Robyn Vie Carpenter-Brisco, Vice-Chair of Baton Rouge Pride
What does Pride sound like? I think that the answer really depends on who you ask, and when you’re asking. When I first came out 25 years ago, the sound of my first Pride was the exuberant anthem from the divine Miss Ross, “I’m Coming Out.” That’s also the year I learned about the NYC rock band, BETTY!, who sang the theme song to The L Word drama series. Another year when I had to plan the Pride service at church without my friend I’d lost to AIDS-related pneumonia, it was Miss Jackson’s “Together Again”. Then, as my career in fashion integrated with my queerness, it was the drag anthem “Supermodel (You Better Work), by RuPaul.
In the early 2000’s, a show called Queer as Folk was on the air, and a song took hold of every Pride celebration. Every DJ played it at the height of their set. And if you heard it, you just couldn’t help it; you had to dance. It’s always kind of like that with what I call “Pride songs”. They always get you moving, throwing your arms in the air, feeling the joyful exuberance of a day spent celebrating your authentic expression of Self. The song is called “Dive in the Pool,” or as you may call it, “Let’s Get Soaking Wet!” Written by a jazz musician named Barry Harris, it was famously performed by Pepper Mashay, along with her other “Pride song” from the QAF era called “I Got My Pride,” which of course says it all.
This year, Pepper Mashay will be bringing those songs and others to perform at Baton Rouge Pride on Saturday, June 15. I recently sat down to talk with her about Pride, performing, and living an authentic life.
RVC: We’re so excited to have you coming to BR Pride. It’s probably different than what you’re used to. We’re full of families, and we’re indoors.
PM: I was excited when I got the call from Chris [Bradford, President of BR Pride] that my appearance was being sponsored by Reverend Tommy Dillon and his church [St Margaret’s Episcopal Church of Baton Rouge]. He and I go way back. He’s one of the only clergymen I’ve ever met that could hang [with musicians].
RVC: Tommy definitely has the energy! We’re all excited to have you perform.
PM: I mainly sing the blues these days because I’m finally old enough. When I’m booked [for Pride], it’s mainly having to do with the two songs from Queer as Folk. On one [“Dive in the Pool”], I only talk. And to this day, I still can’t believe it did as well as it did. That’s why I didn’t take the publishing, which I should have. Then, “I Got My Pride.” A famous songwriter told me it was one of the best lyrics he’s ever heard, which I also didn’t write or take publishing on…Because when these two songs were blowing up, we were in the midst of fighting for the right to be a human. In the beginning of the 2000’s, I was so new to the community with performing – let alone preaching the gospel about us as a community being human and being able to be with other people of the same sex. You have to understand, during that time [I was] coming out of a divorce from the father of my two sons, being married for 27 years.
RVC: Wow! That’s a lot to contend with.
PM: I was being introduced into a community that welcomed everybody. So, I just took it upon myself after 9/11 to go full onslaught for gay rights, having the right to marry who you want, and being accepting of a community who accepted me for who I was.
RVC: Yes! It feels like a rebirth when you finally love as your true Self.
PM: Yes. Then coming up on 2011 when I met my wife, because I had fallen in love with a woman, I finally felt comfortable belonging to a community that was so welcoming. She has two children from a previous marriage, and we’re a blended family now.
RVC: I love that. That story was perfect and wonderful, particularly since we’re talking about Pride. I was wondering, have you been to Baton Rouge before?
PM: I have, but it’s been years. When “Dive Into the Pool” and “Let’s Get Soaking Wet” came out, I was in a whilrwind.
RVC: When that song came out, it blew up. I remember it was everywhere. I understand what you’re saying about there not being a lot to the song. I kind of feel like for some songs they don’t need a lot because the music is so good that you get the lift anyway, and if there are too many words, you don’t know what they are because you’re dancing too much.
PM: Right. Even when Barry Harris, the producer, did it, he was one half of a producing team called Thunderpuss 2000 at the time. They were huge. They were remixing everything. So when he called me saying he has this idea, I was like, “Now what?” He said, “I need you to come into the studio tonight. I’ve got something for you.”
The rest is history.