LoveLoud 2018 raises over $1 million for LGBTQ youth
As Imagine Dragons neared the end of a hot, busy summer day and upbeat onstage rock set Saturday night in Salt Lake City, a full crowd proudly displaying rainbow colors and flags cheered as frontman and LoveLoud founder Dan Reynolds announced that the 2018 festival had reached its goal of raising more than $1 million in one day for LGBTQ organizations including Encircle, the Tegan and Sara Foundation and the Trevor Project.
“You did it by coming tonight from all walks of life, from all sides,” Reynolds told the crowd after making the announcement. “I know there are people here tonight on all sides. That’s the beauty of it. And together, all of us raised over $1 million for our LGBTQ youth.”
The festival, the second of its kind, brought thousands of concertgoers to the University of Utah ’s Rice-Eccles Stadium, aiming to “ignite the vital conversation about what it means to unconditionally love, understand, accept and support our LGBTQ+ friends and family,” according to LoveLoud’s mission statement.
“I wish you could see how much we care about you, how much we love you, how much we support you, how much we stand with you,” Reynolds said. “I hope that you know you are needed. We need you. I don’t want to hear any more stories of youth taking their lives in Utah. We must change our culture. We must change the way we see each other.”
Celebrities converged at the state’s capital Saturday, taking the LoveLoud stage throughout the day to share a message of equality and love for LGBTQ individuals.
“Tonight, we say no to bullying and intimidation,” Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said. “Tonight, we say no to suicide and yes to love and connection. Tonight, we need you wherever you are because you are enough and you are of infinite worth. And tonight, we love loud.”
Highlights of the 2018 festival included a full set by Imagine Dragons; several hits by Zedd like “Stay,” “The Middle” and “Clarity”; and a performance from Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park including “In the End,” during which he asked the audience to sing the late Chester Bennington’s vocal part.
Other musical acts included Grace VanderWaal, Tyler Glenn, a number from “ Kinky Boots,” Mary Lambert, Jussie Smollett, Parson James and Vincint, A.W., and Vagabon, with dance acts featuring award-winning Utah-based dancer Julianne Hough and American Fork “ World of Dance ” contestant Jaxon Willard.
A group representing Encircle also performed a cover of “This is Me” from “ The Greatest Showman ” following a video featuring one of Encircle’s transgender members, Ash, who sung lead vocals during the number.
“This may be the happiest I’ve been in a long time,” Reynolds said. “I feel honored to share this stage with so many activists who’ve fought so hard for so many years.”
Speakers throughout the night included Apple CEO Tim Cook; Tegan Quin of Tegan and Sara; former professional quarterback Steve Young and his wife, Barb Young; Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy; model Carmen Carrera; Kalen Allen of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”; musician Justin Tranter; Amit Paley of the Trevor Project; comedian Dana Goldberg; Drew Scott of Property Brothers; and activist Blair Imani, with comedian Cameron Esposito acting as the show’s host throughout the night.
“I stand before you tonight as an uncle, a sports nut, a CEO, a lover of the beautiful Utah outdoors and a proud gay American,” Cook said to the crowd. “I come to deliver a simple message that I want every LGBT person to hear and to believe: You are a gift to the world, a unique and special gift, just the way you are. Your life matters.”
Statistics quoted throughout the day brought the issue at hand to the forefront, including that suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people in the U.S., and that 40 percent of transgender adults reported in a national study having made a suicide attempt, 92 percent of which attempted suicide before age 25.
Encircle founder Stephenie Larsen said in a press conference Saturday morning she is reminded of this issue every week when Encircle youth meet and give each other tips on what to do when they feel suicidal.
“That has got to stop. These kids need to be high schoolers enjoying their lives,” Larsen said. “Instead, they are just merely trying to stay alive.”
Amit Paley, executive director of the Trevor Project, also quoted a statistic that for LGBTQ youth, having one supportive person in their life can decrease their risk for suicide by 30 percent. LoveLoud assists in this effort by letting those in the LGBTQ community know they are loved, according to Paley.
“That’s what I feel is one of the most powerful things about LoveLoud is LoveLoud is sending a clear message to all LGBTQ people across this country that you are not alone, that you are beautiful the way you are, that there are people who support you and who see who you are,” Paley said at the press conference.
Festival director Lance Lowry said one of the LoveLoud Foundation’s biggest goals for the future is to take LoveLoud wherever it is needed.
“We try to create a safe environment where it doesn’t matter where you’re at along the way, you can come and start talking and start listening,” Lowry said.
At the end of the night, Reynolds pleaded with LGBTQ youth from the stage to “stay with us every day.”
“We need you. We love you. We accept you. Your love is valid, it’s pure, it’s true, it’s beautiful. We stand with you,” Reynolds said. “LoveLoud will be here. We’re just going to stay here. I don’t know where we’re going from here, but we just keep going.”