Kelsea Ballerini praised for performing alongside Drag Race stars at 2023 CMT Awards: ‘Ally’

‘We love to see it,’ one fan said of the singer’s decision to perform alongside drag performers

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Monday 03 April 2023 22:48 BST
Kelsea Ballerini performs alongside Drag Race stars at 2023 CMT Awards

Kelsea Ballerini has earned praise for performing alongside RuPaul’s Drag Race stars at the 2023 CMT Awards amid ongoing efforts to pass anti-drag legislation across the country.

On Sunday, the “Blindsided” singer, who was co-hosting the awards show alongside Kane Brown for the third year in a row, performed her song “If You Go Down (I’m Goin’ Down Too)” with Drag Race stars Manila Luzon, Kennedy Davenport, Jan Sport, and Olivia Lux.

The performance was especially poignant as the awards show took place in Texas, a state that is considering a drag ban. Under one proposed law, it defines drag as “a performance in which a performer exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers and sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment,” and aims to make the shows illegal in businesses not classified as “sexually oriented”.

The state is not the only one to consider anti-drag legislation, which many have deemed both anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans. Tennessee’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives recently passed a law banning “adult-oriented” entertainment from public properties. However, a federal judge blocked the law restricting drag shows from going into effect on the basis it is “unconstitutionally vague”.

Following her performance, Ballerini took to Twitter to show her gratitude to the performers who joined her on stage, and reiterate her support for the community.

“If you go down, I’m going down too // thank you to these iconic queens and @manilaluzon @kennedyddoftx @janjanjan @TheOliviaLux and @CMT for celebrating love, self expression, and performance,” she wrote, quoting her song.

On social media, Ballerini’s performance has been met with applause from her fans. Many said they are grateful to the singer for using her platform to make a statement.

“Allies who actually act on making a statement,” one person wrote, while another said: “Legendary middle finger from @KelseaBallerini to all the haters. Getting on that stage with drag queens next to her at the #CMTAwards is absolutely iconic.”

GLAAD also praised Ballerini for the display of support, applauding her allyship.

“As LGBTQ rights are being questioned in Texas, Tennessee, and several Southern states, Kelsea Ballerini took to one of country music’s biggest stages to display bold allyship by proudly featuring talented and beloved drag artists,” GLAAD wrote on Twitter. “Kelsea’s performance at the CMT Music Awards reinforced that drag is not a threat, it’s an art. New legislation that tries to silence drag performers in some Southern states is as unpopular as it is unnecessary.”

Following the performance on Sunday, the Drag Race stars who’d joined the singer on stage spoke to Entertainment Tonight about the importance of the moment. Luzon told the outlet: “Just like all these amazing country music artists, we drag queens are also artists. And we deserve a space to be ourselves, express ourselves, and create something wonderful for everyone to enjoy.”

(Getty Images)

“Kelsea made it really clear in the rehearsal room and even right before the stage that she was like, take up that space, you know, this is your time as well, and amplify the fact that you’re here,” Lux added. “Even the song, if you’re going down, I’m going down too - it is about the celebration of being a community. And I think that’s what we did on the stage tonight. And I really hope that transcended some people as well. It felt like it did.”

Ballerini also shared why it was important for her to be joined by the drag performers, telling the outlet: “I love performance and I love self-expression and I love inclusivity.”

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