The New Faces of Pride: Jaida Essence Hall on Marsha P. Johnson, Sex and the City and More

Exclusive! Read RuPaul's Drag Race season 12 winner Jaida Essence Hall's thoughts on Pride in 2020.

By Billy Nilles Jun 23, 2020 3:25 PMTags
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With coronavirus making large-scale festivals a public health hazard and widespread protests forcing the nation into a reckoning on racial inequality, this Pride season is one unlike any other. And yet, the spirit of a movement itself born out of a protest lives on. As the month of June comes to a close and International Pride Day nears, E! News has asked some of Hollywood's newest generation of LGBTQ stars to share what Pride means to them in 2020.

Welcome to The New Faces of Pride.

Jaida Essence Hall's reign as the season 12 winner of RuPaul's Drag Race has been anything but typical.

With coronavirus making the hit reality show's traditional season finale format, complete with studio audience, an impossibility, she and her fellow finalists were forced to lip sync for the crown virtually, from the comfortable confines of their own homes, this past May. And, for now, her time as American's reigning Next Drag Superstar will not include the usual starring role in a global tour, as it's just not safe to mount a production of that caliber anywhere. 

And yet, the indomitable spirit showcased throughout her season that helped make her $100,000 richer lives on. 

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Here, Jaida (born Jared Johnson) kicks off E! News' week-long New Faces of Pride celebration, giving her take on the state of things in this most unusual year.

Getty Images; Melissa Herwitt/E! Illustration

As we find ourselves in a Pride season unlike any other, with the country battling a pandemic while rising up to tackle the systemic oppression that's plagued Black Americans for decades, how has your personal definition of Pride changed or shifted this year?

I don't think my definition has necessarily changed or shifted, but I do think it is making me even more proud especially being a queer person. Seeing queer people standing up for others being oppressed shows how proud people are and shows how much love we have for ourselves and other people, so it makes me even prouder.

RuPaul's Drag Race Season 12 Crowns a Winner

With Pride being born out of protest sparked by Black trans women, what encouragement would you like to give fans and family alike to get involved this Pride month?

I would encourage everyone to open their eyes and ears more and listen, especially, to Black people and Black trans women, who are the most disrespected people on the planet. We need them to respect people for who they are. I just want to be able to live my life, be myself and be happy the same way everyone wants that. Right now, that is exactly what our country is fighting for. Black Trans Women should be able to walk down the street without being afraid or being harassed.

What queer media, be it books, music or film/TV, have you found yourself turning to this year to buoy you through the uncertainty? Why?

I have just been watching a lot of programs that I love and that is what I have been doing to get me through the quarantine. You, of course, want to stay informed by watching the news, but sometimes you want to relieve yourself, so I have been watching a lot of Sex and the City and watching things that make me smile.

You finally get to meet your queer hero. Who are they? And after "Thank you" and "I love you," what the next thing you tell them?

It would have been Marsha P. Johnson. She's stood up for so many people and was so amazing and was such a prominent person. I would want to let her know "Damn Girl, you have always been so fierce." She is so iconic and lived for her own rules.

What is your message to future generations of queer people, coming of age right now? How do you want to instill hope in them?

My message is you can do anything that you want to do and you can truly be who you want to be. That is something that I just recently learned and it is so important. Trust your instincts and believe in yourself!

Be sure to check back every day through the end of June for more from the New Faces of Pride!