GLAAD’s 2023 Excellence in Media Award recipient, Maren Morris donned a Willie-Nelson-meets-Wednesday-Addams-inspired look on the cover of Billboard’s 2023 pride issue alongside drag stars Eureka O’Hara, Landon Cider, Sasha Colby and Symone.
Morris captioned on Instagram, “Don’t be a drag, just be a… king? Happy Pride month, y’all.”
She also shared a series of images in a TikTok video set to the song, Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.
Nelson himself responded in a cheeky comment, “Was wondering where that outfit went.”
As anti-LGBTQ+ legislation runs rampant (over 450 bills targeting LGBTQ+ rights have been introduced by right-wing politicians into state legislatures across the United States in 2023 alone), Morris spoke to Billboard to discuss fighting back against bigotry and how the music industry can help.
“I have heard the term ‘Shut up and sing’ more times than I can count – that’s always the cutesy little threat that they like to make,” Morris said during the Billboard conversation, when Cider asked her how she would encourage her peers to use their platforms as allies. “So, I would say to my peers who are artists and to record-label heads, publishers, songwriters: I don’t think any of us got into this art form to be an activist, but that’s ultimately thrust upon you to exist in this space and to feel like you can sleep at night.
“You’re going to lose fans along the way – that is just part and parcel of being public-facing. But there is a lane that you’re widening; I see it year over year at my shows, the crowd feels so diverse and so safe. I know everyone likes money, but is it worth your biography saying that you never picked a side because both sides pay money to buy a T-shirt?”
Watch the full decision below or via the link here.
Morris has long defined herself as an ally, including earlier this year when she and other artists came together for an all-star benefit concert at Bridgestone Arena in Downtown Nashville. LOVE RISING: A benefit concert and celebration of Life and Liberty – which also included Sheryl Crow, Jason Isbell and other artists – benefitted the Tennessee Equality Project, Inclusion Tennessee, Out Memphis and The Tennessee Pride Chamber in partnership with the Looking Out Foundation.
During that event, Morris opted to wear a suit “to demonstrate the subjectivity of drag and gender expression. There’s a reason we feel powerful in a suit, but why? Is it our tinges of both feminine and masculine being on public display? Is it just more comfortable than a dress? Or is it just hot and makes you feel like a damn superhero? The answer is ‘all over the above,’ and also ‘who cares?’”
She also brought her three-year-old son, Hayes, whom she shares with husband and fellow country music artist Ryan Hurd, to the event. "Yes, I introduced my son to some drag queens today," Morris said, "So, Tennessee, f---ing arrest me. He’s growing up here as a Nashvillian, and I just want to leave this world for him a little bit better than the one we’re in right now. And I feel like nights like tonight help do that.”
Morris' words came weeks after Tennessee's governor, Bill Lee, signed measures into law that prohibit adult-oriented performances, including those with "male and female impersonators," in the presence of children — regardless of the nature of the show.
Additionally, Morris made waves last year after calling out Brittany Aldean, wife of country singer Jason Aldean, for making transphobic comments on social media.
She also appeared as a guest judge on a January episode of RuPaul's Drag Race and addressed homophobia in country music with its queen competitors.
“When I was a guest judge on Drag Race, I did feel like I just wanted to speak from my heart and apologise [for country music’s treatment of the LGBTQ community] as an artist that comes from the genre,” she told Billboard. “I felt like country music in some ways gets overlooked in that community because they rightfully assume it’s not a welcoming community. No “sorry” is going to undo the decades of harm that the country music industry has done to LGBTQ people in terms of representation. I was trying to say that there’s a lot of good people in this genre, and I hope that you don’t write it off forever because of what some artists said on their stage.”
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