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LGBT entertainment leaders convene in WeHo for Pride Summit

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(L-R) Peppermint, Blair St. Clair, Alaska Thunderfuck, Trixie Mattel and Manila Luzon attend the Billboard / Hollywood Reporter Pride Summit on August 08, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Billboard)

On Thursday, August 8, The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard held their first ever Pride Summit at The 1 Hotel West Hollywood, underscoring the ongoing importance of LGBT inclusion and visibility in entertainment media.

It was a star-studded event, held in conjunction with Billboard’s second annual Pride issue, featuring an array of panels and conversations covering important topics such as bringing LGBTQ+ voices into the songwriters room, emerging queer artists, eradicating homophobia, and best practices in hiring and fostering welcoming and safe workplaces for queer and gender non-conforming beings.

Among the participants in the day’s seven panels were cast members MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Hailie Sahar, Dyllón Burnside and Angel Curiel from the Emmy-nominated show, “Pose;” pop icons Tegan and Sara; pop star and activist Hayley Kiyoko; game-changing New Orleans artist and TV star Big Freedia; rapper ILoveMakonnen; Grammy® nominated songwriters Justin Tranter and Teddy Geiger; Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Daya; NBC’s “Songland” star Shane McAnally; “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alumni and recording artists Trixie Mattel, Alaska, Manila Luzon, Peppermint, Blair St. Clair; and YouTube celebrity Gigi Gorgeous.

The day’s first panel was “Emerging Artists: We See You,” which featured as panelists BAYLi, Shea Diamond, Parson James, K. Flay and Daya.  Diamond, a GLAAD Media Award- nominated trans soul singer, spoke of discovering her voice while incarcerated in a men’s prison for 10 years. “There was nothing but hatred for people like me – either I was highly desired or I was just purely hated for no reason,” she said. “I was a threat to society, just for existing. And so, all these things just came to me, and I started writing songs… I wrote about being an outcast, and how there’s an outcast in everybody’s life – and ‘I am her,’ was this thing they denied me of… everything I had experienced or was going to experience, they would never honor that.  So, I got the vessel in prison – that’s when I realized there was power in it.”

Singer-songwriter Daya expressed a common theme that would emerge as the day went on when she said, “I think representation of multi-dimensional queer people in the media is so important. That’s why I love shows like ‘Euphoria,’ and shows that are naturally bringing those queer narratives into the media.  I also think… there should be more queer visibility across the board, not just with artists but people behind the scenes, too.”

During the “Digital Media: Pride & Platforms” discussion, sponsored by Verizon Media, YouTuber Gigi Gorgeous said, “I get asked a lot ‘are you always gonna do YouTube,’ like say you’re in a movie someday, are you just gonna quit?’ And my answer is always, ‘No, because that’s what gave me the confidence.’” She added, “Honestly, I feel like YouTubers, a lot of the time, have a deeper connection with their fans than even like a Leonardo DiCaprio… when people meet their favorite YouTubers, they literally break down and cry, because they really helped them through a really hard time.” Gorgeous was joined on the panel by Hayley Pappas, Hannah Hart, Joey Graceffa, Anna Akana, Eugene Lee Yang, and Miles McKenna.

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Hannah Hart, Gigi Gourgeous, Joey Graceffa, Miles McKenna and Anna Akana attend the Billboard / Hollywood Reporter Pride Summit on August 08, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Billboard)

The next panel was “Pride in the Corner Office,” with panelists Cindy Nguyen from Create Music Group, Eliah Seton from Warner Music Group, Wade Leak from Sony Music Entertainment, Aaron Rosenberg from Myman Greenspan Fineman Fox Rosenberg & Light, Jess Caragliano from Terrorbird Media, and Rick Marcello from Kobalt Music. A highlight came when [email protected] Coalition’s Bamby Salcedo added to the conversation from the audience, saying “The trans community is way behind in comparison to the gay and lesbian community – if we look at where we are, we’re about 40 years behind.  How do we, as individuals who have power, how do we support those upcoming organizations – groups, artists, all of those?  How do we include that into our budgets, and how doe we include that in supporting events that we do to raise funds, and that kind of stuff?”

Salcedo’s [email protected] colleague Michaé de la Cuadra also spoke to the panel, adding, “A lot of the time it comes in a job description, a lot of the times you require these degrees and years of experience, and all this stuff that trans people don’t have — so really thinking about how when you’re giving opportunities to black trans women, undocumented to trans people, and just trans people of color… about how, internally and in the process, you’re excluding people, and I just wanted to raise that.”

