When Todrick Hall says he is sad his tour schedule didn’t include Raleigh this year, it would be easy to think he’s just making friendly small talk.
After all, the dancer-singer-choreographer-online personality is pretty busy, performing in 17 pride celebrations this year alone, not to mention a stint on Broadway in “Waitress.”
Then there’s the matter of co-executive producing and starring in the video for Taylor Swift’s hit, “You Need to Calm Down,” the LGBTQ anthem that won Video of the Year at MTV’s Video Music Awards.
But then Hall goes on to list specific people who are part of his Raleigh experience: a mom and daughter who dress up for his shows; a group who show up in themed outfits; and a fan named Leslie, who bakes for the entire cast.
“It’s more than just not having that specific date, it was just like a gut punch to me that we weren’t going to be able to go,” Hall tells The News & Observer in a phone interview.
So, it worked out well for Hall and organizers of NC Pride at Night alike that the stars aligned for him to headline the second annual festival Sept. 28.
“I got this phone call about doing Pride, and my heart just started jumping for joy,” Hall said.
The free festival begins at 4 p.m. at the intersection of Hargett and Harrington streets near Legends Nightclub and features entertainment, bands and a drag show. Hall is scheduled to take the stage around 8:30 p.m.
“He’s such an icon right now in the LGBT community for his abilities,” said Matt Cozzi, chair of the nonprofit that organizes the event.
Hall spoke to The N&O before the big MTV win for “You Need to Calm Down.” He was finishing a movie, starting work on a TV show and beginning rehearsals for a new Broadway show. Next month, he’ll embark on a world tour to support his third album “Haus Party, Pt. 1.”
But he always has loved pride celebrations since he was 16, when he stumbled upon his local event in Texas.
“I felt like it was such an exclusive event that no one really knew about, unless they were part of the queer community,” Hall said. “And it was awesome to feel that energy and I loved it, because it felt like a party that only the people who knew were invited to.”
Hall’s vision for Pride celebrations lines up well with Cozzi’s.
“Inclusion and equality are such an important part of this, not just for the LGBT community but for all communities,” Cozzi said.
NC Pride began holding parades and events in 1981, but two years ago, the date of the parade overlapped with Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar. Last year, NC Pride canceled the September parade, and a different organization took over the Durham celebrations.
NC Pride at Night came out of that period, Cozzi said, with last year’s inaugural event attracting thousands of people.
“Every year, we’re hoping to build it bigger and better,” Cozzi said.
In addition to performances, there will be vendors with art, food, beer and what Cozzi calls a “constant flow of free entertainment.”
Cozzi’s favorite moment last year was watching kids be introduced to a community they might not have seen before.
“This is not just for the LGBT community, but for all of Raleigh,” Cozzi said.
Today, Hall said he loves the increasingly “universal appeal” of pride celebrations; they have become places for everyone to celebrate each other.
“Now in 2019, it fills my heart up to see that it’s become a celebration of all different kinds of people,” he said. “It’s not just queer people, it’s families sitting in strollers holding pride flags, which is the way I imagine the world should be.”
What: NC Pride at Night
When: Sept. 28, 4 to 10 p.m.
Where: Downtown Raleigh at the intersection of Hargett and Harrington streets near Legends Nightclub. (300 W. Hargett St.)