Stars set a high bar at lavish Mardi Gras afterparty

Dua Lipa, Sam Smith and Kesha headlined an extravagant afterparty end to this year's Mardi Gras parade.

International stars Dua Lipa, Kesha and Sam Smith rocked the biggest afterparty at Mardi Gras last night – and what a night it was.

In a kaleidoscope of coloured sequins Sydney sparkled (a little more than usual) like nowhere else on the planet, at the biggest LGBTQI celebration in the Southern Hemisphere.

The 42nd Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras went out with a bang as an estimated 200,000 people partied the night away from the Mardi Gras parade on Oxford Street in Darlinghurst to the Hordern Pavilion at Moore Park where over 5,500 people witnessed the biggest afterparty of the event to date.  

The afterparty crowd builds awaiting the headline acts. (Photo: Liam Gilleland)

The main afterparty in the capital kicked-off at 10pm on Saturday and concluded in the early hours this morning.

Surprise guest Casey Donovan began the night’s performances singing Whitney Houston’s Higher Love, alongside drag queens and dazzling back-up dancers.

Casey Donovan sings ‘Higher Love’. (Photo: Liam Gilleland)

British superstar and Grammy award winning artist, Dua Lipa was the first to perform of the three major headliners. She kicked off her night just after 1am with dance-pop hit New Rules, before singing her biggest hits One Kiss, Electricity, chart-topping anthem Don’t Start Now and her very first live performance of new single Physical, released last month.

Dua Lipa with back-up dancers performing ‘New Rules’. (Photo: Liam Gilleland)

In the spirit of Mardi Gras Lipa, dressed in a stunning rainbow two-piece skirt and midriff top with a hot pink headband, fitted in with a crowd showing lots of flesh.

The crowd-favourite performed for just over half-an-hour and used every minute to express her joy.

“Wow, Mardi Gras you really, really live up to everything that people say about it,” she told the audience.

“I’m so happy to be here celebrating you and your pride. I’m so proud to be here as an ally and to support you and promise you that I will stand by you every step of the way and I will love you and as we all know tomorrow isn’t promised so we have to live our truth. Happy Mardi Gras my loves!”

Dua Lipa on stage at Mardi Gras afterparty in rainbow two-piece. (Photo: Liam Gilleland)

Four-time Grammy award winner Sam Smith was announced as a special guest in January, with tickets selling out the day he went public about his guest appearance.

Taking to the stage at 2am on a gigantic muscled arm, Smith opened his performance with Latch, as he wore a white, feathery, wide brimmed hat and matching top with black pants.

Sam Smith performing on the giant arm. (Photo: Liam Gilleland)
Sam Smith on stage at the Mardi Gras afterparty. (Photo: Liam Gilleland)

“I hope you understand that all of my dreams are coming true right now. I feel so proud today to be a queer person,” Smith said before his last song.

Performing Promises he removed the feathers and was lifted into the air in a huge red gown which draped along the stage floor from above and covered the width of the stage. Written on it in cursive was one powerful word, that was the word of the night, “equality”.

Sam Smith singing ‘Promises’ whilst being winched with the equality gown. (Photo: Liam Gilleland)
Sam Smith being winched above the stage. (Photo: Liam Gilleland)

There was glitter galore, but certainly more flesh than fabrics among the thousands in attendance.

Ashley Wright, 27, a flight attendant from New Zealand was among the many well-dressed partygoers.

“Before I went to Mardi Gras I’d never been to something more hectic. There are no boundaries,” he said.

“This is bigger than Christmas for me.”

New Zealand flight attendant Ashley Wright, 27, enjoys the party. (Photo: Liam Gilleland)

American singer-songwriter and rapper Kesha was the last of the three headliners to perform, coming on at 3am, the morning of her birthday.

Kesha sang her heart out with her most nostalgic hits; We R Who We R, Praying, Take It Off and her recent single Raising Hell, before finishing the gig with fan-favourite Tik Tok. After leaving the stage the crowd sang “happy birthday” to the now 32-year-old.

Kesha singing on her birthday on the Hordern stage. (Photo: Liam Gilleland)
Kesha on the side stage at the afterparty. (Photo: Liam Gilleland)
Kesha wearing a black cat-suit and high-knee boots. (Photo: Curtis Gilleland)

In total 18 different international and home-grown DJ’s rocked the dance floor, playing mash-ups to the biggest and best-known gay anthems inside and outside the Hordern Pavilion. 

It was undoubtedly a night I will never forget. Seeing Dua Lipa, Kesha and Sam Smith share a stage, but even better for a cause that always goes above and beyond. It was a celebration for others on the night, and I was lucky and privileged to be a part of it.

Reporter Liam Gilleland with Tahlia Bromfield, Ashley Wright and Curtis Gilleland enjoying the afterparty.

This year’s outstanding triple header set a high bar for organisers already planning the 2021 event. 

What a night. What a spectacle. What a Mardi Gras!