Queen Latifah Hosts Long Beach Pride
Long Beach came alive this past weekend for its annual Pride celebration. The weekend was jam packed with events across the city, from the Pink Party kicking things off Friday evening in the downtown area, to the festival occupying the Pike. The two biggest highlights remained the always-popular parade and the much-anticipated performance of Queen Latifah -- as much for her performance as for what she might reveal on stage.
Earlier this month the Internet was abuzz with news that Queen Latifah had been selected and agreed to headline the 29th annual Long Beach Gay & Lesbian Pride festival. That murmur was eclipsed by a roar when days later the blog, www.SandraRose.com erroneously interpreted the press release announcing the Grammy-winning, Oscar-nominated singer and actress to perform her first-ever engagement at a Pride celebration anywhere in the world as confirmation of her long-suspected lesbian identity.
Once the buzz died down, all eyes were on Latifah’s twitter feed for her to confirm or deny the rumors, but Latifah and her people stayed quiet on all fronts and fans showed up with baited breath for Latifah’s performance on the main stage on Saturday.
As she stepped on to the Bud Light Main Stage at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, she said she was thrilled to perform for "her people." She didn’t provide any answers to questioning fans, but didn’t disappoint with her performance. Throughout the show she instructed the audience "to conquer hate with love" and to "let their inner light shine in the world." Between songs, Latifah also admitted, "I’ve been waiting to do this for a long time."
She performed her hit single "U.N.I.T.Y." as well as "Ladies First," the Al Green cover "Simply Beautiful," and "Everybody Loves the Sunshine," to name a few. Her performance was high energy and she beamed throughout the night.
Since her debut on the hip-hop music scene in 1989, Queen Latifah has broadened her talents to the genres of R&B, pop, jazz, gospel and musical theatre, as well as into TV and motion pictures. Her turn as conniving prison matron Mama Morton in the 2002 film version of Chicago scored her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She has also starred in such movies as "Bringing Down the House," "Beauty Shop," "Last Holiday," "Hairspray" and this year’s "Joyful Noise."
In 2008, Latifah told The New York Times, "I don’t feel like I need to share my personal life, and I don’t care if people think I’m gay or not." She’s long been linked to fitness trainer Jeanette Jenkins in the press.
Those who wanted to continue their Pride celebration were treated to The Long Beach Gay Pride Parade that started with a roar Sunday morning.
The tradition of starting the parade with the roar of motorcycles continued with dozens of lesbian motorcyclists -- including members of clubs Dykes on Bikes, the L Riders and Chrome Divas -- leading the pack of parade entries west along Ocean Boulevard in the 29th annual event.
Thousands of spectators lined Ocean between Lindero Avenue and Alamitos Avenue cheered and celebrated the more than 100 entries. Organizers estimate that nearly 35,000 people lined the streets to witness the parade.
Long Beach Pride is also the second-largest gay pride event in Southern California, after West Hollywood’s celebration. It is the fourth largest pride event in the nation, behind San Francisco, New York and West Hollywood.
Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride, Inc. was established in October 1983 and produced the first annual Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Festival & Parade in June of 1984. The Board of Directors felt that, with such a large gay and lesbian population, there was a need to increase awareness and to promote PRIDE and a greater sense of self-worth within the community.
Additionally, the Board felt it important to facilitate greater cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between the lesbian and gay community and the community of Long Beach.