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Hayley Kiyoko & Drag Performers Take Stage After Undercover Cops Allegedly Threaten To Shut Down Concert

Hayley Kiyoko performs onstage at Élysée Montmartre on April 16, 2023 in Paris, France.

Hayley Kiyoko protested Tennessee’s anti-drag legislation by taking the stage at a Nashville concert with drag performers despite threats of being shut down by undercover cops. Kiyoko is a singer and actor who has long been an activist and icon for the LGBTQ+ community, even earning the nickname “Lesbian Jesus” from some of her fans. The singer has dabbled in drag herself, winning RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race in 2020, so it isn’t unusual for her shows to include drag performers. For her recent concert in Nashville, she planned to perform alongside two drag performers: LiberTea and Ivy St James.

She ended up taking the stage and performing with the drag performers without incident. However, she later revealed that the decision to take the stage didn’t come easily, as she had received threats of legal action due to Tennessee’s anti-drag bill. Tennessee Senate Bill 3 passed on March 2, 2023, and enacted a ban prohibiting “adult cabaret performances,” including “topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, or male or female impersonators,” from performing in front of minors. Hence, it will bar drag performers from performing in public, in any venue where minors could potentially view them. It also bans them from performing within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, or churches.

The bill has sparked outrage from the LGBTQ+ community and was even temporarily blocked on April 1 by a federal judge because the bill could violate First Amendment rights. The block remains in effect through the end of May. Despite the bill not even being implemented into law yet due to the block, Kiyoko and her performers were still reportedly challenged by Nashville law enforcement.

Hayley Kiyoko and drag performers defy law enforcement warning

After the concert, Kiyoko took to Instagram to explain what happened beforehand. She shared two emotional videos that were filmed just moments before her show. Kiyoko explained that she was doing a soundcheck for the show when an undercover cop at the venue approached her and warned her that because her show was for “all ages,” she couldn’t have drag performers join her onstage. She said she was warned that legal action could be taken if she did bring out the drag performers.

On the night of the show, she communicated the threats they had received to performers, but the performers weren’t phased and chose to go on stage anyways. Fortunately, no legal action was taken, and Kiyoko shared some powerful moments from the show while reiterating in her caption, “We will not be silenced.”

Kiyoko isn’t the only singer who has been protesting Tennesee’s anti-drag bill. Lizzo and Orville Peck both recently welcomed drag performers to the stage while performing in Tennessee to protest the law. Peck admitted to being “scared” to bring the performers on stage, while Lizzo recalled being told to cancel her Tennessee shows. However, both went on with their plans to advocate for the rights of drag performers to express themselves. Kiyoko’s situation was a little different, though, in that she actually received threats that the concert would be shut down. Even with the law on hold, it seems that Tennessee law enforcement is already trying to prevent such shows from taking place.

The Tennessee bill raises major concerns, as it is an outright violation of one’s freedom of expression. Additionally, it is just the first step in Republicans’ goal to ban drag performances in as many states as possible across the United States. It also raises fear of the LGBTQ+ community being silenced, threatened, harassed, and criminalized under the bill, and could gravely impact performers and businesses financially. Hopefully, the protests of performers like Kiyoko, Peck, and Lizzo will continue to raise awareness and dissent against the bill to ensure it never actually becomes law.

(via Billboard, featured image: Kristy Sparow/Getty Images)

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Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.