OZY Fest Welcomes RuPaul, Samantha Bee and Politicians From the Left and Right

Samantha Bee Ozyfest Panel - Getty - H 2017
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Donald Trump’s name came up plenty at the New York gathering.

Temperatures nearing 90 degrees weren’t enough to keep hundreds of New Yorkers from OZY Fest 2017, the 10-hour, three-stage, mostly outdoor extravaganza on the east side of Central Park. Headliners including RuPaul, Samantha Bee and Van Jones joined special guests like former Vice President Joe Biden for a day of future-casting, per the online news magazine’s focus on “where the world is going.”

RuPaul’s Drag Race garnered seven Emmy nominations last week, and its host titled his afternoon talk, “Can I Get an Amen?” Walking onstage, RuPaul led an audience chant: “Everybody say ‘love.’ Everybody say ‘love.’ Now drag that down to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

He told the crowd that he’d spent his week with J.J. Abrams, shopping a series they’d executive produce about RuPaul’s life as an East Village go-go dancer in the 1980s. Each network pitch has included YouTube clips filmed three decades ago, which haven’t been easy for him to watch: “Back then it felt like I was always sort of selling myself short to make everybody else love me.”

Between stopping to guess what lipsticks the guests (who paid $50 to $125 per ticket) were wearing, he summarized his last 56 years, from the day a psychic told his pregnant mother, “It’s a boy, and he’s going to be famous,” to discovering that “drag was like the superhero to my Clark Kent … Drag is really about reminding the culture not to take life too seriously. Have fun with it. Use all the colors in the rainbow.”

Lastly, he revved up the crowd for season 10 of Drag Race on VH1 (shooting begins Friday) and RuPaul’s DragCon, a weekend-long event coming to New York City in September.

Before joining Full Frontal host Samantha Bee and Shark Tank panelist Mark Cuban on the main stage for a talk with OZY CEO/co-founder Carlos Watson, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush addressed those gathered in the Town Square tent. "[President] Trump is tapping into people's anxieties without offering solutions,” said Bush, who vied against him in the 2016 Republican primaries. “For the record, he's not of the party."

Bush also said he “didn’t vote for either of the major candidates” and criticized the winner’s Twitter feed: "[Trump] unleashed five tweets today about stuff that jeopardizes his legal situation, insults somebody, goes back to the 2016 election, none of which is relevant to getting tax relief done, regulatory reform done. This is going to be a long ride between 2018 in January, much less 2020." At which point, Bush said he “prefer[s] that we look to the governors and less to reality TV” for candidates. “As you can tell, I’m not part of the Trump crew… I find [Trump] deeply troubling in a lot of ways. But I pray for him every night, I pray for our president every night. I want him to succeed because … I care about you guys, I care about my grandkids.” Still, he doesn’t mind that Trump’s performance as commander-in-chief has made many regard President George W. Bush in a kinder light: “[My brother] was always, in his own words, misunderestimated.”

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee hit its 50-episode milestone last week and is a fellow Emmy-nominee this year. At OZY Fest, Bee announced that she’d followed up her season one reporting trips to Russia and Jordan with another in Iraq, set to air over the first two weeks of August. She also said that she’s mulling over a Full Frontal internship program for formerly incarcerated women. When Bush espoused the importance of involved fathers who are married to their children’s mothers, Bee — who said she has trying to get Bush on her show since the beginning — interjected, “I also really think that we would signal that we care about the importance of families if we offered people maternal healthcare and family-planning to begin with, and once babies were born, that we offered maternity leave and paternity leave … I grew up in Canada, so everything I see in the health care system here is so outlandish and ridiculous to me, it’s mind-blowing.”

During both her panel and conversation with Katie Couric, Bee insisted that she’d never seek political office. In response to Couric mentioning articles blaming late-night comedians for “increasing the chasm between, sort of, the red- and blue-state people,” Bee argued, “I generally reject the premise because I feel like Fox News has been on the air for two decades now, and they’ve changed the culture … I just don’t take responsibility for the divide that currently exists in this country. I just don’t take responsibility for it at all. I’m doing a show that comes from a place of pure passion, and a lot of times anger, and sometimes joy, and … I really just don’t give a single shit what people think about me contributing to the divide. I think what I talk about is important to me, I have this opportunity, I’m gonna take it.”