Lizzo said she was told to cancel her shows in Tennessee in light of the state’s anti-drag law, which bans “adult cabaret entertainment” in public spaces and where it might be seen by minors. Instead, she decided to invite drag performers, including RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni, to perform with her onstage at her Knoxville show.
“In light of recent and tragic events and current events, I was told by people on the internet, ‘Cancel your shows in Tennessee,’ ‘Don’t go to Tennessee,’” Lizzo said during her set. “We don’t have to go there… Their reasons were valid.”
Lizzo added, “But why would I not come to the people who need to hear this message the most, the people who need to feel this release the most? Why would I not create a safe space in Tennessee where we can celebrate drag entertainers and celebrate our differences? And celebrate fat Black women?”
Republican Governor Bill Lee — who also signed legislation banning minors from receiving gender-affirming care and prohibiting surgeries and hormone treatments for transgender youth — signed the anti-drag bill into law in March. Its reference to “adult cabaret entertainment” is vaguely defined as “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors” that is in line with existing obscenity law, but also “that feature topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators, or similar entertainers.”
Even before it was to go into effect, a lawsuit was filed alleging violations of the First Amendment, and April 1 — the day it was supposed to go into effect — a federal judge temporarily halted the ban.
The controversial legislation spurred several protests. Bands, including Yo La Tengo and Vandoliers performed in Tennessee in drag to protest. Many artists have spoken out against Tennessee and other states’ anti-LGBTQ bills and laws aimed at trans healthcare.
“What people are doing in Tennessee is giving hope,” Lizzo said on Friday. “So thank you so much for standing up for your rights, protecting each other, and holding the people accountable who should be protecting us.”