain people get away with certain things. My mood around those periods of time affected my psyche so much that I didn't wanna enjoy myself, so being ignorant to how L.A. PRIDE worked, I didn't know what the mood was gonna be: Do I really wanna go up there and tell people to have fun? But when I got there, I saw that everybody was still in good spirits, as good spirits as they could be. I just didn't wanna disrespect anybody or make anybody feel like I was making light of what they were mentally going through."
"What it did was heighten my awareness of how much hate somebody can have in their heart. It wasn't for me to make gay or bisexual or trans people feel comfortable or accepted because, for me, it's not about acceptance; it's about everyone understanding we all bleed the same blood, we're all human beings, everyone has the right to make their own decisions in life. My thing is gettting the hip-hop community, getting heterosexuals that have any kind of discomfort about LGBT to realize that it doesn't define a person."
DJ Lancia: The owner of Vanity Affair Entertainment, DJ Lancia's mix of electronica with pop, hip-hop, R&B, and reggae has made her a mainstay at some of Los Angeles' premiere nightclubs. She recalls the wavering mood of the masses and their desire to stay uplifted.
"I heard about the shooting from my father who texted me first thing in the morning. I read about the attack on Facebook and couldn't believe it; I thought, how could this have happened? And I didn't believe it was an ISIS attack, I thought it was strictly a homophobic group targeting the club. I wasn't afraid to perform at PRIDE [though] until I heard about a suspect being arrested in Santa Monica on Sunday. I received several calls and texts from friends and family telling me to be safe. Once there, the local police and staff were on high alert. They checked everyone's vehicle and person before entering the grounds. My girlfriend and I made sure to stay together in case something happened. The morning energy backstage and among PRIDE-goers was pretty low. People seemed to be in better spirits as the day went, [but] it was difficult to celebrate such a wonderful event when something as tragic as a mass shooting happens, so the early crowd wasn't in a dancing mood. People were basically happy to be there, but saddened by the loss of our brothers and sisters. Everyone I spoke with was fighting through their emotions and trying their best to celebrate and keep their spirits up."