In honor of Pride month and the 50th anniversary of Pride, eight of the most iconic queens from RuPaul's Drag Race, took over The Stonewall Inn in New York City for a photoshoot by Marco Ovando. You can see the gorgeous shots here. When they weren't striking a pose, Bob the Drag Queen, Detox, Tatianna, Jujubee, April Carrión, Milk, Sasha Velour, and Peppermint all recounted their very first Pride experiences. From accidentally stumbling upon a Pride parade in New York City at seven years old to walking the full parade route after a long night at the club, these Queens will never forget their first!
Bob the Drag Queen
"I was in high school. I might’ve been a sophomore or junior in high school," Bob tells VH1. "My mom took me to Pride in Atlanta and the closer you get, the gayer it gets. It’s in Piedmont Park in Atlanta. The closer you get, the gayer it gets and I remember seeing these two very tall, very similar looking guys. Like, twin boyfriends. Or 'dopplebangers' as we call them. And we were at this place called the Mellow Mushroom--it’s a pizza spot right outside of Piedmont Park--and I remember being like…My mom didn’t tell me, she just took me to Pride, and we were walking through and I just kind of realized, like, everyone here is queer. Everyone here is queer. And I don’t have to code switch and I can just relax."
"In high school, I think it was my junior year, DC used to have a youth pride event where it would be at a night club and it was from like 7-10, all of the youngsters were able to have their first club experience. I didn’t do the festival or anything, but I remember that was my first taste of “Oh, wow. A whole bunch of gay people in one, solid place.” I think that was like 2004 or 2005, I want to say. It was crazy. I was like, “Oh, every person in this room is gay or some kind of queer or something?!” Because I was always used to being the only gay around, so that was pretty cool."
"Okay, my very first Pride was actually with my brother, my older brother, because he is also gay and we went to Pride together in Puerto Rico and it was super fun. We went to the West side and it’s kind of like a Fire Island kind of feel to it. Oh my god, and it was crazy. I mean, we did a march and everything, very pretty and very commemorative, but afterwards it’s just like so pretty just seeing everybody being so loving to each other and being free and being able to walk together and taking a whole town by storm and appropriating it for ourselves which is very empowering. It’s just like, “Bitch, we’re here! We’re fierce!” And just like giving it, serving it—It’s just so good, it’s so free. So that’s why, like, later on I felt the need to start doing drag because it was just empowerment. I needed to be a voice for these feelings, this pride, being queer, being Latin, and being saucy."
"My first, first pride experience was when I was a kid. I grew up in Syracuse, New York, and on long weekends or if we were out of school, my parents would take me and my brothers to New York City to just show us that there are a lot of different people that are living in this world and that roads lead out of Syracuse. You don’t just have to stay there. So we came to New York during the summer, it was for my birthday in June. June 23rd. And it’s always during Pride. So we were here for my birthday and we were running late. I was probably like 7 years old, and we were running late to a Broadway show. In order to get to the Broadway show, we had to cross 5th Avenue...And it was Pride! It was the Pride parade! So, there I am. Not sure of who I am, but I am this little boy who figure skates, off to see a Broadway show with his family, and we have to run across 5th Ave, it is my birthday, and I remember crossing and I asked my mom what parade that was and she was like, 'Oh, that’s the gay pride parade!' That’s always stuck in my head."
"My first Pride experience was when I was in New York as a college student and I was working at a nightclub and every Saturday night we worked at the nightclub until four or five in the morning. It was The Tunnel nightclub, and the next day was Pride. It was my first pride and we all got matching rainbow spandex horrible spandex outfits that were sewn by Miss Feather, we had a convertible, we took our heels, and we marched all the way down in heels, the entire parade route, which was longer 20 years ago! And I remember seeing the people on the side screaming and hollering and feeling so proud. It was thousands of people, and there was all this energy, but what’s ironic is that since there were barriers and we were on the ground walking, it was the most serene, peaceful, zen feeling ever because it was just calm. They were excited, but we were calm and that was just kind of the opposite of what you would think when you were watching a parade."
"My first Pride parade I was in Orlando and I had just turned 18 years old. I had been out for a while but it was the first time that I went out for a Pride—maybe I was 17…I can’t even remember. I know I was too young to get into bars and I know because I went to every bar I could get into and got toed the f-ck up. It was so much fun and, being in Orlando, they have a huge gay community. At the time it was the early 2000s; it wasn’t a huge parade like it is now and there were still a lot of protesters, but it was something for me as a young, queer kid to have that moment to be out and proud and unabashedly gay. And it’s kind of always been my intent since then to be like 'F-ck that. I want to be me and be very, very queer and very loud about it.'"
"My first Pride was in Urbana, Illinois, where I grew up. It was just an afternoon in a conference hall inside the student union. Four tables with vendors with like, free condoms and literature and I went as a high school student. I was maybe 14." Sasha tells me later, "I think I obsessed over what pants and glasses I was going to wear that day...just to look like a basic high school student."
"And I had never been around even another person who—maybe, like, an adult friend of my parents—not to mention 10-30 people who were comfortable saying “I’m gay,” “I’m bi,” whatever. That was pretty revolutionary for me because at the time I wasn’t there myself. I think another function of Pride is that it’s scary to make bold steps on your own, and you don’t have to because there’s this whole community that’s going through the same thing."
"I believe it was Northampton Pride. Northampton, Massachusetts. I went to UMass Amherst, and that was the first time I ever did Pride and it was a spectacle for me because I’d never experienced it and there was so much happiness and love. There were a sh-tload of lesbians with their children and it was like, so family oriented. It was a different type of family than I remember having. So it was happy. It was sunshine. But I do remember it being hot. Like hot as f-ck. Hot AF."
Speaking of Pride, click here to see the queens celebrate Pride with an absolutely stunning photoshoot at the historic Stonewall Inn in New York City.