Drag performers will always have a place on Lizzo’s stage, the “Juice” artist declared during her Friday show at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn.
The Grammy winner took the stage for the second half of The Special Tour, and brought out drag performers like Aquaria, Kandy Muse and Vanessa Vanji, per social media posts of the concert.
“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 during a pause in her set. “Their reason was valid, 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?”
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Lizzo’s speech was met with applause from the crowd. She thanked the people in Tennessee for “standing up for your rights, protecting each other and holding the people accountable who should be protecting us.”
In an Instagram comment, Aquaria wrote of being included in the performance, “Thank you so much for the platform for me and the drag race girls and especially for uplifting the queens on Tennessee! 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.”
Back in March, the Republican-led Tennessee state senate passed the bill restricting “adult cabaret performances” in public spaces where children may be present. Under the new piece of legislation, which was quickly signed by Governor Bill Lee and went into effect on April 1, drag performances are prohibited in venues that are accessible to minors.
Lizzo has spoken out about this issue before. In March, she used social media to raise awareness of the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, which also includes banning gender-affirming care.
The singer also released a gender-affirming shapewear line called Your Skin through her brand Yitty, which included chest binders and tucking underwear. A statement on the Yitty Instagram page read of the new line, out in summer, “When we say we support every body, we mean it. We believe in radical self-love for people of all gender identities — including the trans, non-binary, gender-fluid and gender non-conforming communities that have been chronically underserved. So, we decided to take our expertise and create styles that serve those very same communities.”
That same month, Lizzo tweeted her thoughts on the bigotry she has seen in recent years.
“I’ve never heard a person say why they’re racist… Or fatphobic,” she shared. “I’ve never heard a reason why someone is transphobic.. I think if we knew ‘why’ these people felt this way there would way less support for these ideals. Because the ‘why’ is more insidious than we realize.”