Pride 2022: Celebrating San Diego’s LGBTQ artists

Actor David McBean in the dressing room at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights.
(Ariana Drehsler/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

As San Diego begins Pride Week, we celebrate the creatives who make the fabric of the region’s LGBTQ community so rich, vibrant and colorful.

RELATED: What you can expect at San Diego Pride as it returns in person after two years of hybrid events

David McBean

Occupation: Actor, teacher and music director

Age: 44

Birthplace: San Diego

Born and raised in San Diego, David McBean has a long history in the local arts scene. He attended the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts. At 14, he came out and began his “journey as a queer singer, actor and pianist in the 1990s, when the AIDS crisis was still active,” he says. He first performed in the ensemble of the San Diego Comic Opera and then filled in as an understudy in “10 Percent Revue,” his first production at Diversionary Theatre, eventually joining the cast. Since then, he’s performed in numerous Diversionary productions, including “The Rocky Horror Show,” “The Boys in the Band,” “Psycho Beach Party,” “The Mystery of Irma Vep” and “Twist.” He was most recently in Diversionary’s “Eighty-Sixed,” a quarter century after his first show. He has also been in “The Legend of Georgia McBride,” “La Cage aux Folles” and “Fully Committed” for which he won a Craig Noel Award.

What Pride means to me: My journey as a queer man has been arduous. A product of religiously sanctioned hatred, my coming-out process was rooted in anger. An outcry against cultural messaging that the way I love is an affront to God, society and “Americana.” Luckily, I had supportive parents, a loving artistic community, and the arms of arts educators to guide my path of discovery. Today I am blessed with the opportunity to be a performer, teacher and music director — a living example of a thriving queer artist, an advocate for my students (regardless of identity), and I experience Pride as a quieter, more peaceful expression of self-love and acceptance.

Paris Sukomi Max

Entertainer Paris Sukomi Max at The Westgate Hotel in downtown San Diego.
Entertainer Paris Sukomi Max at The Westgate Hotel in downtown San Diego.
(Ariana Drehsler/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Occupation: Entertainer and general manager-partner at insideOUT San Diego and Mo’s Universe

Age: 33

Birthplace: San Diego

Instagram: @parissukomimax

Take a look at her Instagram page, and you’ll quickly realize that San Diego native Paris Antoinette S. Quion — whose stage name is Paris Sukomi Max — is all about celebrating and elevating the LGBTQ community. As one of the highest-profile drag entertainers in San Diego, her influence goes far beyond the stage. She’s active in the community — as a citizen, as a businesswoman — and goes out of her way to lift people up. On Nov. 20, 2021 — Transgender Remembrance Day — she posted: “Remember those who lived so bravely and openly so future generations can live authentically.”

What Pride means to me: As an entertainer, I always hoped to do more and have more reach beyond being onstage to make a little bit of impact in the betterment of the community I love so much. I quickly learned that our visibility itself is a great way to show those in our community struggling to embrace their true selves that we can dream past just being alive and that it truly does get better. When you’re ready, we will be here with open arms.

Lauren Flower

Ballet dancer Lauren Flower at Lake Murray in La Mesa.
(Ariana Drehsler/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Occupation: Ballet dancer at Golden State Ballet

Age: 27

Birthplace: Fresno

Instagram: @lauren_flower

Lauren Flower, you can say, has had a lifelong love affair with dance. She began dancing at the age of 3 and honed her skills as a young dancer at Tucson Regional Ballet and Ballet Arts. During the summer, she attended summer intensives at the School of American Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Houston Ballet before continuing her training — on a full scholarship — with Houston Ballet II, the Houston Ballet’s second company. After stints abroad, she returned to Arizona in 2013 and joined Ballet Arizona. Four years later, she joined the Boston Ballet. Today, she is a member of the newly formed Golden State Ballet in San Diego.

What Pride means to me: Pride to me is being vulnerable and celebratory in expressing my true and authentic self. As an artist, my goal is to recognize and showcase the beauty of queer identities through movement, dance and storytelling. Pride means accepting myself and accepting others as they are and as they identify. Within the LGBTQ+ community, it is beautiful to embrace all facets of who we are and to shine light on one another. I’m proud to identify as a queer woman in the ballet industry and to be working alongside many LGBTQ+ artists today.

