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West Hollywood Aquatics Team heads to Paris for Gay Games

Lights, camera and action: Just what you’d expect of a Hollywood athletic club

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The team at their Culver City practice home.( Photo Courtesy WH2O)

West Hollywood is a vibrant city, chock full of innovative ways to stay fit. For those of you who want to kick up your exercise regimen, check out the West Hollywood Aquatics Team (WH20).

This has been a good year for WH20; a large delegation from the team will be heading to Paris, to compete in the Gay Games in August. In addition, a Logo documentary, “Light in the Water,” chronicles the team’s history and will air on July 19.

There are more than 180 WH20 members coming from all walks of life: different ages, gender identities, ethnicities, sexualities, etc. noted Sam Stryker, team president, serving on the board for four years.

“We’re a varied bunch but we ALL love our daily dose of chlorine!”

WH20 was founded 35 years ago, so that LA-area athletes could compete in the first Gay Games. A group of competitors trained together a month beforehand and following the games, because of the positive experience and the lack of opportunities for/prejudice against LGBTQ athletes, decided they wanted to continue together.

Since then the team has expanded to have a water polo team, competing at meets around the world, and athletes have gone on to win championships and set world records.

“Everyone’s reason for wanting to join WH2O is unique and personal, but a common thread is wanting to be a part of a community.

“As a LGBTQ-friendly Masters team, we have a mission that goes beyond the pool and that sets us apart from other aquatics organizations,” said Stryker.

“As a lifelong swimmer, I wanted to get back in the pool and get in shape, but I also wanted to be a part of an organization that valued who I am as a person — and that’s what WH2O is about.”

While the coaches don’t currently teach people how to swim, their program features athletes of all abilities, ranging from newcomers to former Olympians and Division 1 athletes.

“We simply look for people who are open-minded, committed to working hard, and interested in learning more about themselves, their fitness, and the water,” added head coach Shea Manning.

“Both in how they move more confidently/efficiently/faster when they are in it… as well as how water moves around them,” he explained.

This is the first time Manning will be participating in the Gay Games with his team, focusing his time on coaching the 60+ members who will be traveling to compete in the global sports event.

“I am completely humbled and excited to have the opportunity…I cannot put into words just how special it is to attend,” acknowledged Manning, who describes his coaching philosophy as “seeing swimming as a sport AND lifetime skill that should be accessible to everyone.”

Newbie swimmer James Carameta is thrilled to be on WH20 and will also compete.

“I have not been a swimmer for very long; I learned how to swim at age 43. It was a New Year’s resolution— I wanted to do something good for myself and meet some new people.

“Now, at 46, I have a wonderful group of dear friends who have been nothing less than supportive of my efforts,” he enthused.

“I never dreamed that these very accomplished swimmers would be encouraging me to compete, and that’s exactly what I’m doing….It has been a life-changing, transformational experience.

Lis Bartlett, the heterosexual director of the film, is even on the team.

When she moved to LA seven years ago to pursue filmmaking, Bartlett knew only two people. “I googled swim teams and found West Hollywood Aquatics. I thought joining the LGBTQ team would be a great way to meet open minded people. I think somewhere inside I also knew it would feel like more of a family,” she said.

“I felt so warmly welcomed by the community, even though I don’t identify as queer.”

Besides the physical benefits, telling the story of West Hollywood Aquatics also allowed Bartlett to write a cathartic “love letter” to swimming.

“I lost my eldest brother to a heart attack when I was 14 and he was 18. Four years later, my dad died the same way. I had been a swimmer since middle school and through the tragedy, I kept swimming,” she acknowledged.

“It gave me strength, community, and somewhere to go when I was feeling sad. I understand firsthand, the power of swimming providing a space for healing, comfort, peace… and endorphins! A fellow swimmer once told me, ‘you leave it all in the pool,’ referring to the stress of life, etc.”

By making this film, Bartlett wanted to shine a light on a period in history that many people might not know about.

“In this current political time it feels so important to show how wonderful and powerful the concept of inclusivity is, to show the astonishingly positive things that can result when a group of diverse people come together to reach common goals,” she asserted.

Bartlett received a grant from the City of West Hollywood that waived the cost of permits for shooting.

Those of you who are interested in joining can drop by to any one of WH20’s practices. Your first workout is free of charge. And if you want swimming lessons, Manning owns a small business called The Manning Method, which offers coaching, lifeguarding, and aqua fitness for all ages and ability levels.

