A gala, a circuit party, a festival and a parade wrapped up Miami Beach Pride weekend from Sept. 17-19, capping off 10 days total of events spread throughout — the first ever in the history of the Pride organization, which originally launched 12 years ago in April 2009.
The inaugural Miami Beach Pride celebration took place with over 15,000 spectators, far surpassing organizers' expectations.
No official word yet as of Tuesday how many people attended the festival and parade, but David Sexton, director of stages for Miami Beach Pride, had this to say on social media Monday, the day after it was all over.
“Goodbye PRIDE 2021! I am hearing from so many people that they had an amazing time and that this celebration was so meaningful in this moment! That makes me VERY happy! The performers were amazing! So much talent on the stage! Not gonna lie ... backstage was challenging ... We definitely had our share of ‘Testicle Difficulties’ (as the legendary [local drag entertainer] Tiffany T. Fantasia called them. Lol) We lost power, lost sound ... I even had to put out a literal fire onstage with a fire extinguisher when one of the speakers started to burn!”
Sexton continues: “The PRIDE Team fought like WARRIORS to overcome the challenges! Love them all! As I reflect on the weekend, I feel like it's all a big metaphor ... we are in CHALLENGING times! We can't let the obstacles break us (or burn us!) We have to fight for our community and our country and our planet! Peace out!”
Miami Beach Pride weekend started Friday at the VIP gala, where the movers and shakers of the South Florida LGBT community gathered together to drink and mingle while enjoying brief, intermittent comedy bits from “Queer Eye For the Straight Guy” and present day “RuPaul’s Drag Race” panel judge Carson Kressley, who served as host of the event.
“We haven’t been able to celebrate Pride in person for a while. This was a smaller event, but still really amazing to gather our community,” Kressley told South Florida Gay News in an exclusive interview. “South Beach is always a great time, so I thought why not show up? … I did the virtual Pride last year. [Officials] told me then hopefully we’ll be able to gather again, so here we are, and I said ‘of course, I’d show up.’”
Kressley wasn’t the only celebrity to make an appearance at the gala. Former American professional football player and “The Voice” contestant Esera Tuaolo, who was this year’s Advocate Marshal, performed covers of Andra Day’s “Rise Up” and Keala Settle’s “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” soundtrack. “American Idol” alum and season two top five finalist Lashundra “Trenyce” Cobbins also brought the house down with her covers of the Diana Ross and Whitney Houston tunes, “The Boss,” “I’m Every Woman” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
Trenyce told SFGN in an exclusive interview that “Whitney and Diana get people going become they are the rom dom of divas. If you even attempt to sing their songs people are like ‘ok, you gotta bring it’ and I’m one of those people that I feel like they inspire me, they’re the blueprint and why wouldn’t I cover them?” Trenyce said though Celebrity Cruises brought her out to Pride this weekend, she has been committed to her LGBT fans since her days on “American Idol.”
“The LGBTQ community rallied behind me when I was on ‘Idol’ because Simon [Cowell] called me a drag queen — but it was the best thing he could’ve ever done because I gained the best fans in the world and I continue to support you all. I love you, love you, love you deep. Don’t change for anybody ever, and continue to be your fabulous selves. I’ll continue to bestow pride upon all of you, as well.”
On Sept. 18, day one of the two-day festival in Lummus Park featured music and performances from world-class DJs, entertainers and celebrity entertainers on two stages, including Latina headliner and Mexican singer-songwriter Paulina Rubio. There were also vendor booths, food and a finale of fireworks. That same evening, DJ's Paulo and Joe Gauthreaux had people dancing all night at URGE Miami Beach Pride. VIP tickets included quick entry, plus access to an upstairs viewing area and private bathroom, as well as a dedicated bar to purchase drinks without standing in long lines. URGE events were required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours. Among the attendees at URGE was Jason Rodriguez, who played Lemar Wintour on the hit FX show, “POSE.”
In an exclusive interview with SFGN, Rodriguez said he was invited by Miami Beach Pride to help organize the first-ever ball that has been a collaboration with the ball scene and Miami Beach Pride. The ball took place Thursday at the same location — the site of the old Mansion and other mega clubs of the day — where the VIP gala took place one night later.
Rodriguez added that this year’s Pride had a nice show of “happiness, prideness, queerness and transness. It can’t get any better than that, so I’m happy to be here. It seems like I’m not the only one. I notice people are happy to be around each other and to love one another.”
On Sept. 19, the festival continued with performances by “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum Latrice Royale; American house and dance music singer and songwriter Crystal Waters, best known for her 1990s dance hits "Gypsy Woman," "100% Pure Love" and 2007's "Destination Calabria" with Alex Gaudino; and lastly late ‘90s and early 2000s R&B songstress Mýa, who did a $20 meet-and-greet and CD signing with fans above the Hotel Gaythering bar.
Regarding Mýa, Juan Sanchez, vice chair of the Board of Directors at Miami Beach Pride, said he has “met and dealt with so many people in the entertainment industry; but this young lady, Mýa, is a true class act. That is all.”
Sanchez added Sunday on social media: “[I’ve] been working with the best for years, but this year I get to see it from a whole new perspective,” he, a former detective with the Miami Beach Police Department, said. “[The] festival [is] open. Come see what the best team in the biz has in store for you. HAPPY PRIDE 2021!”
A parade of 50+ floats and walking participants — the signature closing event of Pride — attracted spectators from all over South Florida, the United States and abroad.
“I’m a big supporter of the community, although I’m not a member myself,” said an ally named Tenisha, who was visiting Miami from New York for the weekend. “I’m here in Miami having a good time and just showing my support.”
Victor Diaz-Herman of Pridelines and the Miami Beach Pride Board said it “felt amazing to have this gathering after being gone two and a half years without a Pride, having the community come together like this — not only to support Miami Beach Pride but to celebrate our individuality and our sexuality and our gender identity. It’s just amazing. So, we’re glad to have been able to bring it to you in 2021 and we’re excited to do it again in 2022 in April.”
Veronica WildChild, founder at Spectrum Wellness 360, said, “This was a Pride to remember!”
“Thank you to Miami Beach Pride staff, volunteers and the board of directors for bringing such a week of expertly curated events that offered something for all of the LGBT community,” WildChild said. “Thank you to the vendors and sponsors who provided amazing products and services on site; thank you to event security and local law enforcement who protected us and kept us safe; and most of all, thank you to the attendees who came out during this crazy time to be a part of something bigger than ourselves! The stories I heard and the people I connected with this week were transformational!”
Sanchez had said previously this year’s festivities were bringing 10 days’ worth of events “for the first time ever. We have never done that before.”
Though there is no official statement from Pride as of Tuesday evening, Sanchez did share the following on his Facebook page Monday: “Well a little battered, bruised, a melt down or two, but Pride 2021 is behind us. Once again I’m in awe of a team who just never gives up. I could not imagine being on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride without them.”