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Houstonians talk about what Pride means: ‘love, acceptance, celebration’

Houston performer Adriana LaRue

Photo: courtesy

Pride is defined by Merriam-Webster as “delight or elation arising from some act, possession or relationship.” But for the LGBTQ+ community, it’s come to mean much more — this month and throughout the year.

For trans performer Adriana LaRue, it means “love, acceptance and celebration” for everyone around her.

Lady B, a drag queen who performs original music, equates it with her first parade experience. “It was contagious,” she says. “I felt so much joy and happiness.”

Members Houston’s LGBTQ+ community and its allies mused on what Pride means for them:

Emilio ‘Coochie,’ singer and rapper

Coochie, who released his album “Tuggin” this year, calls Pride “a celebration of authenticity and resiliency.” He is also Megan Thee Stallion’s digital creator.

“LGBTQIA+ people face adversities and challenges every day for simply living in their truth and being unapologetically themselves. Pride allows us to let our guard down and truly honor ourselves in an environment where we feel safe and at home,” he says.

Houston LGBT+ Pride Celebration 2022

The 44th annual festival will feature rapper Coi Leray and “Finally” singer CeCe Peniston. Gates open at noon June 25, festival runs to 6:30 pm at City Hall, 901 Bagby. The parade will follow, 7-9:30 pm Tickets run from $5-$250.

Sarah Pepper, co-host of the Morning Mix on Mix 96.5 FM

Pepper, who grew up in smalltown Indiana, attended her first Pride Parade in Houston 14 years ago. But she remembers it “like it was yesterday.” She holds close the “amazing group of women” she met within months of moving here.

“I remember being nervous and anxious. I don’t know why, I had spent almost every other Saturday at Chances,” Pepper says of the popular lesbian bar that closed in 2010. “Something about it had my stomach moving in all sorts of ways.”

Once posted up at the parade, it took about 30 seconds for Pepper’s worries to disappear. The sights and sounds of her gave her goosebumps.

“There were rainbows everywhere, and everyone was so happy. Moms supporting daughters, brothers supporting siblings. Moms giving out free hugs. Dads supporting their own kids and other kids who weren’t getting that at home. It was so much love that it was almost overwhelming,” Pepper says.

She made new friends, got bar recommendations and, despite not being a hugger, got lots of hugs.

“For that person, it may have been the first hug they had that day or that year. For me, it may have been the hug they knew I needed but would never ask for,” Pepper says. “You could see in the eyes of those marching in the parade and those of us who were spectators what that day meant — to be seen for who you are and to be loved for it.”

Since that day, Pepper has participated in the parade and even hosted when it moved downtown. But she’ll never forget that anxious girl in her 20s, “trying to find her perfect cargo shorts and just wanting to be seen and loved.”

Michael Chiavone, Mr. Gay Texas America 2020

Chiavone says 2015 was the first year he truly felt like he was part of the Pride celebration. He was runner-up in the Pride Superstar singing competition and performed on the festival main stage in downtown Houston. It was also the day after the marriage equality ruling.

“It’s the first time I felt like a star, and the first time I felt seen by my city as an entertainer. I’ve carried the confidence I gained from that competition and that day with me in my career ever since. It was a pivotal moment in my queer life,” he says.

Amanda Solis, singer and Selena tribute artist

Pride means many things for Solis, who has performed at celebrations in the past. Most importantly, it’s a show of support for her best friend, hair stylist Ryan Cash. The two met in second grade.

“I always knew he was just like me. We liked a lot of the same things,” she says. “Even though he was a boy, he was my sister. It was just a bond we shared. As an ally, I proudly celebrate diversity in this world, where it is much-needed. Regardless of what you believe or think, nobody should make you feel ashamed of who you are or what you stand for. Pride to me is saying, ‘This is who I am, and I’m proud of it.’”

Christina Wells, singer and ‘America’s Got Talent’ semifinalist

Wells, who has been an out lesbian since 2003, says one of her favorite moments was performing during the festival in downtown Houston as the 2016 Pride Superstar winner. She regularly wows crowds with her roof-raising voice.

“Standing on that stage with my friends in rainbow robes while I sang Madonna, I felt proud and the gayest ever,” she says with a laugh. “We all struggle with being seen as we truly are, and I am grateful for the knowledge that I am not responsible for everyone’s opinion of me. I just need to be Christina, and the rest will fall into place.

Abri, pop singer

For April, Pride Month is the most wonderful time of the year. She attended for the first time in 2015 and was in “awe” of the feeling of acceptance.

“Y’all are a continual inspiration to me,” she says of the LGBTQ+ community. “It’s incredible how supportive everyone is of pop artists, even at their humble beginnings.”

Her single “Panic” was inspired by trans pop star Kim Petras. A new single, “Outlet,” will be released next month.

Reign Larue, drag performer

Pride to me means to be fearless,” says Reign, who entertains crowds multiple times a week in Houston. “Pride to me means to wake up each day and live your life authentically you, knowing people have paved the way for me to do so freely. I am proud to be a gay Latin single. Celebrate you because there’s no one else like us.”

Xavier Garza, queer fantasy artist

During high school, Garza fantasized about living in Montrose and where it would take him.

“I wanted to be a rock star, a glamorous burlesque performer and wanted to share my artwork with the world,” he says.

