When the founding member of the black gay dance troop the Prancing Elites heard about the annual Christmas Parade in Semmes, Ala., he wanted to participate. But he never expected the outcry his troupe’s performance would provoke.
“No one said anything to us as we were passing by,” Kentrell Collins told ABCNews.com.
Collins said it soon became evident that the parade-goers were not expecting the troupe of four dressed in tight boy shorts, midriff-exposing turtlenecks and tight Santa Claus overcoats.
“As we were going down the street, there wasn’t any love shown. People were just looking at us staring,” Collins said. “I was outraged and appalled. I never expected anything like this at the Semmes Christmas parade,” parade-goer Claudia Davis told the local Fox station.
Davis, who was there with her daughter, seemed to express the sentiment of many in the crowd. “If they were gonna put this kind of activity in the parade, they should have notified the people of Semmes so that we had a choice of whether we wanted our children to attend and see something like that,” Davis said.
When reached for comment, Jack Tillman, chairman of the Friends of Semmes Christmas Parade, told ABCNews.com that his attorneys had advised him not to talk about the matter.
For his part, Collins, 26, said the booking might not have been suited to the parade, but that it was more of a matter of miscommunication between parade organizers and his dance troupe.
He told ABCNews.com that the first red flag was raised when a parade organizer asked him to be sure to sign a waiver. “She said, just be sure to have all your little girl’s parents fill out the form. At that point I told her we were a group of guys, we do what the girls do, but we’re guys and we are over 21,” Collins said. “And, she just said, ‘OK.’”
Collins’ group of gay male dancers has sparked social media attention before, with videos gone viral and Twitter endorsements from famous fans such as Shaquille O’Neil.
Collins sent the parade organizers a letter of apology as soon as he realized the story was gaining steam on social media. “We didn’t come here to start any controversy,” he told ABCNews.com. Suzanne Massingill, the dance troop’s agent, said the Prancing Elites was excited to participate in the annual event in Semmes, which is right outside Mobile.
“We went into it thinking it was going to be a great thing,” Massingill told ABCNews.com. “Now, I just realize that they weren’t ready.”
Despite the town’s reaction, Collins said there had been a large outpouring of support on the Prancing Elite’s Facebook page. “The positive ones, they don’t want people to think of Semmes as a racist town or a homophobic town,” Collins said. “A lot of people keep telling us, ‘Please come back next year.’”