On Sunday June 24, roughly two million revelers filled the streets of downtown Manhattan to celebrate the culmination of Pride Month: the 49th annual New York City Pride March.
Among them walked a contingent of nearly 350 Viacom-affiliated marchers, a procession of employees, media and corporate partners amidst a pair of Comedy Central- and VH1-branded floats. EMERGE, Viacom’s employee resource group focused on LGBT employees and straight allies, and Viacommunity, Viacom’s social responsibility arm, had helped rally the boisterous crew.
“June is a special month for EMERGE as we have the opportunity to bring awareness, engage, and celebrate with Viacom employees while we have the spotlight on us this special month,” said Emily Albertson, a senior manager at Comedy Central and EMERGE leader.
“We always see an influx of new members joining in June, which help us lead the charge in continuing to fight for LGBTQ rights for the rest of the year. We love having the opportunity to show employees that Viacom supports all of their employees regardless of sexual preference or identity.”
The day’s weather forecast predicted thunderstorms and scattered showers, but as a harbinger of positive energy, clouds parted around noon – just in time for the parade to begin.
VH1 sponsored the parade with a float for the first time, choosing its award-winning show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, to represent Viacom with a glitzy, purple contraption emblazoned with show’s sassy catchphrase, “Sashay Away.”
“We were thrilled to celebrate Pride by giving the Drag Race finalists an opportunity to connect with their fans through this celebratory occasion,” said Antonia Baker, senior director of consumer marketing for VH1 and LOGO.
Prior to the march, the stars recorded a special message for fans at T-Mobile’s “Unlimited Pride” press conference:
Wishing everyone a colorful day!! 😘 pic.twitter.com/MEvHd70qaL
— RuPaul’s Drag Race (@RuPaulsDragRace) June 24, 2018
Emerge participants wearing bright yellow T-shirts marched alongside both brands. Walkers from each Viacom group mingled, sharing swag to toss into the crowd.
Many folks marching were guests of Viacom employees, like Philadelphia-based artist Francesca Valente.
“I love what Pride stands for,” said Valente. “I love RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’m a big fan of drag culture and performance art.”
Daion Morton, who works as a diversity talent coordinator for Viacom’s recently acquired influencer marketing partner agency WHOSAY, first marched at Pride as a VH1 intern in 2015. Three years later, he’s marching again, as a Viacom employee.
“Coming from the Midwest – which can be relatively conservative – walking in the New York Pride Parade was truly surreal,” said Morton, who was born and raised in Indianapolis before moving to New York in 2015. “Especially because I get chance to walk with a company that values all employees no matter race, gender, or orientation.”
Instagram post shared with permission by Daion Morton.
The parade meandered through the tree-lined streets of Greenwich Village, the historic neighborhood awash with glitter and rainbows to celebrate Pride. As it snaked past the iconic Stonewall Inn – site of the 1969 Stonewall riots that galvanized the United States gay-rights movement – the energy from the crowd grew even more fervent. Overhead, onlookers perched from balconies and dangled out of windows.
“I’ve never experienced this much love,” said Virginia native Lindsey Garret, who was invited to join the march by her roommate, who works at VH1. “I’m honored to be here.”
VH1, Comedy Central, Viacommunity and Emerge attracted tons of folks who, for one reason or another, chose to spend their Pride with the Viacom family. The floats and the energy of the marchers enthralled spectators. Here, on display, was Viacom’s content translated to a live environment, and with purpose: RuPaul’s Drag Race and Broad City animating moving floats and a colorful entourage moving alongside them.
Viacom intern Jillian Baker shared her perspective on Viacom’s inclusivity as a relative newcomer to the company.
“Everyone from Viacom was wearing different shirts,” said Baker. “But whether they were representing VH1, Comedy Central or Emerge, we were all still one united front, marching together to support this incredible cause.”
The trek was hot and muggy, but nearly everyone marching and watching from the sidewalk seemed unfazed at the parade’s finish. Rather than hail Ubers or find the nearest subway station, groups stuck around and chatted, making new friends and planning after-parties.
And as VH1’s float sashayed away from the crowd to exit the parade, a Viacom employee called out to one of the stars on board.
“When am I seeing you again, Eureka?”
The drag star responded with pizazz, shouting, “Soon, baby!“
Check out this video created by Viacom Catalyst, showing how the company celebrated Pride Month around the globe:
Additional reporting by Jillian Baker.