“Thank You, Madonna”: Inside LadyLand Festival This Pride Weekend

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On the final Saturday of June, nearly 20,000 gays pulled up under the Kosciuszko bridge in Brooklyn to celebrate Pride month’s biggest bash yet, LadyLand Festival, where despite the pouring rain, they screamed and revelled between three stages until the early morning. After headliners Arca, Tokischa, Sevdaliza, and Bob the Drag Queen tore their sets, they mounted the stage to judge a ballroom performance, where the queen of celebration herself, Madonna, made a surprise appearance as a judge. Kevin Prodigy and Dashaun Wesley MCed the ball, which was creative directed by Ricardo Gomes and Geordon Nicol, and Madonna’s 11-year-old daughter made her DJ debut as DJ QUEEN ESTERE, after which our social editor Julian Ribeiro grabbed some VIPs to give us the rundown on the surreal night.




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JULIAN RIBEIRO: How was it being on that panel with Madonna?

ARCA: Well, I felt like a fish in water. I was where I needed to be, where I was meant to be, by mother. 

RIBEIRO: What was the crowd giving?

ARCA: Well, the rights of people are under siege. As a population, we have to band together. Whenever there’s a surprise about the amount of energy and passion that is born from an event, it’s an important symptom to check the pulse of moments where we need to unite. 

RIBEIRO: I couldn’t have said it better. What is your favorite Madonna moment?

ARCA: I used to perform to my entire family when I was eight or nine years old to “Erotica.” It was my favorite song to sing for my family. I had a very big family in Venezuela, lots of cousins and uncles. At one point someone was like, “You can’t sing that anymore.” Then I had to hide so much of myself for so long. When I hear those songs, it reminds me of keeping a connection alive to my authentic self.

RIBEIRO: What are you doing after this?

ARCA: I’ll go wherever the wind takes me. I have a good balance of discipline and introversion and exploration and extroversion. Maybe I’ll grab a snack before sleeping, but if there’s somewhere to go dance for a little bit after this, I might stop by.

RIBEIRO: All the girls said they were going to Paragon.

ARCA: I wouldn’t be opposed to that.

RIBEIRO: Do you have a go-to drink when you play?

ARCA: Rose champagne. It has to be champagne and it has to be pink. With turmeric. I do a splash of turmeric because it has some properties that are beneficial to health.

RIBEIRO: The smoke machine on stage—

ARCA: It’s a cryo gun.

RIBEIRO: What is a cryo gun?

ARCA: A cryo gun is a mechanism through which I can symbolically enact the catharsis of a full pressure release. People tend to love it, and I love it even more. Honestly, it just gives me a rush to see the fumes and the smoke billowing and creating volumes and silhouettes. It adds a very hypnotic effect to the show. 

RIBEIRO: It looked satisfying. You’re fabulous and we love you. This isn’t a question, it’s a statement. 

ARCA: I feel like I’m doing great. I’ve never enjoyed my life more than I do now. I think there were so many things that I held off on embarking on, so many decisions that I postponed out of fear of spontaneity without filtering myself, without parsing myself, regardless of the static and the misunderstanding that that might sometimes bring within the collective. I feel more free and full of love now than I have ever before.

RIBEIRO: We feel it. Thank you, Arca.





RIBEIRO: You were terrific tonight. Everyone was loving the set. What was it like to be judging with Madonna?

SEVDALIZA: I always see Madonna as my mother in the industry and she’s always been so supportive towards other female artists and the queer community. The way she brings people together is very inspiring and that’s something I’m doing in my own music. She doesn’t see other women as competition. She doesn’t treat the community in that sense. She just wants everybody to be together. And she’s mother.

RIBEIRO: What was the crowd giving for you? I feel like the only one wearing a shirt.

SEVDALIZA: It’s an amazing crowd. But honestly, New York City Pride is the best people in the world.

RIBEIRO: I mean, Madonna said so. What’s your favorite Madonna memory?

SEVDALIZA: I remember that I saw the video of “Like a Prayer” and I was really small, but everybody was shocked about how she was controversial. But I was already watching like,”Oh my god, slay.” I just felt that passion and that fire. I always wanted to become a singer when I was young, so I was like, “One day that’s going to be me.”

RIBEIRO: What are you doing with the rest of your night?

SEVDALIZA: Baby, I’m going to sleep. I’m on antibiotics for a dental infection.


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RIBEIRO: Wow, that was a spectacular show. What was it like to give everything under a bridge in Brooklyn?

IVY MUGLER: It was really exhilarating. It was a different type of space to show ballroom culture. I’m so glad that we were able to bring it to a festival setting and celebrate pride month together. 

RIBEIRO: How did it feel to win?

MUGLER: It felt really great because I got to work alongside my team, with some of my best friends and with my House. I got to choreograph alongside the Miyake-Muglers and it was a fun family moment.

RIBEIRO: Everyone was really locked in. What’s your favorite Madonna moment from the past?

MUGLER: Well, I first started working for her because I was a dancer on her tour and her concert was the first concert I’d ever attended. Seeing her in person in Madonna mode was just so inspiring, and from then on, I understood what it was to be a performer. So it was a full circle moment.

RIBEIRO: I attended The Celebration Tour, it was incredible. What are you guys doing for the rest of your night?

MUGLER: Just chilling, smoking, drinking, and doing what you should do after you win any ball: chill with your family.



RIBEIRO: This is my first LadyLand.

LADYFAG: That’s homophobic.

RIBEIRO: What was the crowd giving for you?

LADYFAG: I mean, it’s pride. My artists are already walking into a space that’s there to be happy. When you go out on a weekend, in theory, you want to have a fun time. On Pride weekend, you want to have the best fucking time you’ve ever had in your entire life.


LADYFAG: It was crazy, right? For the record, we are sitting in the rain under the Kosciuszko Bridge with cars driving over top of us with thousands of gays.

RIBEIRO: We got to give you your flowers for getting Madonna under a bridge in Brooklyn.

LADYFAG: The flowers belong to her for agreeing to do it. And she did it. That is why she’s the queen.

RIBEIRO: Do you think people were ready? I think everyone’s breath stopped for a moment when she came out. 

LADYFAG: Yeah. Half the people knew and half the people didn’t, because we never announced it. She just walked up on stage.

RIBEIRO: After following up a massive tour.

LADYFAG: She went from playing the biggest concert of all time to playing my little queer music festival under a bridge in Brooklyn, and that’s why she’s a fucking queen, because she has a finger on the pulse. Madonna forever.

RIBEIRO: Do you have a funny Madonna memory? 

LADYFAG: When I was young, the Like a Virgin album came out and all my cousins at a family dinner were like, “Are you a virgin?” And I was like, “No.” And they were like, “Haha, you are not a virgin.” I had no idea what the word virgin meant. Madonna taught me what the word virgin meant. Thank you, Madonna.

RIBEIRO: That’s incredible. 

LADYFAG: The whole trajectory of my life went from there.

RIBEIRO: What do you want to say to the young gays who couldn’t come tonight?

LADYFAG: Find a fake ID and come next year.

RIBEIRO: Period.

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