TORONTO — RuPaul inspired cheers and tears at Pride Toronto.
The gay RuPaul's Drag Race star delivered an emotional speech at the celebration Sunday, which reminded LGBT attendees of their worth.
"You are an extension of the power that created the universe," RuPaul repeated throughout the 15-minute appearance. He began his speech by reflecting on how attending his first Pride in Atlanta at the age of 21 first awakened him to this truth.
"It was the most beautiful day of my life, because I got to see my people living life with love and dignity and with everything I wanted for the rest of my life. And guess what? It happened," he said to the applause of the crowd at Tonge-Dundas Square.
RuPaul gave the same message to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth who were experiencing their first Pride.
"This is your family. You’re welcome. Yes. Yes. You can sit with us," he said, a reference to the inclusive slogan of this year's Toronto celebration, "You can sit with us." He also offered this advice: "Get to know your brothers and sisters. Get to know some of the older queens and transgender people who have been this path. Do it right now. We’re all here for you."
RuPaul's appearance had been a last-minute addition to the Pride festivities, which had run throughout the month of June. Organizers had invited RuPaul to attend a week beforehand, and he enthusiastically agreed to attend, due to the Canadian city's importance in his own life. He called it a "benchmark place" for his career.
"I jumped at the chance," he said. "It was actually 21 years ago that I signed a contract with Mac Cosmetics to become the first face of Mac Cosmetics. It was a dream come true for me. I was this little boy, I used to play with my mother’s makeup in the mirror, [and] she would say, ‘Ru, get out of my makeup!’ You know. So our thoughts are very, very powerful. I feel like I manifested that. I made that happen."
The drag performer's speech served as a capstone to an eventful day in Toronto, which included the historic march of Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, in the Pride parade. Black Lives Matter, which also marched, staged a sit-in for about 30 minutes in the parade route, until event organizers agreed to demands that advocated for more inclusion.
“We are under attack,” yelled Alexandria Williams, a Black Lives Matter cofounder, during the protest. “Pride Toronto, we are calling you out for your anti-blackness, your anti-indigeneity."
Victims of the recent shooting of the gay bar Pulse in Orlando were also honored and remembered throughout the event. The march began with a banner that read, "Orlando: We march for those who can't." Marchers carrying signs that were bearing the name and age of each victim followed.
Although RuPaul did not address Orlando by name, he spoke to the culture of fear that can create such acts of violence. He also offered a way to address it.
"A lot of people feel more comfortable with fear, and that’s unfortunate. And I want you all today, here in this beautiful square, to remember love, remember who you really are," he said.
"These freedoms that were hard-fought and won, they are fragile," he concluded. "In my lifetime, I’ve seen the pendulum swing both ways. Make sure that you tell your story to your family, to your brothers and sisters here, so that we can continue this power, this love, and this experience for generations to come. I love you, and I’ll see you next time."
Watch the speech below.