For the first time, New York City is hosting WorldPride, and it officially kicked off the celebrations Wednesday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Nearly 8,000 people cheered a the three-hour spectacle that included performances by Cyndi Lauper, Chaka Khan, Billy Porter, Sara Ramirez, Todrick Hall, and more. Starting the night off was activist, actress, and cohost of The View Whoopi Goldberg, whose speech began the night with exactly the right tone.
“We have Pride because so many strong and frustrated and queer people got loud and brave enough to say, ‘Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! I am a human being!’” she proclaimed to the crowd. “The Stonewall uprising led to five days of protest. We were in the streets protesting. We were protesting in people’s faces, and you know what, we are still protesting, but the difference is today is that we are backed up by WorldPride. This has evolved into a global movement.”
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson also graced the stage, with an exuberant message, reclaiming the decadence of New York City with such zingers as “We are the greatest city in the world. We gave you Barbra Streisand, J.Lo, and Whoopi Goldberg.”
Laverne Cox and stars from RuPaul’s Drag Race — including Bob the Drag Queen, Alyssa Edwards, and Shangela — also shook the crowd with impassioned words of hope and inspiration.
However, one of the standout performances of the night came from Sara Ramirez, who gave a tearjerking rendition of “Over the Rainbow” as the stadium camera panned across the stage, showing numerous LGBTQ activists.
Towards the end, she flipped the script and sang the lyrics in Spanish before ending with a standing ovation:
A few days earlier, on Monday, Variety hosted a slew of LGBTQ celebs to celebrate the magazine’s “Power of Pride” issue in partnership with Mercedes-Benz.
The night included Don Lemon, Hannah Gadsby, Billy Eichner, and former cover star Jim Parsons.
The annual Pride parade takes place Sunday, starting at noon at 26th Street and Fifth Avenue. Additional events have been announced on the WorldPride website.