While kicking off the second leg of “The Special” tour in Knoxville, Tennessee, on Friday, Grammy Award winner Lizzo invited a group of drag performers, including several “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum, to call attention to the state’s new law banning drag performances.
Lizzo shared a videos of her speech and performance via her social media accounts as she led the performers onstage, where she spoke to the crowd directly about why she felt it was important to take a stand.
“In light of recent and tragic events and current events, I was told by people on the internet, ‘Cancel your shows in Tennessee,’ ‘Don’t go to Tennessee,’” Lizzo said, as they booed. “You don’t have to boo that person. Their reasons were valid.”
Lizzo continued: “But why would I not come to the people who need to hear this message the most? … Why would I not create a safe space in Tennessee where we can celebrate drag entertainers and celebrate our differences? And celebrate fat Black women?”
“What people are doing in Tennessee is giving hope,” the artist added. “So thank you so much for standing up for your rights, protecting each other and holding the people accountable who should be protecting us.”
A few of the performers who appeared onstage were former “RuPaul’s Drag Race” all stars like Season 10 winner Aquaria, Asia O’Hara, Kandy Muse and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo.
In early March, Tennessee became the first state to ban drag shows in public places. The state’s Republican governor, Bill Lee, signed a bill that banned “adult cabaret entertainment” on public property or in locations where it can be viewed by minors, including “topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators, or similar entertainers.”
Critics of the law, which went into effect April 1, say that categorizing drag as “adult entertainment” automatically deems them sexualized performances. They also argue the language surrounding “male and female impersonators” is inherently anti-trans. At least a dozen other states are considering similar anti-drag legislation.
A federal judge has since temporarily blocked Tennessee from enforcing the ban on public drag show performances just hours before the new law was set to take effect, saying it was likely “vague and overly-broad” in its restriction of speech. Meanwhile, at least a dozen other states are considering similar anti-drag legislation.
Lawrence Yee contributed to this post.