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Singer Hayley Kiyoko brings drag queens on stage, defying Tennessee law

Singer Hayley Kiyoko protested a recent law restricting drag shows in Tennessee by bringing two drag queens on stage during her Nashville show on Monday. Kiyoko wrote in an Instagram post on Tuesday that an "undercover cop" approached her before the start of her all-ages concert and said she could face legal action if she were to include a drag performance.

"I'm so sorry to my community, and I'm just devastated," Kiyoko, who is a lesbian, said through tears in a video she stated was captured shortly after the encounter with police. "This is not right. It's not okay."

Kiyoko said she relayed the warning to local drag queens LiberTea and Ivy St. James, who decided to proceed with the performance as planned. "They showed no fear and said they wanted to continue with the show and come out on stage," Kiyoko wrote.

A Tennessee law banning "adult cabaret" in public or in front of minors was signed in February by Republican Gov. Bill Lee, but was blocked by a federal judge in April, hours before it was set to go into effect. The judge sided with a Memphis-based LGBTQ+ theater company, which filed a federal lawsuit claiming the proposed statute violated the First Amendment.

In an email, a Nashville police spokesperson disputed Kiyoko's account, saying "we wouldn't do this to begin with," and cited the judge's stay, set to expire May 26.

Grammy-winning singer Lizzo also protested the law in April by bringing 20 drag queens out on stage at her Knoxville show. "Why would I not create a safe space in Tennessee where we can celebrate drag entertainers and celebrate our differences?" the artist said in a video of the concert.

"We will not be silenced," Kiyoko added. "We will find ways to continue to be our authentic selves, no matter what. We will not give up. No matter how hard they make it."

C Mandler contributed to this report.

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