Arts & Entertainment
Zack Ament 31, Founder and Co-CEO at Westwind Recovery
LA’s Most Eligible LGBTQ Singles
How do you identify? Gay
What are you looking for in a mate? Honesty, Generosity, Compassion and Laughter.
Biggest turn off: Intolerance.
Biggest turn on: Confidence.
Hobbies? Self dates to the movies, hiking, travel.
How has COVID impacted your dating life? I’m a huge fan of FaceTime dating; getting to know someone well before meeting in person, and finding myself in deeper conversations with men due to the emotional difficulties of the pandemic.
Pets, kids, or neither? Pets and kids.
Would you date someone whose political views differ from your own? It’s not a deal breaker for me, but my mother will disown me if I brought home a Trump guy.
Celebrity crush: Erik von Detten from Brink (90’s Disney Channel).
Name one obscure fact about yourself: I tend to laugh in my sleep… which can be totally creepy.
CLICK HERE to see more of L.A.’s Most Eligible LGBT Singles.
STAGE RAW announces 2023 Theatre Awards Finalists
This year, Stage Raw is recognizing productions in venues of all sizes, rather than focusing entirely on venues of 99-seats or fewer
LOS ANGELES – The Stage Raw Theater Awards celebrate excellence on Los Angeles-area stages. This year’s Stage Raw “I’m Still Here” Theater Awards Party will recognize productions that opened in the calendar year 2022.
Stage Raw is a community funded professional journalism website that was launched in 2014, in response to the decline of arts coverage in local mainstream and alternative media.
The Awards party will be held Monday night, April 17, 2023 at the Sassafras Saloon, 1233 N. Vine Street in Hollywood. Tickets are $20 for everybody, if purchased in advance. $25 at the door. (Capacity is limited and tickets will no longer be available once that capacity is reached.) Admission includes complimentary food, music, dancing and a cash bar. All proceeds will be used to support the professional journalists of Stage Raw, and their ability to continue covering Los Angeles-area theater.
Tickets can be purchased here: (Link)
Be sure to use the discount promo code “StageRaw” to bypass the $2.50 ticketing fee. (This is a service of ticketing agency onstage411.com).
CHANGES FROM PRIOR STAGE RAW AWARDS CEREMONIES:
This year, Stage Raw is recognizing productions in venues of all sizes, rather than focusing entirely on venues of 99-seats or fewer.
Also, Stage Raw has changed its system of allocating recognition in response to the flaw in prior years of excluding excellent productions that were unable to attract a “quorum” of contributors. This year, each Stage Raw contributor has been allocated a number of votes, in proportion to the number of Stage Raw-reviewed shows they saw, and they have cast their votes to any person, production or in any category they choose.
Explains Founding Editor Steven Leigh Morris: “The hoped-for effect of this system is to diversify the number of companies receiving awards by honoring the generational, ethnic, gender and aesthetic diversity of our individual contributors, who will each be selecting award winners.”
And finally, the entire feel of the event will be more of a party than an awards show. The actual ceremony will be 30-45 minutes dedicated to announcements, and the presentation of the “Queen of the Angels” and “Lifetime Achievement” awards. All of the other awards recipients will be named during this ceremony and can retrieve their awards at a table.