Stephen Daw, moderating the panel “Drag & Music: From Drag Race to the Top of the Charts,” asked participants Alaska Thunderfuck, Peppermint, Blair St. Clair, Trixie Mattel, Manila Luzon, and Ryan Aceto if being on “RuPaul’s Drag Race was a vital step for queens hoping to build a career, or if there was a “path forward” for those who have not been on the show. Thunderfuck answered, “I think it’s great that it [the show] exists, and it has created this entire economy that is just, you know, drag queens… it’s really awesome if you do get on ‘Drag Race,’ it’s like the golden ticket on ‘Willy Wonka,’ like, it’s really amazing – but I think there are more and more opportunities, if it’s not your thing, I think you can still make it and make something huge.  More and more, there are avenues to do that.”

For the “They/Them Write the Songs” panel, LGBT+ songwriters Justin Tranter, Victoria Monet, Teddy Geiger, and Shane McAnally joined together for a conversation about bring their queer voices into their craft. Tranter said, “When we have our songwriter hats on, you’re there to facilitate somebody else’s story, and so it’s not about our experiences – but you do want to tap into your own truth so that you can write better lyrics, that reflect their truth better.  You have to tap into your truth – but it’s not about us, in that moment.” He went on to add, “We’re in this weird political landscape where things are getting really bad for our community, but when it comes to the media, when it comes to music… things are looking better than they ever have.  Media is finally embracing us – a little bit.  They need to do a lot more, but we’re getting there.”

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Justin Tranter and Teddy Geiger speak onstage at the “They/Them Write the Songs” panel during the Billboard / Hollywood Reporter Pride Summit on August 08, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Billboard)

On the “Queer Headliners 2019” panel, LGBT+ musical celebrities Big Freedia, ILoveMakonnen, Hayley Kiyoko, and Tegan and Sara spoke about their experiences. Freedia spoke of influences, saying, “For me, it was Sylvester.  He was just fierce, and being himself all the time.  It just opened so many doors for me, just to be myself and get out there and live my truth.”

Kiyoko struck another key theme of the day when she said, “I think no matter who you are or where you come from, we all just want an opportunity to be heard and to share our stories, and to find our people.  Releasing ‘Curious,’ I didn’t think that was direectly made for frat boys, specifically – but I do think as a musician and as an artist, we all go through love and loss and lust, and sometimes depression and all these things, and that’s what connects all of us. No matter what your sexuality is, why should we be put in a box?  We all have those same feelings, we all get heartbroken, so why are we different?”

Tegan of Tegan and Sara addressed the ongoing conflict in the music industry between queer visibility and systemic homophobia. “We just always talk about it,” she said. “We bring it up in every meeting, we talk about it in our own organization, and in the press, and onstage. It’s not like any of us have the answers on how to fix it, but I think we want to participate in basically trying to disrupt and rebuild the system… that’s how you do it – don’t get comfortable and just keep disrupting.”

The day’s final panel was “Televised Revolution: The Beings of ‘Pose,’” featuring panelists Indya Moore, MJ Rodriguez, Hailie Sahar, Dyllón Burnside, and Angel Curiel.

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(L-R) Angel Bismark Curiel, Hailie Sahar, MJ Rodriguez, Dyllón Burnside, and Indya Moore attend the Billboard / Hollywood Reporter Pride Summit on August 08, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Billboard)

Burnside, who plays Ricky on the show, told of how he worked for a church before beginning his acting career. “Before I was able to embrace my identity, before I was willing to accept, I confided in my pastor that I was attracted to men and I lost my job.  In our exit meeting he told me that I was gonna ruin my life – and for me that was the thing that always propelled me forward, that I cannot not do this, because there are kids all over the world, all over the country, who are being told that who they are isn’t right, and that they can’t do the things they were put here to do because somebody else doesn’t understand them.”

Rodriguez, who stars as house mother Blanca, talked about how the diversity of the characters in “Pose” was a big factor in making her want to be part of the show. “I saw that each and every one of these women, as well as the men, were of color… and I just thought, ‘well I have to be a part of it because of this,’ but also because of the human aspects they had.  In the breakdown they showed every single thing that cis-gendered individuals get cast for, that we have them too.  And I thought, ‘Okay, this goes to show we’re being seen as humans.’  And that’s the first thing that anyone should see us as, is human. We shouldn’t be seen as anything other than.”

Rodriguez also spoke of the importance of including the presence of AIDS on “Pose.” “I think that it’s imperative that it’s on this show,” she said, “because there is a stigma that is constantly held around having HIV and AIDS, and the history is important.”

The day-long event featured a special installation of “The Art of Finding Love” and exclusive merchandise from renowned artist Michael Kalish, as well as participation from nonprofit partners including GLSEN, The Trevor Project, and local LGBTQ+ vendors.

Things wrapped up with a performance at West Hollywood’s Peppermint Club by Daya, Big Freedia and Trixie Mattel.

