The 2018 River City Pride festival marks the 40th anniversary of the city’s signature LGBTQIA+ event with a weekend celebration designed to foster a sense of community, equality and diversity. The parade and festival are vibrant extensions of that mission with a broad spectrum of entertainment in every shade of the rainbow.
Among this year’s featured performers is Ada Vox who celebrated her own landmark milestone as the first drag queen to advance to the semi-finals on season 16 of American Idol. The show provided Vox with a platform to showcase her talent but share her story as well.
“I am beyond grateful that I have the opportunity to take part in something like that on that level. It has connected me with people that I cherish so much,” she says. “It’s so incredible to know that I finally stumbled upon something that changed my life forever. I’m honored to feel like I have the ability to let people know what I do and who I am.”
The parade is held Oct. 6. Ada Vox appears Oct. 7 at the festival held at Riverside Artist Square Festival. The event also features a family fun zone, craft and food vendors, beer and liquor bar and Pride merchandise. Vox will perform her new single “Because of You,” dance beats layered with the kind of uplifting words that helped her believe in herself.
I always heard you say everyone has a moment to shine. I had to fall so my spirit could rise. And the lessons I’ve learned, continue on in this life.
When she first heard the track written by Janice Roberston, she says she immediately felt a personal connection to the lyrics. Roberston, a fellow reality show contestant who appeared this year on the X Factor UK, penned the song as a thank you to those who’d offered love and support along her journey.
“It can be a very challenging thing to pursue this dream of ours. I heard the song for the first time when my agent played a demo and I fell in love with it because of what the words were saying,” says Vox. “I’ve always been very big on choosing music and performing something that meant something to me. These lyrics grabbed me the very first time that I heard them. It’s relaying the message of love and being thankful for the support. I asked my agent ‘is anybody into this song? Can I have it?’”
As it turned out, the song was an extra track and available for Vox to record. While she embraced the dance beat as her first single, it represents just one aspect of her style. Vox received standing ovations from Idol judges for her R&B flavors and bluesy renditions of such classics as “Creep” and “House of the Rising Sun.”
“I love to sing a little bit of everything. I chose this as my first single because I wanted people to feel the joy and get up and dance,” says Vox. “Musically, I’m not much of a dance queen but I am huge on making music that I feel with inspire and touch people. It doesn’t have to be one specific genre although I love my big R&B diva songs, which is what I’m known as. I just want to share the message of hope and love with as many people as I can.”
Vox is taking advantage of the Idol spotlight to participate at Pride events across the country and reach out to those in the gay community who may be struggling or feel unworthy in their own skin. “More than anything, I want to speak for equality and speak for rights and speak to the community as a way to end division between us and to please never forget that love is love. It doesn’t matter if people are straight, it doesn’t matter if people are gay, it doesn’t matter if people are questioning,” she says. “I’m using this platform to spread love and hope for the future. We are all people. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we do.”
When she’s not performing as Ada Vox, he is Adam Sanders. He was waiting tables at a seafood restaurant in Texas when he decided to audition for American Idol as Ada. Sanders had auditioned over a dozen times and finally earned the coveted Gold Ticket in 2012 but was cut before reaching the Top 40. Taking the stage as Ada allowed Sanders to “physically show and embody the diva that I always was and have been within me.”
“Even if it’s just a temporary transformation for me being on camera or on stage, it makes sense. I’ve been told so many times that my voice doesn’t match the way that I look or that my stage presence was too confident or too flamboyant. As soon as I dress as Miss Ada, everything takes on a life of its own and everyone sees it. It’s my way of bringing everything together,” she says.
She plans to end her River City Pride performance with the song “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman. It echoes the message of hope and serves as a reminder to always follow your dreams. Says Vox, “Never give up, never take no for an answer and just rely and focus on your passion, your drive and your heart to get you through. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re going through. We all have a dream and I say chase it.”