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Online Culture

Digital platform joins with It Gets Better for Pride-themed content

The online world can be a scary place, and it can still be difficult to “find your people” there without a little help

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Graphic provided by StreamElements

LOS ANGELES – The age of online communication has made it easier for LGBTQ+ people to connect with their community than ever before. This is especially valuable for young people, who don’t feel safe being out in their real-life environment, or who are isolated, whether by geography or prevailing social attitudes, from larger LGBTQ+ populations. Yet the online world, just like the real one, can be a scary place, and it can still be difficult to “find your people” there without a little help.

That’s why StreamElements, a platform which powers over 1.1 million digital content creators across Twitch, YouTube Live, and Facebook Gaming, is stepping up to provide assistance. The company is partnering with the It Gets Better Project for a new campaign that aims to help create safer and more inclusive LGBTQ spaces online, providing support for the community during Pride Month and beyond. 

As part of the campaign, StreamElements is:

  • Donating $25,000 to the It Gets Better Project and 100% of the proceeds from Prime-themed merchandise. It Gets Better, of course, is a nonprofit organization that leverages the power of media to reach and provide critical support and hope to LGBTQ+ young people around the world.
  • Collaborating with and commissioning graphics from LGBTQ+ artists Jaime Hayde and Andrea Marroquín, which will be used on special merchandise items for charity and shared with the broader streaming community for use in their individual merch stores.
  • Creating special overlays and alerts that feature the Pride-themed art for livestreamers to use on their channels. This “SuperTheme” can be used at various stages of a livestreamed broadcast and incorporates art from Hayde.
  • Spotlighting LGBTQ+ creators throughout the month via its social media channels, highlighting their work and including videos where they will share their journey and comment on what Pride means to them.

The initiative was spearheaded Sean Horvath, CRO of StreamElements and a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, who says, “Pride has always been an important part of my life. Seeing StreamElements partner with LGBTQ+ content creators and the highly impactful Its Gets Better Project to drive social change is a significant milestone, especially for myself and many other members of our staff who are part of the community we’re celebrating. Our goal with this campaign is to not only shine a light on all the amazing things Pride represents, but to continue our previous commitment to supporting diversity by ensuring the efforts we put forward are prominent year-round.”

You can find out more at the StreamElements website.

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Sports

Out track star heads to Tokyo as video of her hugging her Gran goes viral

Her moment of victory and celebration with her Gran was caught on video and later shared thousands of times on Twitter

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Sha'Carri Richardson (Screenshot via NBC Sports on YouTube)

EUGENE, Or. – A 21-year-old out female sprinter is headed to the summer Olympic games in Tokyo after winning the 100-meter heat and securing a coveted spot as part of the U.S. women’s team in the Olympic trials that were held at the newly renovated Hayward Field at the University of Oregon in Eugene this past weekend.

Sha’Carri Richardson, a former Louisiana State University (LSU) sprinter put on an amazing run, afterwards telling NBC News Sports that her biological mother died just a week before the qualifying Olympic trials. Richardson, who celebrated her win by running up the Hayward Field stairs to hug her grandmother, says that family means everything.

“My family has kept me grounded,” Richardson said. “This year has been crazy for me. Going from just last week losing my biological mother passed away and still choosing to pursue my dream, still coming out here and still trying to make the family that I still have on this earth proud.”

Her moment of victory and celebration with her Gran was caught on video and later shared thousands of times on Twitter including by Deputy White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

The sprinter also took time to thank her girlfriend who she had said inspires her, and also picked out her hair color. “My girlfriend actually picked my [hair] color,” Richardson said. “She said it like spoke to her, the fact that it was just so loud and vibrant, and that’s who I am.”

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a&e features

Hollywood’s Peter Kallinteris Agency launching LGBTQ dreams

“It’s important to me to actively participate with a platform and space for the LGBTQ community. I want to make a difference and be a leader”

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Hollywood sign courtesy of the City of Los Angeles

HOLLYWOOD – Whether they’d admit to it or not the aspiration for most actors is to be sitting in the Dolby Theatre at some point in their careers, dressed in their finest fashion ensemble at the most prestigious event of the year and hear, “and the Oscar goes to [insert their name].” Conversely also true for the Emmy awards or the Tony awards, yet for many LGBTQ artists the path to that goal is fraught with obstacles and difficulties.

