Pride Toronto has announced Scarborough native David Furnish as the 2015 Grand Marshall, and he will be leading the Pride Parade on Sunday June 28, 2015 along with International Grand Marshall Celina Jaitly from India.

Pride Toronto annually selects an International Grand Marshall (IGM) who acts as an ambassador to represent global LGBTTIQQ2SA communities during the Pride festival. Through its “Global Human Rights for Queers: What OUT is About” program, the honour is bestowed in recognition of the IGM’s leadership and achievement in international human rights issues, such as discrimination and equality; violence, torture and abuse; and criminalization of LGBTTIQQ2SA people, identities and activities.

David Furnish

David Furnish

After an 11-year career in advertising, David Furnish became a filmmaker in 1995, directing the BAFTA nominated documentary Elton John: Tantrums & Tiaras. With backing from the Walt Disney Company, David established the film production company Rocket Pictures, producing the independent films Women Talking Dirty and It’s A Boy/Girl Thing. In 2011, Rocket Pictures released the major animated feature film Gnomeo & Juliet. Gnomeo had the largest February animated film box office opening weekend in North American history and was a Number One hit in the UK. Rocket Pictures also produced the critically-acclaimed TV series Spectacle: Elvis Costello with, featuring artists such as Bono, The Edge, and Bruce Springsteen. In 2010, David served as a producer for the critically acclaimed Broadway drama, Next Fall.

David developed the concept of turning the Oscar-nominated film Billy Elliot into a musical. He worked with his husband, Elton John, and the original production team to develop and produce the musical. Billy Elliot won nine Olivier Awards in London and 10 Tony Awards on Broadway. David remains involved as Executive Producer of this multiple award-winning production as it tours the globe. David serves as the Chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) in the United States and the United Kingdom. He has played an integral part at every level of the organization’s fundraising initiatives – helping EJAF to raise over $321 million since its inception in 1992.

David takes an active leadership role as a global Ambassador for EJAF by regularly appearing as a public speaker, writing editorials pertaining to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, developing partnerships with likeminded organizations, and travelling internationally to visit and mentor Foundation grantees. He is also a Contributing Editor for British GQ.

David has been in a relationship with Elton John for over 20 years. The two celebrated their marriage in England on December 21st, 2014, following the legalization of same-sex marriage by the British Government. They have two sons, Zachary and Elijah.

Celina Jaitly

Celina Jaitly

Internationally-recognized film and beauty icon, Celina Jaitly first rose to prominence as the winner of the prestigious Miss India beauty pageant and Miss Universe runner-up. Celina made her acting debut with legendary director/actor Feroz khans “Janasheen”  established her self as a comedy queen in such hit films as “No-Entry”, “Golmaal Returns”, “Apna Sapna Money-Money” and many more. Celina is a committed animal welfare advocate and was honoured by People for the Ethical treatment of Animals (PETA) with their Humaniarian Award. She is a Tourism Ambassador for Egypt, promoting Egyptian culture and tourism in India and around the world, and became one of the youngest actors to become a jury member for the esteemed Cairo international film festival. She has also been the darling face of many beautiful advertising campaigns. Celina recently launched her own production house and is looking forward to making more films after a sabbatical of two years following the birth of her twin boys, Winston & Viraaj.

Besides acting, Celina has devoted most of her time to supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in India. She has spoken out publicly and repeatedly against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes same sex relationships in India, and has worked to raise public awareness of the challenges facing LGBT people in India — in spite of the fierce criticism and death threats directed at her. In 2013, her activism attracted the attention and endorsement of the United Nation Human Rights Office, which named her among a small number of UN Equality Champions supporting the UN Free & Equal LGBT equality campaign. Other Equality Champions include the singer Ricky Martin, hip-hop duo Maklemore & Ryan Lewis and South African musician Yvonne Chaka Chaka. A Bollywood-style music video that Celina helped create for the campaign launched in May 2014 has become the most watched video ever produced by the United Nations.

Celina’s activism is guided by a passionate belief in the equal worth and dignity of all people and a commitment to support those marginalized in society because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. “For a society to be truly progressive,” she has said “we need to embrace everyone as ‘one’, not categorize people into first and second class citizens based on their sex, caste, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.” Celina’s activism is marked by a an understanding of cultural diversity, and acumen for communicating across cultural divides.

Pride Toronto happens June 19th to 28th, 2015

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.