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Lizzo brought an army of queens to protest Tennessee’s anti-drag law

Lizzo with drag performers onstage in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Lizzo with drag performers onstage in Knoxville, Tennessee. Photo: Screenshot

Lizzo brought an army of drag performers to the stage at her Knoxville, Tennessee, concert on Friday night to protest the state’s anti-drag law.

RuPaul’s Drag Race alums Aquaria, Kandy Muse, Asia O’Hara, and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo joined the singer onstage at the Thompson-Boling Arena along with over a dozen local Tennessee drag performers.

“Support your drag entertainers!” Lizzo told the crowd at the end of the show-stopping number.

In early March, Tennessee became the first U.S. state to pass a law aimed at banning drag performances in public spaces when Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed the state’s Senate Bill 3 into law. The law would ban “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest” from appearing “on public property” or “in a location where the adult cabaret performance could be viewed by a person who is not an adult.”

A federal judge in Nashville temporarily blocked the law on March 31, ruling that the law “is likely both vague and overly-broad” and that it would bar businesses that host drag performances “from engaging in protected First Amendment expression” under threat of criminal penalties.

The law has received widespread condemnation from LGBTQ+ advocates and allies. During her Friday night show in Knoxville, Lizzo explained her decision to perform in Tennessee despite calls to boycott the state.

“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,’” she told the crowd.

“Their reason was valid,” she added, telling the crowd not to boo the request. “But why would I not come to the people who need to hear this message the most? The people who need to feel this release 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?”

“Thank you so much for standing up for your rights, protecting each other, and holding the people accountable who should be protecting us,” she concluded.

Over the weekend, Lizzo posted several video clips and backstage photos from the Knoxville show, thanking all the drag performers who joined her onstage.

“Thank you so much for the platform for me and the Drag Race girls and especially for uplifting the queens on Tennessee!” Aquaria commented on one post. “Those ladies are all so strong and brave and I know tonight was definitely the best of a tricky situation for everyone. Thanks for shedding light for our friends who definitely need our hand these days. We appreciate it.”

On Twitter, Daily Wire host and professional transphobe Matt Walsh reposted video from the concert.

“Throw her in jail,” Walsh wrote of Lizzo.

Lizzo isn’t the first high-profile musician to protest the Tennessee law. In March, Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan and James McNew appeared in drag onstage at a show at Nashville venue The Basement East. Sheryl Crow, Maren Morris, and Hozier were among the line-up at the March 20 “Love Rising” concert benefiting Tennessee Equality Project, Inclusion Tennessee, Out Memphis, and the Tennesee Pride Chamber in Partnership with the Looking Out Foundation at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. Meanwhile, Madonna recently added a Nashville stop on her upcoming “Celebration” tour with opener Bob the Drag Queen specifically calling out the state’s anti-drag law and pledging a portion of the proceeds from the show to organizations advocating for transgender rights.

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