A crowd at the mainstage of L.A. Pride 2016. This year's headliners include Brandy, Chromeo and Aaron Carter.
A crowd at the mainstage of L.A. Pride 2016. This year's headliners include Brandy, Chromeo and Aaron Carter.
Hannah Verbeuren

L.A. Pride Still Has Big Headliners, but Also a More Community-Minded Attitude

"When it comes down to it, love is the centerpiece to my life," says Aaron Carter, one of the headliners for this year's L.A. Pride Festival, running June 10-11 at West Hollywood Park. "I think a lot of people can relate to the ups and downs of love."

This intense feeling of affection not only acts as a throughline for Carter's newest EP, the aptly titled LoVe, but also serves an unofficial theme for L.A. Pride 2017. This year's LGBT event, which commemorates the historic Stonewall Riots of 1969, is markedly more harmonious than last year's, when a coalition of queer community members, rallied under the mantle #NotOurPride, threatened to boycott the festivities. Their grievances included the decision by Christopher Street West, the organization behind L.A. Pride, to rebrand the event as a millennial-focused music festival at the alleged expense of older community members, as well as an increase in ticket prices and abbreviated lesbian and trans events.

"Last year, a group of community leaders made their concerns known and we heard them," Chris Classen, president of CSW, told L.A. Weekly via email. "Well in advance of this year’s planning, CSW has actively engaged these members, along with diverse, active volunteers to address previous issues, and create what is going to be a stellar Pride celebration for 2017."

Embracing the fierce female spectrum of the LGBT rainbow, pre-Pride festivities kick off on Tuesday, June 6, with the Women's Party at Staples Center hosted by WNBA champs the Los Angeles Sparks. Girl power is the focus again on Friday, June 9, when the annual Dyke March takes a lap around Santa Monica Boulevard, which will be immediately followed by the Trans* Party (yes, the asterisk is intentional) in West Hollywood Park. Even sober queer community members can find a safe sanctuary in which to socialize at #Sizzle, an alcohol-free oasis amid this LGBT bacchanal.

"I am so proud of what #NotOurPride accomplished," Peter Cruz, spokesman for the #NotOurPride coalition, writes via email. "As a result of our work, the city of West Hollywood convened two community forums for community members to give feedback on last year’s event and offer suggestions on how to improve future festivals. Also, the fact that CSW has refrained from marketing this year’s event as a music festival, festival ticket prices are lower than last year’s prices (though they could still go lower) ... and this year’s Friday night trans and lesbian celebrations will remain as free community events are, in my opinion, direct results of #NotOurPride’s advocacy."

While CSW and #NotOurPride may have begun with an adversarial relationship, they are now working as close allies, especially in transforming Los Angeles' traditional Pride Parade into the more politically fueled #ResistMarch as LGBT rights face renewed threats, both at home and abroad. In Chechnya, government forces are currently rounding up gay men and torturing them in modern concentration camps. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has opted to snub National LGBT Pride Month by refusing to issue any public statements on the subject.

"Anyone who thinks this administration isn’t affecting the LGBTQ community is simply not paying attention," Classen writes. "We are immigrants, we are Muslims, we are consumers of health care, we are victims of gun violence. The #ResistMarch is a time for the entire community and our allies to show the world that we remain a united family dedicated to equal rights for all."

When it comes to hardships, Aaron Carter can empathize. Earlier this year, the 29-year-old singer announced that he suffers from a hiatal hernia, a condition that affects his appetite, resulting in an emaciated physique.

"Basically I have an eating disorder," Carter tweeted to his fans back in April. To combat his condition, he prescribes self-love. "The less stress the better," the pop star advises with a chuckle. "Avoid problematic situations however you can."

Aaron Carter
Aaron Carter
Madison Parker

Carter will be sharing the L.A. Pride limelight with fellow headliners Chromeo and Brandy, the latter being a personal favorite of Cruz's.

"I would love to see Brandy perform on Sunday!" Cruz gushes. "Her album Human is one of the few albums that I can still listen to from start to finish. If I have enough energy after the march, I will definitely go to the festival to see Brandy."

Hopefully Brandy will have enough energy to be there as well. On June 2, the R&B darling was hospitalized after losing consciousness aboard a Delta flight. She has since been released and is said to be recovering.

"The stress of all of the traveling and working so incessantly has exhausted her," read a statement issued by Brandy's publicist, Courtney Barnes. "She will be relaxing for the next few days."

Among the other artists scheduled to perform at this year's L.A. Pride are two who are openly queer: iLoveMakonnen and Young M.A.

"Young M.A. is a big win for us this year," Classen boasts. "She has been a force in the hip-hop world, flipping gender roles and making a name for herself in a such a male-dominated genre. Publicly announcing his bisexuality in 2016, iLoveMakonnen has also been a strong presence in the community of LGBTQ artists."

And of course Carter will be there, crooning for his queer fan base. Just don't crush on him too hard; he's taken.

"[My latest album is] about finding a new love with someone who is incredible and makes me happy every day," Carter says, "the love I currently share with my beautiful girlfriend, Madison."

No matter how you were born, Aaron, the gays will love you for who you are.

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