KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — In a concert Friday night in Knoxville, Lizzo filled the stage with drag queens in a glittery protest against the state’s legislation designed to restrict drag performances in public.
While performing at Thompson-Boling Arena, the Grammy-winning “Juice” singer brought out a number of drag performers, including Aquaria, Kandy Muse, Asia O’Hara and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo. On Saturday, Lizzo posted videos on Instagram from the show, including comments to the crowd that referenced the pending law.
In early March, Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed the legislation against “adult cabaret” in public or in front of minors. A federal judge temporarily blocked the law in late March, saying it was too vaguely written. Civil rights groups have criticized the law as a violation of free speech.
The Tennessee law is part of a wider Republican effort to restrict drag shows and other LGBTQ+ public gatherings.
“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 the Friday concert. “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?” added Lizzo.
This story corrects the name of drag performer Vanessa Vanjie Mateo.