It’s the most yassiful time of the year! The soaked inner-city streets of Sydney are lined with rainbow paint to complement the copious sheer multi-colour curtains on shopfronts and there's a distinct increase in the faint scent of amyl nitrite in the humid air. The influencer cash is going straight to the gays, who are ready to flog everything from a vodka bottle with a rainbow sticker on it to letting their audience know there are some gay shows on TV for a week.
Except, this year, I can’t help but notice that there's a fair helping of non-LGBTQIA+ performers who are snapping up that rainbow cash to broaden the reach of 2022’s rainbow capitalism. It’s not exclusive to the Insta feed, either. It’s visible on a number of the unofficial party lineups across the city around the MG weekend, including artists I’ve followed for a while who’ve contributed nothing meaningful to supporting LGBTQIA+ communities.
I don’t want to name, shame & lecture, especially coming off the back of a time where so many artists and creators have been understandably desperate for a booking and the lure of being a part of likely the biggest party weekend in Sydney since 2020 Mardi Gras just scraped in before the pandemic is strong. However, active allyship has not been given a reason to become less of a priority, and sometimes that allyship can mean forgoing work to create space for someone who you know deserves it.
This goes particularly for privileged queer people. If you’re on five line-ups this weekend - did you have a think about opening one of those slots up by suggesting someone to bookers just as capable, but less platformed? Perhaps a POC creator, an artist living with a disability, or inviting those from outside the clique of Sydney queer nightlife. Whilst Mardi Gras itself has worked tirelessly for the last few years on the inclusion of those outside of the CBD, many bookers and brands outside of this space are continuing to book the same folks for every gig and campaign.
It is, of course, sensible business for the brands and gigs to do so, and to be fair, ongoing work with a creator is a win for all parties over transactional brand to creator relationships. Using reliable, trusted creators who’ve proven they’re good to work with for the brand and a consistent voice for them also helps with regular income for LGBTQIA+ creators. I’d just point particularly to the distinct lack of folks from regional and rural Australia involved in this stuff though. Creators who can easily feel isolated and unable to get involved. Queer culture is notably cliquey. It makes sense, stay around your trusted people. Anyone can hurt you. It’s natural as a queer person. But not letting other LGBTQIA+ creatives into that clique can be disastrous for young, non-metropolitan folks who, however talented they are, feel such a lack of access to events in the city that they put their creative ambitions to one side and feel they’re not going to be heard. The evolution of queer nightlife and queer culture needs to be intersectional and inclusive, and this needs to include those with disadvantages of location and access.
There are absolutely exceptions to this, and examples of brands and gig bookers who are absolutely doing this stuff right. For last year’s parade, Tinder & creative agency GROUND meaningfully platformed young LGBTQIA+ creators from regional Australia with the Pride Ride. In essence, folks entered on TikTok, a Priscilla-esque bus picked them up from places right across NSW and queer DJs performed the whole way to the SCG. While they were on the bus, anyone who opened TikTok that day was immediately greeted with advertising from Tinder platforming some of the regionally-based queer creatives who were on that bus.
Anyone opening Spotify this week is greeted by podcast and music playlists from queer creators including podcaster Mitchell Coombs and model + TikTok star Bambi Fairy, platforming other LGBTQIA+ creatives and their stories. Many of Spotify’s key in-house curated regular playlists have been shaken up for the occasion, whilst Apple Music’s PRIDE Radio show sits atop its list of hundreds of programs. Courtney Act’s noggin greets you on the Browse tab as the figurehead to literally dozens of LGBTQIA+ artist-curated playlists from Years & Years to Jesswar, Cub Sport, Mo’Ju and more.
And on the event side, one that’s regularly booking fascinating, irregular and truly diverse performers is House Of Mince, who’ll hold an Open Air event on Sunday. From self-described “NeoAfroFuturisticPsychedelicSurrealisticHippys,” the New York-based Illustrious Blacks to Nipaluna/Hobart-based DJ Mama De Leche who recently contributed to triple j’s Mix Up show - which has also done a great job with host Latifa Tee doing the work and platforming out-of-city creators - the line-up is refreshingly intriguing, diverse and genuine.
I’m just scratching the surface, but these are good examples also of a couple of brands who continue to platform and partner with these creatives across the other eleven months of the year. A good refresher and deep dive into the issues at the core of rainbow capitalism is the brilliant creator and presenter Kath Ebbs’ recent interview on Abbie Chatfield’s It’s A Lot podcast, whilst the formidable presenter, model & all round Social Media Hunk Louis Hanson explains the importance of consistent, ongoing brand partnerships and the shift away from transactional ones during his conversation with Do You Even Influence?.
I urge the brilliant people who are trying to create iconic events and partnerships to just dig a little deeper and think a little harder about the legacy that can be built from diversifying those you book and platform. Let’s see more Jamaica Moana, more JamarzOnMarz, even more Toowoomba-based Eurovision contestant Jude York who found his first glowing fans on SBS the other night. Pay their travel! And for creators and artists, when you’re offered a booking or brand deal, consider whether you really need to take this one, or if the brand is also going to work with other diverse creators. Earn your coins, but if you could create space for someone who needs it, have a night off.
Below is a short list of some excellent new songs from brilliant LGBTQIA+ creators to start your weekend right. Have a safe, happy, inclusive Mardi Gras.