This year marks the 50th anniversary of the riots at the historic Stonewall Inn, where LGBTQ+ members of the New York City community fought back police raids of one of the few spaces for queer folks in the city. This year, World Pride is being held in New York City, making it even more special for so many people celebrating. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Pride, eight queens from RuPaul's Drag Race took part in a gorgeous photoshoot by Marco Ovando, in which they each represented a color of the original Pride flag. You can check it out here.
In an exclusive interview with VH1, we asked each of the iconic queens present who their favorite LGBTQ+ trailblazer/icons are ahead of this year's Pride kick-off. Here's who they shouted out!
"She is this beautiful trans woman who is making noise, especially within the queer community where trans lives are still often forgotten. And especially in the drag world where trans people aren’t always accepted even though they were the ones who paved the way for us. I think she is really just making waves in a community that has been so under-appreciated, and so unseen, and so unheard because no one was giving them their voice. So Munroe Bergdorf is my queer pride marshal!"
"Generally I tip my hat to anyone who is living their truth and living out and proud, especially in the face of adversity globally," Peppermint explains. "But this year in particular with the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, it’s really important that I continue to use my platform to amplify the stories and shine light on the stories of trans women of color who aren’t even with us anymore. It seems like almost every day we are hearing a new story of a murdered or slain trans person and these are just the stories that we’re hearing about. And so it’s really important that while I entertain people and keep them smiling, we remind them that there are so many people struggling, even in our country, in our cities. And so I pay homage to the collective spirit of resilience that the trans community carries in the legacy of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall."
"Definitely one of my pride icons has to be Sylvia Rivera."
"She was involved in the Stonewall riots and it was really inspiring because she was a drag queen and she’s part Puerto Rican — it just really represents me and I’m just thankful that she was there. I feel like she kind of still lives in me and her message lives through me. It's just really in inspiring knowing that we were there. Us Latinos, us Puerto Ricans, we were there every step of the way and it just encourages me to keep on moving and we need to keep on spreading this message of love, of acceptance."
"That’s a tough one because there are so many!" Tatianna, tells VH1. "I guess if we’re gonna be old school…Madonna! She has always been around and she has always been an advocate. She’s so inclusive and, yeah, Madonna. That’s a solid answer."
Tatianna isn't the only one who wanted to show Madonna some love. After some consideration, Detox said, "Madonna is obviously a go-to to me because she’s my queer icon even though she’s not queer. She’s just such an ally. I’ve grown up with her. She’s been one of our biggest supporters for her entire career. Sylvester is another huge one. Divine! Ru of course! You know, it’s like, people who I grew up living for and allowed me to be comfortable with myself."
As for Sasha Velour? "For me, it’s a drag king named Stormé DeLarverie who is the person supposedly who threw the first punch at the Stonewall riots."
Sasha explains, "They were the host of a really successful drag show that toured America is the '50s through '60s called The Jewel Box Revue, that was maybe the predecessor of Drag Race if there could be something like that. So I love that this person was so much a part of sharing the art of drag and queer people’s creativity with mainstream audiences and at the same time literally led the fight for LGBTQ and especially trans and non-binary liberation. And the fact that Stormé wasn’t—and still is not—written into our history books enough. That is why I feel like drag performers need to be the historians and keepers of our history. Otherwise people will forget. We need to be vigilant about our past heroes because they really did change the world."
Jujubee wants us to remember Marsha P. Johnson. "We can’t forget Marsha," Jujubee explains, "Because she was part of the movement at Stonewall that really was the catalyst for Pride."
"We celebrate Pride today and I feel like we need to remember why we do it. And of course it’s very commercialized and that’s the way a lot of things get, but the message of love and community is there and she’s the reason for it. As a black trans woman in this community, in society’s eyes, she’s the last to person to be thought of because of who she is and because of her color and her identity, but she started this whole movement for us and this is why we’re doing this. We’re celebrating Pride and the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. It’s huge."
Bob the Drag Queen
Bob the Drag Queen had a few Pride icons, but landed on Marsha P. Johnson and RuPaul. "The truth is, I feel like there’s so much mystery surrounding Marsha P. [Johnson], but I just love her story," Bob says. "Like, she’s — I mean, I know the nuances she has are probably more than we've given her in our tellings, but for me she’s this really cool icon. She’s just this name that you hear about a lot and you read about. It feels like something that you read about and it was 100 years ago, but it wasn’t. It was 50 years ago. My mom was alive when it happened. So she’s a really big inspiration for me."
"And also, I know it sounds cheesy, but RuPaul means a lot to me. Seeing black people change the path of queer history, it means a lot to me. RuPaul’s essentially been at the forefront of the last two revolutions of drag. Like, when she did “Supermodel” it blew up and when she did Drag Race it blew up again. Talk about the comeback queen."
For more amazing content from these fierce and fabulous queens, click here!