Charlotte Pride highlights queer talent in 2019

Entertainers at This Year’s Festival Dish on Their Art and Community

The Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade is just around the corner — and with it comes an awesome line-up of entertainment on both the Wells Fargo main stage and Truliant Federal Credit Union community stage.

For the second year in a row, Charlotte Pride’s organizers have put an intentional focus on attracting entertainers who represent a broad and wide spectrum of the LGBTQ community. Like last year, the Wells Fargo Stage headliner is a member of the LGBTQ community, and so are the overwhelming majority of entertainers taking to the stage!

Charlotte Pride asked short Q&As with many of its entertainers this year. Hear from some of them below — including their thoughts on the LGBTQ community, their art and their inspirations. Want to read more from Charlotte Pride entertainers this year? Be sure to check out the new Charlotte Pride Magazine, distributed across the city right now, or visit charlottepride.org.


Betty Who

Charlotte Pride: Especially important this year with the Stonewall 50th Anniversary, Pride festivals are the opportunities for LGBTQ folks to see themselves visible and proud of their identities. What does Pride mean to you?

Betty Who: Pride, to me, is about community. It’s about representation and seeing people who are living their lives authentically and proudly and being inspired by that and trying to bring more of that to your own life.  We excite and inspire each other through the celebration of love and joy.

Can you talk about your identities and how they inform your music and your artistry?

My strangeness, my individuality, my bisexuality, my queerness… It’s all a huge part of what informs my art. I want to tell inclusive stories as well as explore myself through art-making. Playing with different character-versions of myself through song and film have proved to be an amazing outlet for experimentation. It’s a really safe way for me to explore and discover parts of myself I didn’t even know were there.

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Frequently, we see news stories about violence against trans women of color, discrimination from governmental and healthcare agencies toward trans and queer people, conversations of homelessness, and a huge array of obstacles facing our community. What do you believe are some of the most important issues facing our LGBTQ community that need more attention? What are some issues that you are personally most passionate about?

I think it’s important to not forget about those in our community who are still seeking representation, legislation and acceptance. Our fight is not over and we have so many more hearts and minds to change. We have to stick together and take care of each other.  We’re all on the same side and want the same thing — for everybody to be able to live as they choose, in whatever body they feel most at home in, with whatever partner makes them happy.


TT The Artist

Especially important this year with the Stonewall 50th Anniversary, Pride festivals are the opportunities for LGBTQ folks to see themselves visible and proud of their identities. What does Pride mean to you?

TT: Pride is all about taking a chance and being unapologetically you! Every Pride festival brings people of all backgrounds together to celebrate and uplift the voices of the LGBTQ community.

Can you talk about your identities and how they inform your artistry?

My art and identity are influenced by culture and the people around me. When I am making my club music I like to think about who the song is for. It can range between delivering a vogue track for all the queens to serve the runway with, or my own personal narratives.

What do you believe are some of the most important issues facing our LGBTQ community that need more attention? What are some issues that you are personally passionate about?

Homophobia and bullying are huge issues that many LGBTQ+ people face. The amount of people committing suicide, as well as murders and harm to the LGBTQ+ community, has always struck a deep place in my soul. Through the arts and media, I think we can create resources and a universal language promoting tolerance, peace, understanding, unity and love to fight against these issues.


Courtney Lynn & Quinn Henderson

What are you hoping audience members and event attendees take away from either your performance or the event as a whole?

Courtney Lynn: Oh, gosh. I feel like I could say a 150 different things for that question. I remember my first Pride festival. I wasn’t out yet. I wasn’t out to my friends or my family. Nobody. It was the first time I had ever gone and I was totally wrapped up in the love and the support. Looking back, now being in a happy marriage, I think if there’s anything that I hope people get, it’s hope. We’ve come a long way as a community. There’s still, obviously, a lot to be done. But events like these are a nice moment to stop, to hope, to enjoy love and enjoy each other and feel supported.

Quinn Henderson: I hope that what we bring is a message from our music that shows the love that we have for one another as openly as we do. But not just that — also that we can show a younger generation that just because sometimes you can feel lost or alone in a world that can be scary, there are still people who will wrap you up in love and support. We want young people to know that it’s okay to be who you are and it’s okay to love who you love. It’s okay to be open with yourself.

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Kristen Merlin

What do you believe are some of the most important issues facing our LGBTQ community that need more attention? What are some issues that you are personally passionate about?

Kristen Merlin: The fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States has come a long way since the Stonewall uprising. However, there is still a ways to go regarding discrimination with parenting, employment, housing, public accommodations, health care, criminal justice and our homeless youth.

An issue that I’m personally passionate about is the lack of equality in the country music establishment. I’ve been a part of this community for over a decade, yet I still feel that I’m kept in the shadows and looked at as a “risk” and that I don’t belong.

You’re an artist — and often in the spotlight. Visibility is a key component of Pride events. Why do you think visibility and awareness is important?

Change comes with numbers. The more of us that show up, the more we can have an impact for change. We can also become more visible by banding together and writing to our Senators and pleading that the Equality Act be passed.


Kristin Collins, 2018 Ms. Charlotte Pride

What is your favorite “Pride anthem”?

Kristin Collins: “I Am What I Am” and “This Is My Life” speak to who I am. I’ve enjoyed them for years. However, more recently, “Love Wins” by Carrie Underwood has become my favorite. It speaks to the message I’ve wanted to deliver during my reign as Ms. Charlotte Pride.

When was it that you first starting doing drag, and why? What attracted you to the art form?

I first became interested in drag, while I was a theatre student at Western Carolina University, in the early ‘90s. I was attracted to the art form, because it allowed me to express myself creatively and in an arena that was accepting of it.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from doing drag?

I’ve learned a lot in the past 25 years as a drag performer. I’ve learned that competition brings out the worst in some and the best in others. I’ve learned that everyone has a place on the stage and that at the end of the day, we’re all here to make you smile, laugh and have a good time. Don’t take yourself so seriously and step away from the art form when it’s no longer fun. It’s okay to pull back and do a reboot.

What advice would you give to drag performers who want to get more involved in their community?

My advice is to look beyond your comfort zone, try something new, and use that to better yourself as an entertainer and as a community member. For me, I wanted to be the person I needed when I was younger. I took that statement and a charge to mentor younger entertainers and queer kids, volunteering with Time Out Youth and doing my part to make the LGBTQ community in Charlotte a better place.

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