With the Covid-19 pandemic canceling in-person Pride celebrations this year, brands have had to get creative with the production, programming and messaging of their alternative events and campaigns for Pride month. Condé Nast’s LGBTQ+ brand them. plans to celebrate the community and address relevant issues with a virtual event, Out Now Live.
Serving as Condé Nast’s kickoff to New York City Pride Week, Out Now Live will be broadcast June 22 on the brand’s website and social platforms, as well as YouTube Live.
The 1.5-hour program will offer speeches and stories from an extensive lineup of LGBTQ+ and ally celebrities and public figures. They include drag entertainers Aquaria, Bob the Drag Queen, Shangela and Sasha Velour; fashion figures Naomi Campbell, Michael Kors and Zac Posen; actor and playwright Jeremy O. Harris; and musicians Hayley Kiyoko and Tegan and Sara.
The lineup also includes Whoopi Goldberg, Cynthia Nixon, Billy Eichner, Nyle DiMarco, Julio Torres, Evan Rachel Wood, Lea DeLaria and Asia Kate Dillon. More talent will be announced closer to the event, and content will live online after the broadcast.
Whembley Sewell, executive editor of them., said the idea for Out Now Live was sparked by Themfest, the brand’s ongoing virtual music and arts series launched on Instagram Live in March that supports LGBTQ+ artists impacted by the pandemic. Based on audience response to the program, Sewell said her team landed on the idea of a global, virtual celebration.
“We hope this event is an uplifting, educational, inspiring and entertaining celebration honoring the legacy of Pride,” Sewell said.
The event will offer prerecorded content, with them.’s in-house team overseeing production, design and execution remotely. Participating talent will share their own experiences and definitions of Pride, as well as tell stories about the history of Pride and the LGBTQ+ rights movement. Sewell said her team reached out to past cover stars and brand partners, and vice versa, to curate the lineup.
“I thought it was essential we also tell the story of Pride alongside stories of figures from our community,” she said. “We’ve broken up the program so that while you’re watching, you’re learning about the deep, rich history of our community and how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go.”
The historical factor of the programming is especially relevant amid the ongoing global protests of police brutality against unarmed Black people and anti-racism demonstrations. As Pride festivals turn into Black Lives Matter protests this year, Out Now Live will address the current climate in messages throughout the broadcast.
“When we think about Pride and how we’re covering it, what’s happening in the world right now as it relates to anti-Black violence and police brutality is top of mind,” Sewell added. “I’m seeing a lot of people say right now that Pride is canceled or it’s irresponsible to be engaging in Pride. I don’t think that’s the case. I just think you need to be doing so in a way that best meets the needs of our community, especially for Black queer people.”
them. has also partnered with Pitchfork to curate musical performances for the event’s virtual Pitchfork Stage. The brand had collaborated with the music publication on an in-person Pride event in New York last year. Rapper Princess Nokia is among the artists who will perform, with more artists to be announced closer to the event. Additionally, HBO, Bliss and Lelo are supporting the event.
Sewell said the benefit of going virtual for Pride this year is that them. will reach a wider, more global audience. Since the brand launched in 2017, its Pride events have mostly catered to New York’s LGBTQ+ scene.
“It’s really inspiring to see our reach expand, especially as an emerging platform,” she said. “That’s the real bright spot as we look to the future of our Pride programming. Our learnings we’re stepping into and exploring here are setting a great precedent for how we approach Pride going forward.”
Condé Nast, which owns more than two dozen media brands, is one of numerous publishers that has laid off and furloughed staff due to Covid-19. On Monday, Adam Rapoport, editor in chief of the company’s food publication Bon Appétit, resigned after claims of racism and an unfair working environment, and a surfaced photo of Rapoport in brownface.
“As a global media company, Condé Nast is dedicated to creating a diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace. We have a zero-tolerance policy toward discrimination and harassment in any forms,” the company said in a statement. “We take the well-being of our employees seriously and prioritize a people-first approach to our culture.”