Frankie Grande Shares ‘What Pride Means to Me’ Ahead of His Celeb-Studded Virtual Fundraiser
As the country and the world slowly opens back up after turning the curve on the COVID pandemic, Pride Month 2021 — much like the year before — will be full of virtual events for the LGBTQ community. Interspersed with live, in-person events in major cities across the USA, many of these virtual events are raising money for important causes and organizations. Case in point: Frankie Grande’s Rainbowthon, which returns to our Pride Month calendars for a second time on Thursday, June 3.
A star-studded concert benefiting the L.A. LGBT Center, Frankie Grande’s Rainbowthon began in 2020 after annual fundraiser the AIDS/LifeCycle was canceled. Grande, whom many know from his stint on the reality TV competition Big Brother and as the brother of a certain world-famous pop star, had raised money for and participated in the ride for two years. Hehad been hoping to make that ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles for a third time … before COVID disrupted everything.
But not content to pass up an opportunity for much-needed fundraising, the Rainbowthon was born. “When I wasn’t biking in order to raise money for this amazing organization, I decided I would do the other thing that I do well, which is put on a show,” he tells Hornet. “I invited my friends to come and sing and dance and raise money in place of my AIDS/LifeCycle ride.”
Last year’s Rainbowthon raised more than $50,000 for the L.A. LGBT Center’s invaluable services, many of which had been impacted by COVID.
This year, Frankie Grande’s Rainbowthon is again a star-studded event, with big names like JoJo Siwa, Jewel, Alexandra Billings, Laith Ashley and Shoshana Bean already having been announced, and — Grande assures us — of course a few surprises in store.
The concert will be streamed live across the L.A. LGBT Center’s social media platforms. You can watch it there and at rainbowthon.org, starting at 6 p.m. PT.
In honor of Pride Month 2021, Hornet asked Frankie Grande to share with us his personal relationship with Pride: its personal significance, its importance and his message to the LGBTQ community as we enter the month of June.
“What Pride Means to Me,” by Frankie Grande
I remember the first time I went to the Pride parade, because it was two years ago at World Pride in New York. (I was never up that early, queen, come on.) We were in the parade, my boyfriend and I, for World Pride, and it was just so unbelievable. I had celebrated Pride in so many different places in my life before — you know, taking part in the week’s festivities — but there’s something really special about celebrating Pride with my partner.
When I first started celebrating Pride, I didn’t even attend the parade. I would just go to the parties and the clubs. Because everything in the gay community gets dialed up to an 11 during Pride. My only relationship with Pride early on was “Cool, more parties, more fun, more reasons to go out. Am I at the right party? Am I at the right event?”
But it has completely changed for me now. Now I understand, what Pride really means is that I have a privilege: that I get to live my life out loud and proud, and that many people who came before me fought for Pride to be a thing, and they did not have that privilege. It still happens today, unfortunately, but it was much more common back in the day when Pride started for people to get gay-bashed and have hate crimes committed against them. Today I understand Pride to be an honoring of the people who paved the path so that I could live this life that is out and proud and gay, and so that I can — for the next generation and the generations after me — make their lives even easier.
Pride is about learning from the previous generations, and learning from the past so that we can brighten and clear the way for the future. Things are better now than they were at that very first Pride and at Stonewall, but they’re not the best. We still have a long way to go.
I am the gay member of my family, so I absolutely have been a model for them of the gay community. I had to go through the coming out process and journey with them. My sister was only 11 at the time, so she didn’t even have any real questions for me other than “Do you have a boyfriend?” She was so wonderful. But, you know, I had to navigate some difficult conversations with my mom and talk to her about several things that had to do with when she was raised, which was a very different time for the gay community.
When my mother was growing up, when she was clubbing and going out with her friends, it was the middle of the ‘80s. She lost many of her friends to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We had to navigate some difficult conversations around that and around her understanding of the gay community.
So I have been the example of “Pride” to my family, but also, I would not be able to be this example without my family. It’s very much a hand-in-hand situation. They have supported me so fully since coming out — embracing the rainbow nation that is inside me, and the glitter and the sparkles. You know, they’re such a huge component of why I feel so comfortable living the life that I do today. And at the same time, I have given them the gold standard of what it means to be a proud man in the LGBTQ community. They get to see it up close and personal every day of their lives.
I’m really hoping that I’ll get to attend some in-person events this Pride. I will be in New York for Pride Week, so I’m really hopeful there will be something I can do. And if not, I will be absolutely attending as many virtual events as humanly possible and getting out there on my social media platforms to tell my story and to make sure that I’m continuing to inspire the next generation to live their life loud, proud and unapologetically free, like I do all year, but just with a megaphone in the month of June.
So this Pride season, stay safe, have an amazing time, and celebrate who you are. Don’t get caught up in the boom boom kak kak of Pride. And remember that many people laid down their lives in order for you to have the celebration you’re having this year.