Lizzo defies Tennessee drag ban with help from iconic RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni

Lizzo included more than a dozen drag queens, including RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni, in her Friday night ((21 April) show in Knoxville, in defiance of Tennessee’s anti-drag law.

In an act of defiance against Tennessee’s anti-drag law, Lizzo has performed in the state with a whole bunch of Drag Race faves and local queens, and yes, it was iconic. 

Despite being advised by fans to cancel her Tennessee show due to the state’s oppressive anti-drag law, which bans “adult cabaret entertainment” in public spaces and where it might be seen by minors, Lizzo instead brought drag performers, including RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni, on stage. 

Taking to Instagram on Saturday (22 April), the “About Damn Time” singer proudly shared a range of moments from Friday night’s colourful performance at her Knoxville show, as part of the tour for her fourth studio album Special.

The star captioned one video: “Thank you to these beautiful drag queens for showing their pride in Tennessee”. 

Iconic Drag Race stars including season 11’s Vanessa ‘Miss Vanjie’ Mateo, season 10’s Asia O’Hara, season 10 winner Aquaria and season 13 runner-up Kandy Muse, who has joined the cast of the upcoming All Stars 8, joined Lizzo onstage – along with a whole host of local drag queens.

Lizzo also shared a clip of her powerful speech on Friday night, where the “Juice” hitmaker explains to a screaming audience: “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,’ ‘We don’t have to go there’.”

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The singer, who dazzled in a glittering green sequin jumpsuit that gave major regal vibes, continued: “Their reasons were valid. 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?”

Joyful fan responses to Lizzo’s heroic act of defiance have flooded social media, with one Instagram comment – which has garnered more than 7,000 likes – commending the drag queens for being “so strong and brave”. 

“Thanks for shedding light for our friends who definitely need our hand these days. We appreciate it,” the comment read. 

A fan who attended the show praised Lizzo’s decision and said that bringing the drag queens out was “one of the best parts of the night,” adding: “TN is not a scary place to be – the people who make decisions for us DO NOT represent us!” 

Other social media users shared their love for Lizzo and the stage “full of beautiful people”, with one commenter even calling for Lizzo to run for office.

“No one hits politics and pop culture they way Queen Lizzo does – Lizzo for president,” they wrote.

Tennessee’s oppressive drag ban – the first anti-drag bill to pass through US state legislature – would have come into effect on 1 April, but a federal judge, Thomas Parker, ruled to block Senate Bill 3 at the end of March, deeming the statute too broad to be enacted. 

The restraining order on the anti-drag bill has been extended until 26 May. 

Tennessee’s Senate Bill 3 aims to update an existing state law to prevent “adult-oriented businesses” from operating within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks or places of worship, including “adult cabaret performances”. 

The legislation defines these performances as which feature “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest”.

Those who breach the law face a misdemeanour for a first offence and up to six years in prison for subsequent offences, which would be labelled felonies.  

Lizzo’s world tour continues until 30 July, with more US stops and dates in the UK, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden and Luxembourg.

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