He made it happen in 2016 and moved into that “artistic, big ol’ gay part of Houston.” Garza entered a singing competition and performed in several burlesque shows at Numbers and other clubs. He’s also a terrifically talented artist, drawing everything from classic pinups to superheroes to dinosaurs. You can see his art by him on Instagram @garzapinups.

“Knowing that you’re not alone can make existing feel so much better. Pride shows that you can live life unapologetically,” Garza says. “I hope that sharing part of my story helps at least one person to never give up and to always live with Pride.”

Isaac Niaz, pop singer

Niaz grew up with a Muslim father and a Christian father. They divorced when he was three years old, setting the tone for much of his life.

“I saw turmoil, I saw neglect, I saw love with stipulations. I saw distraction and grief. Every now and then, I saw glimpses of happiness,” he says.

He spent years battling depression and was even suicidal. It was then he had a revelation.

“I was never allowed to truly express myself musically, authentically, in any way. “I had to put on a mask every day for 28 years to make other people happy.”

Inspired by his best friend Paige and her resilience as a queer person, Niaz finally came out at 28 years old. He says it’s the most difficult thing he’s ever done and also found strength in Australian singer Troye Sivan’s “Blue Neighbourhood” album.

“My whole life I was teased. I was called racial and homophobic slurs,” he says. “It’s so very important that the LGBTQ+ community has a platform to speak our truth. Pride shouldn’t be just one month. It should always be celebrated until we don’t have to anymore. We can just exist in the narrative of this world without fear, hatred or danger.”

Darren G. Davis, founder of TidalWave Productions

Davis never thought he would get married until he found Daniel Sene. They were married three years ago this month to kick off Pride. The couple was walked down the aisle by pop star Debbie Gibson. Alyson Sullivan, who starred as the Yellow Power Ranger in an iteration of the TV series, officiated the wedding.

They’ve had their share of challenges. Two of Sene’s brothers passed away. Davis’ mother dies of cancer, and his brother is battling brain cancer.

“Today, I was feeling really low after coming home from seeing my brother struggling to walk. Daniel embraced me into a hug and said, ‘We are in this together.’ I could not ask for a better partner, husband, cheerleader, best friend,” Davis says. “It makes me feel so proud, not only for the month of June, but for the life we ​​share.”

Lou Ridley, ‘anti-country’ country singer

Ridley was born in Houston but grew up in Southlake, a suburb of Dallas/Fort Worth infamous for its racist history. At the time, she was surrounded by “people who pushed the narrative of separation, exclusion and a false idea of ​​what it meant to be a Christian.” It was n’t until Ridley moved to Los Angeles that her sense of self de ella and others underwent a seismic shift.

“It was a gay man who hired me to work for his design firm. He it was a gay man that would go on to teach me about my worth, self-respect and healing my trauma. He it was a gay man that gave me the tools to survive, ”she says. “It was a gay man that let me dive head first into running his nonprofit, which is now a gigantic part of my identity and purpose. He it was a gay man that gave me the strength to get back into music. The LGBTQIA+ community saved my life.”

Ridley has never returned to her hometown since leaving. And she doesn’t miss it.

“My hometown was wrong, and if you’re being taught anything close to what I was taught, your hometown is wrong, too,” she says.

Tanya Nolan, R&B singer

“We are here,” says Nolan, who appeared along her wife in a music video. “We have always been here, and we are not going anywhere.”

As a child, Nolan was taught being attracted to someone of the same gender was a sin. She told herself it was the devil’s

“This is my life, and I am going to live it how I want to. I am legally married to a beautiful woman, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. It is acceptable to me, and that is all that matters,” Nolan says. “I applaud everyone in the LGBTQ community who is living their truth. I stand with you.”

Tommie Ross, transgender, pageant and drag pioneer

Ross, who is known for her Diana Ross illusion, says her proudest Pride moment was being named Female Identifying Grand Marshal in 2020. She is the first Black trans woman to earn the title.

“I love all the visibility and the opportunities the LGBTQIA+ are experiencing,” she says. “But I also realize we have much more ground to conquer and obstacles to overcome.”

The Pride Parade was canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19. So Ross will finally take a winner’s ride Saturday through the streets of downtown Houston.

Paul Luna, rapper

Luna wants to be an openly gay rapper on mainstream radio. But he grew up “confused” about who he was. Music helped him find his way. He now performs regularly at clubs around Houston.

“It’s not just a part of me, it is me,” he says. “Being able to show the world who Paul Luna is, being a role model to our community, it’s life-changing,” he says. “We are all a family, and my reign has just begun.”

Blackberry, drag performer and host

Janet Jackson’s “Together Again,” a song she wrote to honor friends who died of AIDS, is a song that encapsulates Pride for Blackberry.

“It is a song of hope, joy and serenity. The lyrics help motivate me when I am feeling really low or alone in this world,” Blackberri says. “Seeing a major pop star doing something for the LGBTQIA+ community and the queer people in her life is inspiring. Knowing that we have an ally with such a huge platform as hers is inspiring to this day.”

joey.guerra@chron.com




  • joey war

    Joey Guerra is the music critic for the Houston Chronicle. He also covers various aspects of pop culture. He has reviewed hundreds of concerts and interviewed hundreds of celebrities, from Justin Bieber to Dolly Parton to Beyonce. He’s appeared as a regular correspondent on Fox26 and was head judge and director of the Pride Superstar singing competition for a decade. He has been named journalist of the year multiple times by both OutSmart Magazine and the FACE Awards. He also covers various aspects of pop culture, including the local drag scene and “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

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