Swag in the Bag, Queens in the Street: West 22nd’s ‘Pride Pop-Up’ Finds Its Rainbow Connection

Pride flags are pressed into service, seen here just before the event began. | Photo by Melodie Bryant

BY SCOTT STIFFLER | On Wednesday, June 21, the NYC Department of Transportation presented to Manhattan Community Board 4 their design proposal for the 200 block of West 22nd Street. As part of the City’s Open Streets program since May 2020, the elimination of most vehicular traffic between Seventh and Eighth Aves. for as much as 12 hours daily has been met with high praise as well as vocal and persistent opposition. All was well, however, from 2pm-7pm on Saturday, June 24, at West 22nd Street’s first-ever Pride Pop-Up event. Stormy weather at the outset soon gave way to sunny skies—a perfect metaphor for the creation of something wonderous, when two disparate forces coexist.

OK, in all fairness, the metaphor wasn’t 100 percent perfect—there was no rainbow. But there was face painting, free stuff, and four ferociously talented drag queens singing, lip synching, and strutting down the middle of West 22nd Street while earning the adoration of an enthusiastic crowd.

“The queens went to the mat to give us all they had, and it was great,” said Melodie Bryant, a member of the West 22nd Open|Shared Street Committee, which sponsored the event and has been at the forefront of efforts to further pedestrianize the block on which the Pride Pop-Up took place. “Most charming,” said Bryant, of the entertainment, “was that I saw at least three toddlers brought by straight parents to see their first drag queen show! So sweet.”

Learn more about the captivating performers by clicking on their names. They were: Androgyny, Lola Michele-Kiki, Catrina LoveLace, and Flipee Kikee.

Androgyny stands in her truth–and some killer footwear. | Photo by Andre Whitehead

“Working with [W. 22nd St. gay bar] Barracuda and a group of dedicated and talented individuals was nothing short of amazing,” Androgyny told Chelsea Community News shortly after the event. “To be able to work directly with the community and put on a show literally on the street where they live is wonderful. It was a fantastic event that I was honored to be a part of, and I hope and believe that it was the first of many to come.”

Tom Lunke, also with the West 22nd Open/Shared Street Committee, seemed pleased with the group’s first-ever public event on the block—but deferred to others when asked to assign praise.

“We hired Ms. Patreinnah Acosta-Pelle of PR City, Company to organize and obtain all the permits needed, and for working with Barracuda to book the four queens who gave crowd-pleasing performances,” he said. Flyers promoting the Pride Pop-Up in advance were kindly posted by businesses on and near the event’s block, noted Lunke, who added, “Some of the businesses gave us giveaway items to place in our swag bags, while Open Plans and Home Office set up tables on the street. In addition, we had a DJ, a face painter and a 360 photo booth.”

But don’t take Lunke’s word for it—or ours. Seeing is believing, so keep scrolling down for a more-or-less chronological account of the fab afternoon.

Members of the public were treated like red carpet royalty, gifted upon arrival with a Swag Bag containing thematically appropriate Skittles. (“Taste the rainbow,” their longtime slogan implores, referencing the candy’s myriad colors.) Also in the bag (and soon on many a finger) was a fabulously oversized Ring Pop, a mini-sized Pride Flag and cupcake, funky-framed Pride glasses, and a pamphlet about the event’s 7th to 8th Ave. patch of West 22nd Street. | Photo by Melodie Bryant


After a bit of rain at toward the start of the 2pm-7pm event, the sun came out–and so did a steady stream of locals well aware of Pride Pop-Up’s W. 22nd St. presence as well as curious passersby who learned about it from the event’s flyer appearing in the windows and on the walls of local businesses, and on the video screens of nearby LinkNYC kiosks. | Photo by Pamela Wolff


The 360 Photo Booth dispenses product taken by a camera on a long metal arm rotating around the guests, whose goofy or glam posing becomes the stuff of slow motion, boomerang, or regular old fashioned style video. | Photo by Melodie Bryant


Photo of Lola Michele-Kiki by Pamela Wolff.


Created for Pride Month, yes–but these festive glasses are destined to liven up other occasions throughout the year (Arbor Day, we’re talkin’ to YOU!). | Photo by Andre Whitehead


Photo of Catrina LoveLace by Nigel Quested.


Flippe Kikee needed little time to thoroughly charm the crowd, some of whom didn’t know they’d be a drag show. Showing their true Chelsea spirit, nobody minded and the queens were given an enthusiastic reception. | Photo by Pamela Wolff


“Police were present to help keep the event safe,” noted West 22nd Open/Shared Street Committee member Melodie Bryant, who took this photo.


Just as all great house parties gravitate toward the kitchen, June 24’s Pride Pop-Up found its anchor near Barracuda, the longtime West 22nd Street gay bar (and stalwart good neighbor). | Photo by Pamela Wolff


NOTE: Chelsea Community News is an independent, hyperlocal news, arts, events, info, and opinion website made possible with the help of our awesome advertisers and the support of our readers. Our Promise: Never a paywall, no pop-up ads, all content is FREE. With that in mind, if circumstances allow, please consider taking part in our GoFundMe campaign (click here). To make a direct donation, give feedback, send a Letter to the Editor, or contact our founder/editor, send an email to Scott Stiffler, via scott@chelseacommunitynews.com.

To join our subscriber list, click here. It’s a free service providing regular (weekly, at least) Enewsletters containing links to recently published content. Subscribers will also be sent email with “Sponsored Content” in the subject line. That means it’s an exclusive message from one of our advertisers—whose support, like yours, allows us to offer all content free of charge.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login