opinion & features
Twenty-two years ago, Mariah Hanson’s dream was to produce an event that was far and above what lesbians were used to. The result has been the incredible Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend that takes place over five days in Palm Springs, California, every year – an iconic gathering and music festival for the lesbian community. “It’s an honour to produce an event that in many respects has become a right of passage,” Hanson says. “The Dinah is where facets of our community come together for five days to celebrate our lives. The joy and celebration is prevalent. The separations between us seem to just fade away.”
Aside from successfully producing the largest lesbian event in the world, Hanson also takes pride in the Dinah’s history of helping to launch new and upcoming artists. “We’re pretty good at picking the next big thing. We’ve helped launch artists like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. A few years ago, agents barely took my phone calls. Now they’re contacting me. They’re getting so much exposure. That’s the power of lesbian night life. Part of our social structure is nightclubbing. We’re out there, listening to music and appreciating music. We’re early adopters. As a community, we’re cutting edge.”
Hanson also created the Dinah Club program, which allows clubs to throw Dinah events for their cities. More than 40 clubs have taken part - from Texas, New York, Chicago, even France and England. “I love working in the entertainment industry,” Hanson says. “I’m awed by it every year, honoured to act as a platform for that. I love working with the artists, the raw and fierce talent. They tend to be a little different. They’re a force. You can feel it, their intensity and creativity.”
Hanson’s warmth and down-to-earth attitude extends to her other passion, outside the entertainment industry – riding horses. “I have really cool horses,” she says, her voice rising in excitement. “I love them because they have so much heart. It’s a very powerful experience to become one with a horse. It’s the most dangerous sport. It’s all about calmness, gentleness and trust. It’s profound to develop trust with a horse.”
She started riding when she was five years old. Her grandfather was a horse lover and the property she now owns once belonged to him, passed through her mother and her aunt. Her work with horses also shapes how she approaches life around her.
“At their essence, horses are noble, fearful herd animals, used to being attacked,” Hanson says.” “There’s trust there that can’t help but touch those that come into contact with it. You experience a community the way you can animals. People are fearful animals. You can carry that gentleness and trust forward. What’s important is our celebration. How do we live? Do we live out loud? And if we love out loud, do we live gently? There are many ways to change the world.”
– Katrina Caudle is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer.