Writing by Georgia Old // Photography by Ashlea Caygill
Special call-out to all my slay gay, here and queer, loud and proud, LGBTQIA+ baddies and of course all the certified allies. Is your roman empire all things sport and tennis or do you think watching paint dry is more thrilling? No matter where you stand, I’ve got the celebration for you! G’day LGBTQIA+ community and allies, I’m G, a proud masculine-presenting lesbian. Today, I spill the scoop on the celebration of the summer and why it’s so significant for our community.
WHAT IS AO PRIDE DAY & FINALS FESTIVAL?
As sporting greats descend on Melbourne & Olympic Parks, a kaleidoscope of culture explodes with champion upon champion taking to the courts. The Australian Open annually unites nearly a million fans, all connected by their shared love for a game that inspires, empowers, and inclusively welcomes everyone, regardless of unique qualities. While courts and stadiums echo with cheers celebrating the crowning of the best in the tennis business, our community’s own monarchs will be leading a celebration of their own that holds significance to so many of us.
Untitled Group proudly presents Finals Festival 2024, the second instalment of the event launches on January 25th aligning with AO Pride Day – a chance to be loud, proud, and light up the courts with all the colours of the rainbow! The pride event features a stellar lineup of artists, including Peach PRC, Yaeji, AO Pride Ambassador Tash Sultana, Djanaba, Anesu, and DJ Luv You. Read on to learn a bit more about why the festival is such an important part of the AO calendar.
Celebration in the LGBTQIA+ world can often feel seasonal. All my fabulous queer pals get it, but if you’re still catching up, it’s goes like this: June rolls in, and just like that, drag shows light up every other pub, pride marches become a regular weekend activity, and your inbox is flooded with rainbow as every brand rolls out their ‘Limited Edition’ Pride Month specials. For our community it’s an incredibly magical and encouraging time. But then, July 1st rolls around, and you’re back in the waiting game until next June. Now, let’s get one thing straight – I am not…. So this whole spiel is definitely not calling for a Pride Month boycott. In fact, June is a highlight of my year. But in my opinion, a pride event outside of June, especially during a global sports event, carries a unique meaning that deserves recognition.
I wish I could say discrimination in sports is a thing of the past, and that this celebration marks progress. But sadly, still in the 21st century, 75% of LGBTQIA+ people have experienced or witnessed homophobia in their sporting community—from grassroots to elite levels. AO Pride Day and Finals Festival therefore strives for better inclusivity in sports, with hopes of extending it beyond the elite level to the broader community. Further, from my perspective, the Finals festival is a chance for the music world to reveal the beauty of fearless self-expression and unfiltered euphoria to the sporting world. With the music industry’s vivid, bold atmosphere nurturing ongoing acceptance and diversity celebration, it sets the stage perfectly for creating the same vibe in sports, beginning with the AO. Building this vibe in sports, especially at the elite level, is essential. Kids need to feel welcomed in their future pursuits, be it in sports, music, or anywhere else. Watching my first queer role models shine at the Women’s World Cup last year sparked a recent reflection. I remembered how their unapologetic authenticity once was the fuel for my own queer journey, which really plays on the saying “you can’t be what you can’t see”.
NO APOLOGIES FOR BEING YOU
Someone at the forefront of promoting inclusion anywhere and everywhere is AO Pride Ambassador and finals festival artist Tash Sultana. Using their platform as a musician, they’ve launched the I AM ME Foundation, a not-for-profit providing LGBTQIA+ members with financial grants to access essential services, all to help them embrace their authentic selves. This ultimate goal of authenticity and the mantra of their not-for-profit aligns perfectly with what I think is the primary goal of Pride Day at the AO—that is inspiring everyone to “be unapologetically you”.
This mantra is the launchpad for individuality to sparkle in sports—embracing diverse qualities like sexuality, gender, or any distinctive trait that defines a person. Boldly flaunting these qualities without hesitation or apologies is what the world craves. Because it’s a unique self-expression that injects a burst of colour and euphoria that can’t be achieved by any other means.
A fearless Aussie fairy is also set to enchant the stage, further adding to the magical atmosphere and vibrant joy that will be Finals Fest 2024. Peach PRC is sure to dazzle John Cain Arena with playful tunes and pops of pink. The Tiktok sensation, showcases a diverse mix of content on her page, from bedroom tours to witty humour, and even exclusive peeks into her life as a musician pre and post her chart-topping EP “Manic Dream Pixie”. As a proud lesbian, Peach PRC is the epitome of self-empowerment and an icon for femme individuals in the queer community—inspiring everyone to embrace their true selves.
The Finals Fest 2024 stage will again be kicked up a notch to the familiar theme of unapologetic self-empowering love, when powerhouse Yaeji rocks the stage alongside the incredible lineup of artists. A trailblazing force in global music, she inspires with open authenticity and creativity. Infusing pride in her Korean/American heritage, she seamlessly blends house, hip-hop, and pop elements, exploring self-discovery and love’s fluidity; resonating across diverse backgrounds. A beacon of empowerment, Yaeji encourages celebrating your unique self by embracing vulnerabilities. This affirmation is powerful – because celebrating every part of ourselves, even the ones that expose us to danger, is terrifying, but it’s these parts that make us unapologetically and distinctly us.
An atmosphere of unconditional love and happiness—no matter who, what, when, where, why, or how, that’s all I need to know to be sure that this event is somewhere I need to be. That’s why, personally I am counting down the days to the Australian Open Pride Day and of course the launch of Finals Festival 2024 presented by Untitled Group. Just picture it: you’re immersed in the queerest of vibes, belting “’Like a Girl Does” with 10,000+ new besties. And the cherry on top? Celebrating your birthday, marking 22 years of being unapologetically you! Luckily I don’t need to imagine, ’cause on January 25th – I’m living it. If you ask me, this is hands down the coolest way to mark another trip around the sun, and I better see you all there for this epic party of positivity, passion and pure playful prismatic pride.
From Pride Day, Finals Festival 2024 will continue turning up the heat on Saturday the 27th of January, with DMA’s, Ruel, The Jungle Giants, Tia Gostellow and Mell Hall. Finally closing out the three days on Sunday the 28th of January with Groove Armada (DJ set), Rudimental, Sunshine & Disco Faith Choir, Latifia Tee and DJ Cooper Smith.
Secure your tickets here so you don’t miss out on your chance to be a part of this incredible celebration of sport and music set to be the party of the summer!