‘We found our own tribe’: West Hollywood draws thousands to inaugural Pride parade
Wayne Smith and Paul DelVecchio stood holding hands along Santa Monica Boulevard on Sunday waiting for the start of the West Hollywood Pride parade.
The two moved to the neighborhood in 1986 and haven’t missed a single Pride parade since. They’ve been together for 45 years.
“We walk down the street and hold our hands,” Smith said. “It’s incredible to us.”
The West Hollywood Pride parade began at noon Sunday as local LGBTQ Pride Month celebrations resume after a COVID-19 hiatus.
Singer Janelle Monáe served as the grand marshal, and Cardi B made a mid-parade surprise appearance, drawing cheers from the crowd who chased after her float as she sprayed whipped cream into spectators’ mouths.
Reality star JoJo Siwa, who came out as gay to her followers in 2021, was anointed the “Next Gen Icon” for the parade.
“I love you, JoJo!” screamed Gwen Karaba, 14, as Siwa danced her way past the crowd on a float decked out in a giant rainbow and silver streamers. Siwa pointed at Gwen and waved.
Gwen wore a striped rainbow suit, an outfit Gwen carefully selected at a vintage shop especially for the occasion. Draped behind Gwen was a lesbian sunset flag — a version of the flag made to be more inclusive of gender-nonconforming individuals.
“It’s my first Pride and I just love it so much,” Gwen said. “It’s just so exciting.”
They (the pronoun Gwen uses) came out as a lesbian a year and a half ago and as nonbinary last summer. Gwen pulled out a yellow, purple, white and black nonbinary flag from a purse when a trans organization’s float came by to show that part of their identity as well, they explained.
This year marks the first time the parade has been held since L.A. Pride split from West Hollywood and moved its festivities to Hollywood, hoping for a more diverse and inclusive event. West Hollywood opted to continue its own parade along its storied route, while the L.A. Pride parade will march down Hollywood Boulevard on June 12.
For the record:
11:12 p.m. June 5, 2022An earlier version of this report said the L.A. Pride parade will be on Saturday. It will be on June 12.
The parade route for Sunday’s free event ran along Santa Monica Boulevard, beginning at North Crescent Heights Boulevard and ending at North Robertson Boulevard.
“At this moment in history, with women’s rights and LGBTQ rights under attack, our icons stand as proud, outspoken beacons of light and hope for a better tomorrow,” West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister said in a statement before the parade. “West Hollywood has been the home of the largest Pride celebration in Southern California for nearly four decades. We’re looking forward to continuing that tradition this year for WeHo Pride.”
With more than 40% of residents identifying as members of the LGBTQ community, West Hollywood describes itself as being home to one of the largest Pride celebrations in Southern California.
Smith, 73, and DelVecchio, 68, said they live just a block away from the parade route and got married in 2008 at West Hollywood’s City Hall down the street.
“We found our own tribe, our own illogical family,” Smith said, gesturing at the rainbow-outfitted crowd in front of him.
Herson Portillo, who moved to West Hollywood from Boston three years ago, echoed the same sentiment.
“It’s been the friendliest city — the most gay-friendly city that I’ve ever been to,” said Portillo, 32. He marched in the parade with a group of employees from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, one of the parade’s sponsors and where he works as a nurse.
“There’s so many people out there that are living in the dark, that are scared to come out,” he said. “We’re just here for everybody in the community, no matter if you’re out or not.”
Gwen’s mother, Christina Karaba, said as a straight parent it was important for her to learn about the resources available for her child and give them opportunities to feel a connection with the LGBTQ community.
“All year it’s bad stuff I have to talk to them about,” Karaba said. “You get here and it’s just celebratory.”
The two attended Pride Night at Friday’s Dodgers game and have a host of other events planned for the month, including L.A. Pride and a Pride prom in Burbank.
Other WeHo Pride activities on Sunday included the Outloud Raising Voices Music Festival, which continued Sunday from noon to 12 a.m. at West Hollywood Park. The festival included musical performances by Years & Years, Muna and other artists.
Venice also hosted its inaugural Pride parade and festival Sunday at the Venice Beach Boardwalk and Recreation Center.
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