Music

Ariana Grande and Manchester Pride Live 2019: the Right Person to Headline?

It has been recently announced that pop star Ariana Grande will be headlining Manchester Pride this year - but is it right to have a heterosexual headline an event that celebrates the LGBT+ community? Charlotte and Lauren discuss this issue.

I remember reading the news the night of the terrorist attack on Manchester Arena. I stayed up into the early hours until it was clear that this was a directed act of terror on my hometown in which twenty-two people lost their lives.

This isn’t an article about the Manchester Arena attack. It’s an article that, I hope, can act as a reminder as why we all need to stick together and stop looking for reasons to alienate each other. I’d like to talk about why I think it’s wonderful that Ariana Grande is back in Manchester to headline Gay Pride.

In a statement on Twitter addressing the discussion around her headline slot, Grande states via Twitter: “I want to celebrate and support this community regardless of my identity or how people label me. and also I wanna visit a city that means so much to me.”

She also points out that the raised ticket prices were decided by Manchester Pride. In fact, the money from tickets goes to charity, supporting LGBT+ communities and causes in Greater Manchester. In addition, the Manchester Pride Live concert is only a small part of the Manchester Pride Festival. You can celebrate pride without attending this event.

As a straight cisgendered woman I understand that my understandings of the world are different to members of the LGBTQ+ community, and I’d like to point out here that I do not intend to offend anyone. With that in mind, I reached out to a couple of my close friends who are members of the community to see what their thoughts were on Grande headlining Gay Pride.

My close friend (and quite frankly an inspiration), Alex told me: “Honestly I’m okay with it, she has kinda become an icon in the LGBT community without meaning to… I think she can be seen as quite empowering too.”

Anna, my friend from college who attended the 2018 event commented that: “I think it’s silly when the LGBT+ community tried not to involve the heterosexual community. It’s meant to be about the inclusivity of everyone… the only issue I have is ticket prices…”

“that is the biggest problem: when your sexuality becomes the only thing you are defined by”

I can understand why the community may be angered by a straight woman becoming the face of their event, but as Grande has stated herself, she is not trying to become the “hero of the community”; she is trying to support the cause and bring people together, and personally, I cannot see a problem with that.

In fact, when researching for this article, I looked to see who headlined the event last year (Rita Ora), and then proceeded to see if I could find out their sexuality. For me, that is the biggest problem: when your sexuality becomes the only thing you are defined by. It’s an important part of you, yes, but should it be the first thing people see, even before your talents?

“[Pride is] a celebration of a community that has suffered and been sidelined for too long, and it’s a celebration of Manchester”

Overall, I’d like to look at this event as a celebration. It’s a celebration of a community that has suffered and been sidelined for too long, and it’s a celebration of Manchester. I’ve seen first-hand how Grande, an honorary citizen of Manchester, helped to bring people together after the arena bombing. I can’t think of any Mancunian who wouldn’t be incredibly proud to have her headline such a wonderful event in our city. If this is an event that is about inclusivity, shouldn’t that be what matters? We need to look at what divides us and find a way to close that gap, and this event is doing that regardless of the sexuality of the headline act.

Charlotte Evans

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Whilst I appreciate Ariana Grande’s personal connection to Manchester and significance of her performing there, is the performance of a cisgendered, heterosexual singer appropriate at an LGBT+ event?

“Pride began as a protest, but the increasing commercialisation of Pride has commodified this event”

The backlash to her announcement as headline act is surely a sign of how overly commercialised Pride has become, of which members of the LGBT+ community have every right to  be upset about. After all, Pride began as a protest, but the increasing commercialisation of Pride has commodified this event into a source of profit. Generations of political protest and activism have allowed us to even celebrate Pride so openly in the present day, and in many countries globally this is still not possible.

That is not to say that cisgendered and/or heterosexual allies cannot be involved in Pride, but must be conscious of the oppression experienced by members of the LGBT community and how long it has taken for legal changes etc. Therefore having heterosexual and cisgender headline acts is highly problematic as signals a lack of understanding by organisations.

“Would it not be better to offer such headline acts to lesser known musical acts within the LGBT community?”

In a statement on Twitter, Ariana Grande notes other high profile, heterosexual and cisgendered singers who have previously performed at Pride, yet this is indicative of how Pride is viewed as an opportunity for profit through high profile acts. Last year, Brighton Pride, one of England’s largest Pride events, was headlined by Britney Spears. Such high profile acts attract casual fans in search of cheap tickets, who otherwise may have no interest in attending Pride. Would it not be better to offer such headline acts to lesser known musical acts within the LGBT community?

Equally, this risks Pride no longer being a safe space, as some attendants may not support LGBT rights and simply be after tickets. Likewise, even if the tickets are cheaper than a regular concert, there is still a price hike which affects the LGBT community the most, with Pride originally intended for their benefit. For instance, prices for Manchester Pride have almost trebled in price, increasing from £30 to £71.

Ariana Grande is also scheduled to headline this year’s Coachella festival in America, and the owner of which is known for funding anti-LGBT groups. Last month NME reported that two transgender attendees of Coachella allege that they were denied across to toilets corresponding to their gender identity. This indicates a lack of interest within the music and festival industries in meeting the needs of a community they claim to provide entertainment for.

Lauren Winson

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Sources used (price increase of tickets) available here.

Featured Image courtesy of torbakhopper via Flickr.

Image use licence here.

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