The First Annual Pride Summit, which was sponsored by Cadillac and Verizon Media, was part of Billboard’s “Summer of Pride,” which also includes special editorial coverage in the magazine of concerts and events across the globe, well-known and up-and-coming LGBTQ+ artists and allies, curated playlists, and a “Pride Chart” recognizing LGBTQ+ artists of the past and present.

 

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18-year-old Out YouTuber, TikTok creator & entertainer celebrates first year

“I told myself for a long time, I was like, ‘One day, if I have someone to come out with, then I will come out”

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LOS ANGELES –  JoJo Siwa marked her first year of being an Out member of the LGBTQ+ community this past weekend in a series of photos and posts on her Instagram reflecting on the personal milestone achieved.

“🏳️‍🌈In the last 365 days I’ve felt more love than ever. A year ago today I posted this picture and shared with the world that I was gay🌈 I get asked a lot “was coming out scary for you”… and the answer is yes of course, anything that’s different about you is scary, however… it’s what makes me… me. so I had no fear with sharing it with the world❤️ I also get asked a lot “your demographic is so young are you worried about telling kids your gay”…. Truthfully I feel like I was put on this earth to be a role model for kids, and letting all the kids of the world know that loving everyone for who they are no matter what is something that I will always believe in and always share❤️ please never forget that no matter who you are, what you look like, who you LOVE that you are absolutely perfect. thank you for showing me the most love throughout this year and throughout my entire life. I love you all❤️🙏🏼🏳️‍🌈” Siwa posted.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly she said that she was inspired to reveal the truth about her sexuality earlier this year after falling in love with girlfriend Kylie Prew.

“I knew since I was little that I was never straight, I knew that. But I also was never like, ‘Oh, I’m gay,'” said Siwa.

She added, “I told myself for a long time, I was like, ‘One day, if I have someone to come out with, then I will come out.”

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Celebrity News

Thierry Mugler, iconic gay French fashion designer, dies at 73

Often, Mugler’s embrace of gay iconography overshadowed his House of Mugler world-class designs

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Photo Credit: Official Facebook page of Manfred Thierry Mugler

VINCENNES, France – Thierry Mugler, the openly gay, French fashion icon who dressed celebrities from Lady Gaga to Beyoncé, died Sunday at his home in Vincennes, France, outside of Paris. He was 73. 

His death was announced on his Instagram. According to a press release, Mugler died of natural causes. 

“May his soul Rest In Peace,” the post read.

Mugler was a beloved figure in the LGBTQ community who fought extensively for queer rights. Throughout his career, which started in the 1970s, he showcased many trans models, like Connie Fleming, Teri Toye and Roberta Close. 

In one of his more iconic runways, legendary drag artist Lypsinka opened his 1992 show at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, wearing four looks while exuding the Mugler’s trademark high-camp. 

Often, Mugler’s embrace of gay iconography overshadowed his world-class designs. 

“The outwardness of designers embracing being gay wasn’t then a thing,” Paul Cavaco, the fashion director of Harper’s Bazaar during Mugler’s heyday, told the New York Times. “People knew but you didn’t really talk about it. It was considered not chic. And here he was sending drag queens like Lypsinka down the runway.”

Cavaco added that even at Harper’s Bazaar, one of the most adventurous American fashion magazines at the time, Mugler’s clothes were passed over.

Still, Mugler dressed some of the world’s top supermodels and most famous celebrities in his broad-shouldered and sharp-tailored designs during his career.

In George Michael’s 1992 “Too Funky” video, Linda Evangelista, one of the most accomplished and influential models of all time, donned a Mugler design, as many did in the video. He also created flamboyant and theatrical looks for musical stars like Diana Ross, David Bowie and George Michael.

Part of what set Mugler apart from other designers of his time was his unique view of what fashion should be. 

“I don’t believe in natural fashion,” he told the Times in 1994. “Let’s go for it! The corset. The push-up bra. Everything! If we do it, let’s do the whole number.”

The House of Mugler, his brand, described the famous designer as a “visionary whose imagination as a couturier, perfumer and image-maker empowered people around the world to be bolder and dream bigger everyday,” in a LinkedIn post

Though he retired from fashion in the early 2000s, Mugler has still left his mark on the current fashion landscape. Some of today’s biggest celebrities – including Katy Perry, Rihanna and Cardi B – have worn iconic Mugler garments. 

In 2009, Beyoncé wore a Harley-Davidson corset designed by Mugler for a George Michael video. Lady Gaga donned a famous suit-dress and hat from Mugler’s 1995 collection in her 2010 music video for “Telephone.”

Mugler even briefly resurfaced in 2019 to create Kim Kardashian West’s infamous “wet look” at the Met Gala. 

Heartfelt messages from celebrities that Mugler has worked with poured in on social media and beyond after the news of his death broke. 


On her website, Beyoncé wrote: “Rest In Peace, Thierry Mugler.”

