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Life & Work with Mariah Hanson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mariah Hanson.

Hi Mariah, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I threw really good parties in college. I talked the dorm manager into letting me take over the cafeteria for my 21st birthday, but the rules were no alcohol and no charging at the door, which I didn’t follow. So, I charged at the door, brought in seven kegs of Lone Star beer, and threw a crazy party. I realized I had a knack for bringing people together and honed that into a career.

Thirty-one years ago, I took over the stunning Palm Springs Museum for a one-night party and parlayed that one-time-small-scale event into the largest event for queer women in the world, booking entire hotels so that they were 100% lesbian/LGBTQ
occupied, bringing in national sponsors, raising the event to international fame, and not only turning the city of Palm Springs into the ultimate lesbian getaway destination but also transforming The Dinah into a cultural phenomenon.

I am proud to see that today The Dinah stands as the largest & longest-running LGBTQ+ event & Music Festival for queer women in the world with a celebrity portfolio that is unmatched.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
There are obstacles every year. I will say that when I started The Dinah in 1991, Palm Springs was a very conservative town, and they had a catastrophic year with spring break, which led the lesbians to become more attractive. Still, the homophobia I dealt with back then would be unheard of today. For instance, I will not name the hotels, but they would have a directive sent out to the hotel staff saying, “for any religious reasons or personal reasons you are not comfortable working with a lesbian group, please let us know, and we will not have you work that weekend.” Could you imagine if that were written today?

Also, when I first started upping the talent budget, I didn’t get phone calls back from agencies. I had to call multiple times to get through to an agent. It wasn’t until I booked the Pussy Cat Dolls in 2006. Before I booked them, they didn’t have any hits; they sent me a cover of “Stick With You” before it had been released; it’s a beautiful song, but it was a little too much of a ballet for me, a woman named Marylin Bachelor said; “you got to do this, you got to trust me” They had about six to seven hits by the time The Dinah happened and we started this trajectory of picking the next big artists, which I give the lesbian/queer women community a lot of credit for because even when they are not attending The Dinah, they are listening to the people we are showcasing, and it helps drive sales. The Dinah has become essential to the music industry because we translate to sales and help young artists get exposure and take off.

Over the course of these past 31 years, The Dinah has turned into one of the hottest celebrity hotspots and has positioned itself as a trendsetting event that entertainment industry insiders watch and jockey to book their artist’s performances. The parade of international female stars I booked to headline The Dinah over the past years include: Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Bebe Rexha, Lizzo, Iggy Azalea, Kesha, Tegan and Sara, Chaka Khan and Meghan Trainor, to name a few.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am very proud of what The Dinah has come to represent over these past three decades. There’s so much going on and so many groundbreaking moments happening every year at The Dinah, but by far the most rewarding aspect of it all for me is the life-changing factor of the event.

The Dinah is a unique opportunity to experience one of the most bonding, liberating and transforming festivals ever in the spirit of sisterhood and community in a safe space. Every year the event shows us how crucial and necessary it is to be authentic, to live out loud in celebration of our unique and incredible lives.

I’m also very proud to have not only been providing a safe place for queer women to come together but also to have been bridging the gender inequality gap in the event production field – a field typically known to be a boys club. It is important for me to open up doors for women. This is why everything single aspect of the event is run by women – from the staff, the managers, the drivers and bartenders to the artists headlining every year.

So maybe we end on discussing what matters most to you and why?
For me, what matters the most are my attendees. It is of crucial priority that all my Dinah-goers feel safe and enjoy themselves without any judgment and/or prejudice.

It is easy to forget that homosexuality is still considered taboo in many countries and among many cultures. And even though the LGBTQ+ community has worked tirelessly to make tremendous strides in the ongoing fight for equality, there are still a majority of queer women and LGBTQ individuals who live in secret.

And for those of us who have the freedom to walk the streets holding hands with our partners, it’s difficult to fathom the idea that our lifestyle is not the same for a majority of others but rather the exception. We take for granted the fact that our reality is still a dream many wish would come true. But once a year, The Dinah makes that dream come true.

The Dinah is not only a hugely popular travel destination for queer women but also, and most importantly, is a life-changing experience. In the course of 5 days out of the other 360 days of the year, The Dinah allows them to be who they truly are without fearing the judgment of others and as well gain a tremendous amount of self-worth.

When The Dinah beckons for a makeshift meaning, Marlo Thomas may just make the most sense here…cause you and me are free to be.

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Image Credits
Photos courtesy of www.TheDinah.com

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