“Happy Gay Pride!” Idina Menzel said with a heartfelt laugh and a smile to a group of men at her concert Saturday, June 16, as she searched her fans for a companion to sing “Take Me or Leave Me”.

Waving her over enthusiastically, one of the men stood up as she approached and wrapped his muscular arms around her in a huge hug. She flicked his mustache playfully and asked him if he was going to sing. Sadly, he didn’t know the words.

“That’s okay,” she said with a grin, “I liked hugging you anyway.”

Since her debut as the bisexual performance artist Maureen in “RENT”, Menzel has been as big of a fan of the GBLT community as it is of her. She has been an advocate for gay rights, working with the Human Rights Campaign, the Give a Damn Campaign and the NOH8 campaign.

Menzel’s activism mirrors that of her most popular character, Elphaba from Broadway’s “Wicked”. She wants people to find out who they are, take a stand and do the right thing for each other.

“It’s about taking the time to find out who you really are and not having to adapt or change that for anyone,” she said. “It’s about knowing when you hit upon that thing that makes you a unique and that that’s the thing that makes you stand out in the world. Sometimes it’s a little scary to do that, but when you do — when you let those vulnerabilities be seen — your life will be more fulfilling.

Menzel has also been especially involved with those campaigns concerning marriage equality, stemming somewhat from the early controversy that surrounded her own biracial marriage to fellow RENT star Taye Diggs.

“I’ll be honest: I don’t think that we’ve experienced as much of a struggle as same-sex couples have as far as civil rights go,” she said. “I mean, we were allowed to get married in this silly country.”

Since there was a time when biracial couples were not allowed to wed, there were some prejudices against them, Menzel said. However, she did not want people to infer that her experiences were similar those of the gay community’s struggles for equality. Instead, she praised the president for taking a stand for human rights.

“It took some balls, you know,” she said. “I thought he would wait until after elections to do some of those things. Even if there is a strategic side to it, it took some balls, so I hope he got appreciated for that.”

Menzel also encouraged the opponents of same-sex marriage to really get to know a gay person and learn to understand them.

“The bigger thing would be to learn and understand each others’ backgrounds and unlearn the prejudices we have as people from where we’ve grown up,” she said. “You have to keep searching to understand each other. Whether you’re black or white, straight or gay, whatever your experience is, you have to keep striving to educate yourself and learn empathy and understanding and not to generalize people and stereotype.” 

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

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For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:

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