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Tegan and Sara, iLoveMakonnen, Big Freedia, More Talk LGBTQ Representation in Music at Billboard-THR Pride Summit

A collection of pop stars and songwriters gathered on Thursday, August 8, at the 1 Hotel in West Hollywood for Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter’s inaugural Pride Summit. Hayley Kiyoko, Tegan and Sara, iLoveMakonnen, and Big Freedia headlined the daylong event’s music program with a conversation about their experiences in the industry.

The panel—who graced Billboard’s 2019 Pride issue—addressed with refreshing candor the changing climate for LGBTQIA+ musicians, the listening public’s persisting prejudices, the complicated nature of queer-focused media, and much more.

“I went through a lot of traumatic experiences,” Kiyoko revealed. “People wouldn’t sign me.”

“I got a lot of resistance from major labels,” added Freedia, who, after years of independently producing bounce music in New Orleans, was signed to her first major label deal with Warner’s Asylum Records in 2017. “It created more opportunities, but it also let me know I need to continue getting out there and do me,” she said. (Freedia also announced the same day that she’s kicking off a North American tour in October.)

Tegan Quin, who will be touring in September to support Tegan & Sara’s new memoir and upcoming album, best captured the panel’s conflicted tenor. “Support can be dangerous,” she said. “We should be careful not to celebrate [queer artists] into their own room.”

The summit, which was organized by SPIN’s sister publications, also convened Ariana Grande collaborator Victoria Monét, country hitmaker Shane McAnally, and pop mainstays Teddy Geiger and Justin Tranter for a panel about the opportunities and challenges facing LGBTQ songwriters.

“There’s not a lot of people in my circle I can talk to,” Geiger said.

Tranter, formerly of Semi Precious Weapons, noted the importance of behind-the-scenes inclusion: “There are other places for you to exist in this business.”

During the summit, Trixie Mattel, Blair St. Clair, Peppermint, Manila Luzon, and Alaska Thunderfuck also discussed drag artists in the music industry and Warner Music’s newly announced distribution deal for all five of them.

Pose cast members Hailie Sahar, Indya Moore, Angelica Ross, Dyllón Burnside, and MJ Rodriguez closed the summit with a panel about the hit FX series about ballroom culture.