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Music & Concerts

Janet Jackson doc premieres this weekend

Remembering 10 times iconic singer was there for LGBTQ community

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Janet Jackson’s two-part, four-hour documentary debuts this weekend. (File photo by Shilla Patel)

LOS ANGELES – Iconic singer Janet Jackson, a longtime LGBTQ ally, unveils her long-awaited documentary simply titled “Janet” on Friday, Jan. 28. It concludes the following night; each installment is two hours long. 

Jackson has said she spent five years compiling footage and creating the documentary, which airs at 8 p.m. both nights on A&E and Lifetime networks. It was produced by Jackson and her brother Randy Jackson and it’s timed to commemorate the 40th anniversary of her 1982 debut album. 

An extended trailer for the film reveals Jackson will talk candidly about her brother Michael and the 2004 Super Bowl incident, including the news that Justin Timberlake reached out and asked her to join him during his widely panned 2018 Super Bowl return performance. 

Prior to the pandemic, Jackson announced a new studio album and tour titled “Black Diamond,” but both were postponed due to COVID. No official word about the status of either, but speculation is rampant that she will finally release the new album once the documentary airs.

“Musically, what I’ve done, like doing ‘Rhythm Nation’ or doing ‘New Agenda’ or doing ‘Skin Game,’ creating those bodies of work with Jimmy and Terry, I feel like I’ve laid a certain foundation,” Jackson tells Allure magazine in a new cover story this month. “I would hope that I’d be able to continue if I choose to. You know what I mean? But only time will tell.”

As Jackson’s legion of queer fans awaits this weekend’s premiere, the Blade takes a look back at 10 times Janet was there for the LGBTQ community. 

1. “The Velvet Rope” project. In 1997, Jackson released her critically acclaimed sixth studio album “The Velvet Rope,” an introspective and deeply personal collection of songs that touched on her depression, but also tackled LGBTQ issues. On the track “Free Xone,” she spoke out forcefully against anti-LGBT bias. She also covered Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night,” without changing the pronouns in the love song, prompting speculation about her sexual orientation. But it was her international No. 1 hit “Together Again” that continues to resonate with LGBTQ fans. An upbeat, joyful dance song, it was conceived as a tribute to Jackson’s friends who died of AIDS.

2. GLAAD award. In 2008, Ellen DeGeneres presented Jackson with the Vanguard Award at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards. GLAAD’s president said, “We are delighted to honor Janet Jackson at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles as such a visible, welcoming and inclusive ally of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Ms. Jackson has a tremendous following inside the LGBT community and out, and having her stand with us against the defamation that LGBT people still face in our country is extremely significant.”

3. Ebony magazine interview about her sexuality. In 2001, Jackson gave an interview to Ebony magazine in which she was asked about her sexual orientation. “I don’t mind people thinking that I’m gay or calling me gay,” she said. “People are going to believe whatever they want. Yes, I hang out at gay clubs … I go where the music is good. I love people regardless of sexual preference, regardless of race. No, I am not bisexual. I have been linked with dancers in our group because we are so close. I grew up in a big family. I love being affectionate. I love intimacy and I am not afraid to show it.”

4. Video support for It Gets Better, Trevor Project. In 2010, Jackson recorded a video for the Trevor Project and later appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live” to promote awareness of youth suicide. “If you’re LGBT you’re probably thinking you’re all alone, but you’re not,” she said in the video. “I can relate because I was one of those kids who internalized everything.”

5. “State of the World Tour.” Jackson’s LGBTQ support continued in 2017. Her tour’s opening sequence highlighted a range of problems facing the world, from famine and war to police brutality and included a call for justice and for LGBTQ rights.

6. “The Kids.” Jackson has always employed a diverse crew of professional dancers for her videos and tours. Some of her closest friends and collaborators over the years have been prominent out gay and lesbian choreographers, singers, dancers, makeup artists and designers. She lovingly refers to her backup dancers as “the Kids.”

7. NYC Pride performance. In 2004, Jackson performed for a packed audience at Pride Dance NYC at Pier 54.

8. “Will & Grace” cameo. In 2004, Jackson made a memorable cameo on “Will & Grace,” judging a dance-off between Jack and another dancer.

9. HRC, AIDS Project Los Angeles awards. In 2005, Jackson was honored by both the Human Rights Campaign and AIDS Project Los Angeles for her work raising money for AIDS charities.

10. Janet’s Blade interview. In 2006, Jackson granted an exclusive interview to the Washington Blade. It was one of the rare times she touched on the Super Bowl controversy and her brother Michael’s acquittal on child molestation charges, telling Blade Editor Kevin Naff, “I got all of that out of my system, that’s not what I’m feeling right now. I wrote about [those controversies] but I didn’t choose to put it out there on the album.” In the interview, Jackson also reiterated her support for marriage equality, said she’d never had a sexual relationship with a woman and revealed that she’d never met Madonna.

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