The Wilton Manors Stonewall Street Festival and Parade is one of the most popular yearly events in the South Florida LGBT community, and this year organizers promise that this one will be better than ever before. Wilton Manors Stonewall begins at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 20, with the entertainment acts performing after the parade (at approximately 7 or 7:30 p.m.).
On the center stage, the girl group En Vogue will be singing some of their greatest hits, such as “Hold On,” “My Lovin’ (Never Gonna Get It),” and many more. Crystal Waters, Venus D’Lite and Shemuwel will be following En Vogue on the center stage. On the north stage, British R&B and soul singer Maxine Nightingale will be presenting a whole medley of disco songs, including a sampling of her hits such as “Right Back Where We Started From” and “Lead Me On.”
I had the privilege to interview En Vogue’s Terry Ellis as well as Maxine Nightingale in the run-up to both of their performances at Wilton Manors Stonewall.
Welcome back to Florida! What’s the one thing you like the most about the Sunshine State?
Terry: I hate to be corny and say Disney World…I can say Disney World, right? [laughs] So yeah, that’s one of them, but other than that, the audiences who listen to us there. The audience is always full of energy and they’re always fun. We always have great shows there.
Maxine: I have to say that the one thing I love about performing in Florida is getting to do it in the winter because then the weather is so nice then. I do anything for my fans, though, so I can’t wait to tie my hair back and sing for you down here in the middle of June! I don’t think I’ve done a Pride celebration in Broward County so this will be so fun. I love getting to meet people I may not otherwise get to meet, and of course the party is always a great time.
Tell us a little bit about your performance that’s coming up in Wilton Manors on June 20. What can audiences expect?
Maxine: A few years ago I got to put together a really fun disco show. People were appreciating disco again and I got to pick out a lot of the best songs from that era. So you will hear some of my hits, and then you’ll hear other fun disco songs, and there will be lots of medleys as well. They can expect to hear great music and to see a woman who doesn’t look half-bad for her age! [laughs]
Terry: They can definitely expect to hear all of our greatest hits, but there’s also a part of the show that I think everyone will love, and that’s where we pay tribute to all the funky divas who came before us. There’s lots of high-energy, dancing, and having a great time.
Terry, out of all the women in En Vogue, you were the only one to be there from the beginning without a break. How exciting of a ride has the last 25 years been for you?
Terry: It’s funny that you mention that, because I was in my house this morning, exercising, and out of the blue, I thought of that. I guess the first feeling I have looking back on the past 25 years is a feeling of gratitude. It’s been such a fun ride and I’ve been so grateful. It’s also fun being able to do what you love to do every single day. Those 25 years have kept me stable and fueled my passion and creativity.
Maxine, it was 40 years ago this year that you became internationally known. How did you first begin working with J. Vincent Edwards and Pierre Tubbs, who gave you your first hit?
Maxine: I knew both of them from different locations. I was in Hair in London, and I was 17 years old then, and Vince Edwards was in Hair with me. He was friends with Pierre Tubbs, who was the artistic director at United Artists London, and his hobby was writing songs. Later on, Pierre went to Vince with a song, and he suggested me for the vocals. I didn’t really have any big expectations…I was so young and green and just focused on enjoying every day.
Then “Right Back Where We Started From” was released in Britain and it went up the charts there…it took a year before the single made it to the States. Now as a Scorpio, in my heart of hearts, I truly believe I am the queen. [laughs] Landing in Hollywood with a top-selling single, I really did feel like a queen! And I’ve been in California ever since.
How did the presence of LGBT people in your life, such as friends, family, fans, etc., help shape who you are as a person?
Terry: They taught me to value freedom, specifically the freedom to express myself at the deepest levels possible, free from judgment, because that’s how they live. I think that’s one of the primary keys to my own happiness.
Maxine: When I was in a production of Hair in London, all the way back in the early ’70s, I met this sweet man who was in the process of transitioning. His name was Gabriel and he was my best friend. Even back then, it was crystal clear to me that people are all different, and those differences should be celebrated. Then I had a friend, Kenny, who had a band and wanted me to sing in it. He really brought me into the gay community. I remember about 28 years ago, we would rehearse our acts in the cellars of bathhouses on Hollywood Boulevard! He reinforced what I already knew at that point, that diversity should be celebrated.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
Maxine: Last winter I had a residency in Atlantic City for three months, called “Disco Lady.” I’m going to be doing that show again on the West Coast this coming winter, and I have a lot of one-nighters coming up this summer too. I’ll be in Augusta, Georgia for their Pride, and I’ll also be in Saratoga Springs, New York. It’s a beautiful place and you should see it!
Terry: After we leave, we’ll probably be getting back in the studio to finish working on our new record. We’re really excited to bring more music to all of you, and we hope you guys like it!
To follow Terry (and the rest of En Vogue) and Maxine on social media, visit them on Facebook at facebook.com/envogue and facebook.com/maxinenightingaleofficial. For more information on the Wilton Manors Stonewall Street Festival and Parade, visit wiltonmanorsstonewall.com. Read our guide to the parade and festival in next week’s issue!