Welcome to the 12th installment of our 2019 Pride Month Series! Each day in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQ+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQ+ community and in mainstream media.
From her very first line in the Broadway musical The Prom, Emma Nolan comes out to the audience as she sings “note to self don’t be gay in Indiana.” Emma is a high school student who also happens to be a lesbian. She lives with her grandmother, because her parents kicked her out after she came out to them. All she wants to do is take her girlfriend to the prom, but the school’s PTA is against it and cancels the event. With the help of her principal and four Broadway veterans who want to “change lives” (as well as gain some positive press), she creates a prom for everyone.
Emma starts out as an awkward seventeen-year-old girl who doesn’t want to start any drama (or be someone that her town opposes). She just wants to dance with her girlfriend at the prom. As she navigates a fake prom, new friendships, a (temporary) breakup, and finding her place in the world, she becomes a confident and brave young woman who does indeed “blaze a trail.”
In the end, just as the four Broadways actors come to Indiana to help Emma find her own “zazz,” she in turn helps them find a little more heart.
One especially poignant moment from the musical is when Emma creates a song about her own experiences and posts it online. She sings, “I’m who I am and I think that’s worth fighting for, and nobody out there ever gets to define the life I’m meant to lead with this unruly heart of mine.” After Emma posts the video, she receives so many messages of support from other queer young adults with similar experiences who relate to her story.
Emma is such an important icon for LGBTQ+ youth and is a character that represents so many current students who are suspended, or banned, from their proms for bringing same-sex dates. Emma also represents perseverance and hope for “how the world could one day be.”
Caitlin Kinnunen, the actress who portrays Emma, has spoken about how playing this character, and the fans’ response to her, have positively affected her. The stories and messages fans tell Caitlin are proof that representation matters so much. Caitlin herself has also recently opened up about how she herself is dating a woman.
You can watch Caitlin and the rest of the cast of The Prom dance their unruly hearts out at the 73rd Annual Tony Awards below!
Be sure to check out the rest of our 2019 Pride Month Series here!