In 2018, a young Black actor from Atlanta, Georgia, was given a supporting role as Ethan in the surprise hit film Love Simon. That actor, Clark Moore, in interviews with host Rob Watson, journalists Dawn Ennis and Brody Levesque on RATED LGBTQ RADIO and separately with Teen Vogue’s Shammara Lawerence spoke of the difficulty landing roles like that of Ethan, but also the conflict inherent with how the film and television industry has seen LGBTQ actors.

Answering a question by Teen Vogue’s Lawerence centered on that conflict, Moore bluntly assessed the landscape telling her; “Historically, I think the reason why there haven’t been more gay roles or more gay actors playing roles that have lots of layers to them and lots of depths to them is because for whatever reason, people think that the story is done. We’ve seen the gay character. We know what he says. We know what he thinks. We don’t need to tell that story anymore, but if you think about it, we’ve had a full canon of stories about straight white men that stretch back millennia, and so we’re only scratching the surface,” Moore pointed out.

“If we can have stories about people all the way back thousands of years ago and we can still be telling the same story now about straight white men and their journey to self-discovery or redemption, there’s plenty of stories to tell of people of color and LGBTQ people and anybody who falls in the intersection of those two identities,” he added.

Yet in the age of digital moving beyond the traditional film and television as more and more content is streamed online- and there’s insatiable need by casting agencies for a wider diverse spectrum of actors, there are still obstacles in the path for LGBTQ actors, especially trans and disabled LGBTQ actors.

Enter Peter Kallinteris, who with his broad based knowledge and understanding of the critical needs of the LGBTQ actor community decided that the time has arrived to have specialized representation for that community.

“Looking to the past, Hollywood hasn’t been very kind to the Queer community. Throughout the history of cinema gay men were either played as effeminate, weak, airheads, and lesbians as tough softball or gym coaches, who are often played by straight people,” Kallinteris said. “Within the the broader culture, there are subcultures, just as within any community. They are nuances within each that will never find its way between the pages of a table read.”

“To create an authentic moment the space has to be made for those who’ve lived that life every day. Gay, Black, White or Straight ect, our experiences of the world are different depending on how we show up. In many cases that will determine our outcomes,” he noted. “Specialized representation is so important because without the lingering trauma, and continued hatred & fear toward our community the Queer division of PKA wouldn’t exist, we’d just be accepted. We have important stories to tell and will continue to be telling them. PKA is just the begging for all to feel safe and thrive.”

In a statement issued from his offices at the Sunset-Gower Studios, the former historic home of pioneering Columbia Pictures founded in 1918, Kallinteris reflected, “When I was a young Actor being gay was career ending.”

“Today it’s celebrated. It’s important to me to actively participate with a platform and space for the LGBTQ community. I want to make a difference and be a leader because I can.”

To accomplish this he launched the Queer Division of his PKA agency. “The Queer Division of  PKA was inevitable, a natural outgrowth of my own personal evolution first by coming out as gay man, from Artist to Agent. The timing was right to make an impact with talent,” he said.

“As my Agency grew I was able to gleam that there was a space beginning to open up by which I could represent the full spectrum of Queer humanity & sexuality within the arts. Not as one dimensional static caricatures, but as beings who’s emotions run the full gamut of the human experience. This was very exciting to me, I have a opportunity to effect change. I wanted to be apart of history Pioneering a movement,” he added. 

He said that his message to LGBTQ artists is simple. “I want talent to know they will be given the opportunity to be who they are, live their truth and work for who they are without rejection, humiliation, fear, or hopelessness. People perform at their best, live at their best. And do their best when they are happiest.  PKA is not just a brand, we are the LGBTQIA community. If life imitates art, then let’s represent it boldly!”

His expectations of the film and television industry’s reaction? “My inspiration to launch the Q.D. is truthfully representing talent that reflects the current needs for the industry, and to remain a permanent fixture within the industry that continues to grow stronger. I want the industry to understand I’ve created this environment specifically for the Queer community. I’m happy & honored to be the first Agency that represents this community in this way,” Kallinteris said.

Last week, PKA, whose clients include, Justin Jedlica (TV personality), Steven James Tingus (President George W. Bush’s lead for disability research and policy for eight years), Kate Linder (The Young and the Restless), Albert Lawrence (IMDB Host), Deric Battiste aka DJ D-Wrek (MTV’s Wild ‘N Out), and Leslie Stratton (The Swing of Things, Truth or Dare), announced the launch of the Queer Division in a video.

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