Superstar Cher made a surprise appearance in the crowd at the 40th anniversary of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on Saturday night.
The longtime gay icon was the headline performer at the Mardi Gras afterparty on Saturday night and organisers had hinted she may make an appearance during the parade as it moved along Sydney’s Oxford Street.
The parade briefly stopped as the singer hugged and took photos with several drag Cher impersonators from Qantas’ float who were dancing to Cher’s hits “Turn Back Time” and “Strong Enough” and waving large purple letters of her name.
Organisers said an estimated 300,000 people lined Oxford Street as the city filled with rainbows for the annual event.
More than 12,000 people took part in this year’s parade on 200 floats, including a group of 250 of the original “78ers” who had travelled from all over the country to reunite for the event’s 40th anniversary.
The group took part in the original march on June 24, 1978 – which was marred by police violence and 53 arrests – that would go on to become the modern Mardi Gras celebration.
— A.DA.MA.RY (@_AdamaryR_) March 3, 2018
Cher posing with a bunch of crying drag queens dressed as her has made my whole life #MardiGras40
— Brydie Lee-Kennedy (@BrydieLK) March 3, 2018
“This year we look back on the Mardi Gras’ 40 years and we acknowledge that we are built on the backs of so many that have come before us,” Mardi Gras chief executive Terese Casu said.
“Those incredible activists, the protestors, our artists, our creators, our volunteers – all those people that have brought us to Mardi Gras.
“For many, equality has been a long, hard journey and this year we celebrate.”
— Sydney Mardi Gras (@sydneymardigras) March 3, 2018
This year’s parade was also the first Sydney Mardi Gras since the passage of marriage equality in December.
Liberal Senator Dean Smith, Labor Senator Penny Wong and Greens leader Richard Di Natale all joined The Equality Campaign’s float in the parade.
Gay couple James Brechney and Stuart Henshall got engaged on live TV on the day the “yes” result was announced last November and on Saturday night tied the knot on top of a giant wedding cake on their “Married at Mardi Gras” float.
Brechney, who started the “DIY Rainbow” pedestrian crossing movement, told the ABC they timed their ‘I Do’s’ right as their float crossed Taylor Square, the location of Sydney’s original rainbow crossing.
“Stuart and I understand the shoulders we stand on to be able to get married at this year’s Mardi Gras,” Brechney said.
His partner added, “I always wanted a huge wedding so 200,000 people is just enough.”
— JAMES BREKO 🌈 (@breko) March 3, 2018