Lavina Rich

Contemporary dancer Lavina Rich at NTC Park in Liberty Station.
(Ariana Drehsler/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Occupation: Choreographer and founder of Push Process Movement

Age: 44

Birthplace: San Diego

Instagram: @pushprocessmvmt

Lavina Rich was recently named as one of three winners in the NTC Foundation’s Emerging Artists program, which awards studio space at Liberty Station to dancers and choreographers. “As a board member who served on the selection committee for the emerging artist visual arts program, we witnessed so much creativity,” said Victoria Reed of the NTC Foundation. “Every single applicant impressed me with their passion and unique approach to dance. Lavina is a dancer who took a break and is ready to re-focus on her dance experience and message.” Rich, who studied dance at Grossmont College and the University of California San Diego, says her mission as a dancer and choreographer is to explore “the human experience through movement, humor and shared emotions.”

What Pride means to me: Pride means being able to be your authentic self. It means acknowledging all our differences and our similarities — and finding the joy in these spaces. It means building connections through many types of mediums. Because representation matters so much, I hope to be able to pass on my experiences to the younger generation and watch them flourish in building a strong dance community here in San Diego. Here’s to all those identify as mixed race, as queer, as middle-aged dancers, as chubby, as quirky art makers. We got this.

Hervey García

Muralist Hervey Garcia sits near his paintings, "Sunflower Goddess" and "Sunflower God," in Hillcrest.
(Ariana Drehsler/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Occupation: Visual artist

Age: 29

Birthplace: Tamaulipas, Mexico

Instagram: @hervey.garcia

Ask Hervey García what drives him as an artist, and he’ll give you a pretty straightforward answer: His “main objective in life is to touch the feelings of the viewer through the visual arts.” Born in Reynosa in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, García has interest in a variety of artistic media, including painting, illustration, photography and film. He’s painted numerous murals all over Mexico as well as California and North Carolina. As a painter — he uses everything from acrylic to oil — his style falls into the realism and magical realism categories.

What Pride means to me: As an artist, Pride means being yourself without feeling ashamed about your true identity. It is being honest with everyone, and not being sorry of who you really are, regardless of your sexual preference, religion or ethnicity. For me, Pride is not a date, it is an attitude towards life, and it is a state of consciousness that, little by little, is reaching every corner of the planet.

Christian Garcia-Olivo

Artist Christian Garcia-Olivo sits in front of his acrylic paint on wood panel titled "Essentials"
Artist Christian Garcia-Olivo sits in front of his acrylic paint on wood panel titled “Essentials” in his art studio in the College East area of San Diego.
(Ariana Drehsler/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Occupation: Artist

Age: 33

Birthplace: Santa Barbara

Instagram: @christian.garcia_olivo

Christian Garcia-Olivo sits at the intersection of many identities: He was born in Santa Barbara to immigrant parents, and he’s a bilingual, Latinx and LGBTQ artist. The complexity of that intersection — which created “a life of constant doubt, self-critique, and denial of oneself” — informs his work as an artist, hoping to “draw human connections and explore associations in our visual perception.” He has exhibited in Italy, Spain and all over Southern California, including his first solo show at Bread & Salt in Logan Heights in 2020.

What Pride means to me: As an artist, Pride is a visual rainbow overload. But most importantly, it serves as a yearly reminder that we are finally here. We are acknowledged, we are supported and we belong. Pride is unity. It is feeling whole, by embracing all parts of yourself and simply living. I use paint as a medium to translate my human experience, and rewrite our story as beautiful beings, no longer defined by stereotypes or suffocated into categories. My name is Christian Garcia-Olivo and I am proud to identify as a bilingual, Latinx, LGBTQ+ artist with immigrant parents.

‘There’s no other time where you have so many people coming together to exhibit joy and love and diversity,’ says Fernando Z. López, executive director of San Diego Pride