To show that Philly is a city that embraces diversity and inclusion, Visit Philadelphia launched a 30-second TV spot featuring local drag queens Brittany Lynn and Morgan Wells leading a Drag Queen Story Time event in front of Independence Hall. In the ad, which premiered on June 5 on CBS Philadelphia and CBS New York, the two drag performers take turns reading aloud from the children’s book “Giraffes Can’t Dance” to kids and parents. The story follows Gerald the giraffe and promotes the idea of self-love and acceptance. The spot ends with the slogan ““In Pursuit of A More Perfect Union.”
“I think it’s amazing to get such support from Philadelphia, especially from a group like Visit Philly,” said Brittany Lynn. “For Drag Queen Story Time to be the feature of why people should come to Philly, which is a sanctuary city, is amazing.”
Messages that convey LGBTQ inclusivity are paramount in a climate where conservative lawmakers have been attacking queer and trans communities from all angles. Over 520 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in U.S. state legislatures as of 2023, and 74 such bills have been passed this year as of May 31, according to the HRC. Bills classifying drag as “adult entertainment” have been introduced in at least 15 states.
“Aligning with Visit Philadelphia’s organizational values and in support and solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, who are having their rights infringed upon in many places throughout our country, we’re sending a message that our city is an open and inclusive destination,” Angela Val, president and CEO of Visit Philadelphia, said in a press release. “This work aligns with our long-term strategy to invite LGBTQ+ travelers to Philadelphia, starting with our ground-breaking campaign ‘Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay®’ in 2003.”
Visit Philadelphia has also released a video series on its social media channels, which features Brittany Lynn and Morgan Wells visiting the National Constitution Center, the Rothman Orthopaedics Roller Rink at Dilworth Park, the Canopy hotel by Hilton Philadelphia Center City, and the rainbow crosswalks at 13th and Locust streets.
When it comes to the importance of exposing children to Drag Queen Story Time and age-appropriate drag performances, Brittany Lynn said it’s all about visibility.
“When you’re a kid, you want to know that you’re just like everybody else,” she said. “If you are handy-capable and you see a Barbie doll in a wheelchair, you know that there are others like you. If you are a person of color and you see that Barbie doll that is a person of color, you feel seen and represented. It’s the same thing with Drag Queen Story Time: it lets people know that they can be their true self, no matter how they want to present themselves to the world, and that’s okay.”
Brittany Lynn created the local version of Drag Queen Story Time and works with Philly educators to curate books for her children’s literacy program. She is also known for helming the award-winning Philly Drag Mafia, and has been recognized for her activism and advocacy.
Morgan Wells is a nationally-renowned drag performer and costume designer who has been creating elegant evening gowns and other fabulous pieces for over three decades. She runs the clothing brand Morgan Wells Drag Closet.
To further convey that Philadelphia is an LGBTQ-friendly city, the team at Visit Philadelphia is running print and digital ads with Q Digital, the Washington Blade, and PGN. Messaging as part of those ads includes the slogan “Philly’s kind of a drag, and we’re OK with that.”
In 2022, Brittany Lynn’s story time at Cherry Hill Library was protested by right-wing activists and she had to be brought in via an alternate entrance to enter the venue.
“Let’s face it,” she told PGN at the time, “none of these protesters have ever bothered to come in and actually witness first-hand what DQST is all about. They’re just too willing to believe the right-wing myths.”