World’s Longest Running Festival For Queer Women Celebrates Female Empowerment Like No Other

If you haven’t heard of The Dinah Shore, it’s time to get familiar because you are 28 years behind! 2018 marks the 28th anniversary of what is considered the world’s longest-running and largest event for queer women, and it’s only going to get bigger.

For many, The Dinah is an annual tradition between friends; for others it is a bucket-list goal, a pilgrimage to their very own Mecca that every queer woman should make at least once in her life. No matter what the impetus for attending is, The Dinah is for all a unique opportunity to experience one of the most bonding, liberating and transforming festival ever in the spirit of sisterhood and community in a safe space.

The festival was founded by Mariah Hanson, a former nightclub owner in San Franscisco, award-winning event producer, and entrepreneur who defied naysayers to become the success she is today. She has single-handedly revolutionized her industry, overturned tradition and raised the bar on female achievement with an event that is entirely produced by women, for women. Everything single aspect of the event is run by women – from the staff, the managers, the drivers and bartenders to the artists headlining every year. 

As a community leader, Mariah has emphasized the concept of “partying with a cause”, using her platform to amplify the social and political issues affecting LGBTQ people. She has partnered with the likes of GLAAD, NoH8, HRC, Equality California, to name a few. (Fun fact: Mariah was on the board of Equality California, the non-profit organization that was pivotal in winning the marriage equality battle in California.)

And as a visionary, Mariah has enabled The Dinah Shore to become a breaking ground for some of the world’s biggest female musical acts, including Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and The Pussycat Dolls. In 2010, Mariah defied the pundits who said she couldn’t pick the next big thing five years in a row and headlined Kesha, who went on to have five Billboard Hot 100 hits on her debut album.

In nearly 30 years, she has built a business empire. From a small, one-night event at a Palm Springs museum with 1,500 participants twenty-seven years ago, to booking lavish locations at deluxe hotels with some 15,000-plus attendee. While is it still billed as a lesbian event, all female-identifying individuals are welcome, as well as men. The festival was created to be a fun, safe and supportive environment and focused on the lesbian community initially, at a time when something like The Dinah Shore would not necessarily be conceivable.

As a pioneer in the festival landscape, we spoke with Mariah as she gears up for the 2018 event running from March 28 to April 1, to get her take on female empowerment, our current political culture and what it means for the LGBTQ community, and what attendees can expect this year.

In an era where female empowerment is making a comeback in a number of arenas, The Dinah Shore has been championing this in an intersectional way for decades. Why was this important to you?

My entire career has been dedicated to increasing the visibility of women. Year after year The Dinah continues to affirm its unwavering commitment to focus on the power of women to create big and lasting change.  And putting passion into action, it is important to me to bring female artists to the Dinah who are making it happen for themselves especially in a male-dominated industry.

No other event in the world embodies the essence of women empowerment like The Dinah does. My goal with The Dinah is to continue to raise the bar on female achievement with an event that is entirely produced by women, for women.

When we look at the major festival landscape, female-focused events and female headliners seem to be few and far between, compared to male-driven events. How does The Dinah Shore aim to promote more female-friendly spaces?  

For many, The Dinah is an annual destination, an opportunity to get together with friends; for others it is a bucket-list goal, a pilgrimage to our very own Mecca that every queer woman know they have to make at least once in her life. No matter what the impetus for attending is, The Dinah is for all a unique opportunity to experience one of the most bonding, liberating and transforming festival ever in the spirit of sisterhood, womanhood and community.

We embody the female friendly space and protect it fiercely. That’s not to say men are not welcome at the event as plenty of lesbians bring their male friends, and we have no judgement there, but we do hold firmly to the idea that The Dinah is by women, for women and about women. If men attend, it is as respectful guests.

Mariah Hanson and Katy Perry | photo credit: Maile Klein 2009

It is billed as the largest and longest running lesbian event in the world, but can any woman attend regardless of her identity?  

Yes. While we haven’t changed the word lesbian in all instances we are slowly integrating the verbiage lesbian and women identified.

Can you talk about how this event has been a breaking ground for major female pop acts such as Katy Perry and Lady Gaga?

The Dinah has slowly but surely positioned itself as an event the entertainment industry’s most elite go to and a trendsetting event that entertainment industry insiders watch and jockey to book their artists’ performances. As a matter of fact, The Dinah is the only acknowledged all-girl party that features such a phenomenal line-up of talent to ever to perform at a lesbian event.

Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Tegan and Sara, Meghan Trainor, Lizzo, Kesha, Chaka Khan, The Pussycat Dolls, Bebe Rexa, Mary Lambert, The Cast of The L Word, Lea Delaria  and Iggy Azalea, to name a few, are just a few examples of major recording artists that have performed at the iconic event over the past 28 years. We’ve reached a point as a festival where emerging artists clamor to play the event and that’s a nice place to be in the festival industry.

Meghan Trainor with Mariah Hanson | credit: Peter Szabadi

Given our current political climate where we are seeing a resurgence in policies harmful to the LGBTQ community, how do you hope The Dinah Shore can be an event that promotes inclusivity and be an antidote to Trumpism?

Standing strong and tall as one of the longest running party & music festival for queer women in the world, year after year, The Dinah remarkably reminds us all about the importance of connecting our community together and preserving queer spaces in a time where gentrification and politics stand to threaten safe, diverse and inclusive places for our LGBTQ community to come together.

The only antidote to Trumpism is to vote in every election so that our voices are heard and candidates that have intellect, compassion, a sense of fairness and equality prevail!  We however are a wonderfully magical respite from the arduous daily fight all people of sense and sensibility engage in as we stand our ground and move forward in our efforts to safeguard the very democracy that has defined our country for over 200 years.

Your achievements as a successful entrepreneur speak for themselves, but you experienced your share of naysayers in the beginning. Can you tell us how you dealt with this?

Well, I believe people see life through the eyes of their issues so if anyone has ever, even today, said anything negative about me as a person, I’ve come to embrace the belief that they are speaking through their own wounds. I have certainly evolved as as human being over the years and am dedicated to making the world a peaceful place to be in.

That means living in the now and being the best person I can be at any given moment. So rather than look toward the naysayers, I choose to simply live every moment at my highest. When I fail, I begin again. The only opinion that truly matters to me at this point in my life is my own.

Right now there is a focus on the need for more women’s voices speaking in public arenas, and more women in positions of leadership, especially in light of all the #MeToo revelations. As someone who has been championing the voices of women for decades, how does The Dinah Shore fit into this current movement?

We purposefully showcase powerful women at all stages of their career who are creating their own success and staying true to their own voice. We celebrate women who break glass ceilings day in and day out. We celebrate women who will not be silenced.  We offer a platform for empowered female artists to shine as we know that these women are powerful role models.  We want our customers to take away the belief that  they too can embrace their dreams in their own way on their own terms and in doing so they define their power, and their sovereignty.

What can festival goers expect from the event this year?

First and foremost, the true magic to be found at the Dinah – the “ shore thing” – are the customers who voyage from all over the world to take over Palm Springs and impart a sense of belonging, complete normalcy and community. So expect to see some of the most diverse and remarkable customers.

Also, festival goers can expect massive pool parties, some of the top female DJ tastemakers, extraordinary dancers, not to mention celebrity sightings and terrific concerts by international Top 10 Billboard hitmakers. Above all, expect the Dinah 2018 to be empowering, energizing and purely magical.

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To learn more about The Dinah Shore and purchase tickets for the 2018 event, visit the website.

 

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  1. Pingback: World's Longest Running Festival For Queer Women Celebrates Female Empowerment Like No Other – American Unity

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