THE 2023 STAGE RAW AWARD FINALISTS/RECIPIENTS:
Ahmed Best, Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies, Echo Theater Company
Dean Harada, Tea, Hero Theatre at Inner-City Arts
Lap Chi Chu, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,
Center Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum
Hsuan-Kuang Hsieh, The Great Jheri Curl Debate, East West Players
Nick Santiago, Green Day’s American Idiot, Chance Theatre
Ann Beyersdorfer, Afterglow, Midnight Theatricals at the Hudson Theatre
John Iacovelli, The Brothers Paranormal, East West Players
Cindy Lin, Untitled Baby Play, IAMA Theatre Company
Rachel Myers, Power of Sail, Geffen Playhouse
Aimee Carrero, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Geffen Playhouse
Alexandra Hellquist, On the Other Hand We’re Happy, Rogue Machine Theatre
Michael Matts, Angels in America: Perestroika, Foolish Production Company
Eileen T’Kaye, A Doll’s House, Part II, International City Theatre
Brent Grimes, Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies, Echo Theater Company
John Rubinstein, Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground, New Los Angeles Repertory Theatre Company, Theatre West and Hudson MainStage Theatre
Alex Alpharaoh, Wet: A DACAmented Journey, Greenway Court Theatre
Colin Campbell, Grief: A One-Man Shitshow, The Broadwater
Ben Moroski, Dog, The Broadwater
Jesús I. Valles (Un)documents, Latino Theater Company
Judy Carter, A Death-Defying Escape!, Hudson Guild Theatre
Hugo Armstrong, Uncle Vanya, Pasadena Playhouse
Kevin Ashworth, A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney, Theatre Planners at the Odyssey Theatre
Ramón de Ocampo, Hamlet, Antaeus Theatre Company
Jenny O’Hara, Little Theatre, Rogue Machine Theatre
Zachary Quinto, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Geffen Playhouse
Jennifer Shelton, A Doll’s House, Part II, International City Theatre
Michael A. Shepperd, Valley Song, International City Theatre
Kalean Ung, Macbeth, Independent Shakespeare Co.
Nancy Lantis, The Sandman, Eclipse Theatre LA and Santa Clarita Shakespeare Festival
Ahmed Best, Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies, Echo Theater Company
Will Block and the ensemble of All is True or Henry VIII, The Porters of Hellsgate Theatre Company
Gregg T. Daniel and the ensemble of Radio Golf, A Noise Within
Can’t Pay? Don’t Pay!, The Actors’ Gang
Anna in The Tropics, A Noise Within
Blues for an Alabama Sky, Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum
The Colored Museum, Loft Ensemble
Freestyle Love Supreme, Pasadena Playhouse,
If Nobody Does Remarkable Things, Pandora Productions at the Garage Theatre
The Inheritance, Geffen Playhouse
Masao and the Bronze Nightingale, CASA 0101 and the Japanese American National Museum
James Fowler, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Open Fist Theatre Company
Carla Ching, Revenge Porn, Ammunition Theatre Company
Bernardo Cubria, The Play You Want, Road Theatre Company
Kelly McBurnette-Andronicos, The House of Final Ruin, Ophelia’s Jump
Murray Mednick, Three Tables, Padua Playwrights at the Zephyr Theatre
PRODUCTION EXCELLENCE IN QUEER STORYTELLING
Interstate, East West Players
DISTINGUISHED MUSICAL REVIVAL
Oklahoma! Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Open Fist Theatre
The Penelopiad, City Garage
Roe, Fountain Theatre
Uncle Vanya, Pasadena Playhouse
The Road Theatre Company (The Play You Want, Beloved, Bright Half Life, According to the Chorus)
Maria Gobetti and Tom Ormeny (Victory Theatre Center)
Frédérique Michel and Charles Duncombe (City Garage)
QUEEN OF THE ANGELS
The SB116 Coalition (Teri Ball, Beatrice Casagran, Elina DeSantos, Emmanuel Deleage, Martha Demson, Christopher Maikish, Leo Marks, Marc Antonio Pritchett and Vanessa Stewart)
The 2023 Stage Raw “I’m Still Here” Theater Awards Party is supported through the generous sponsorship of the following companies and individuals: Antaeus Theatre Company, Crimson Square Theatre, Dina Morrone, DEMAND PR, The Geffen Playhouse, The Hudson Theatres, IAMA Theatre Company, Lucy Pollak Public Relations, Macha Theatre Company, Ophelia’s Jump, Road Theatre Company, Sandra Kuker Public Relations, Santa Monica Playhouse, Sierra Madre Playhouse, Theatre 40, Theatre of NOTE, and The Victory Theatre Center.
A timely biography of drag queen Doris Fish
An eye-opener to queer life in Sydney and San Francisco
‘Who Does That Bitch Think She Is? Doris Fish and the Rise of Drag’
By Craig Seligman
Tennessee, home of Dollywood, just passed legislation banning “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors.”
“If I hadn’t been a girl, I’d have been a drag queen,” Dolly Parton has said. (Make of that what you will, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.)
Nothing is more timely than cultural critic and writer Craig Seligman’s new work of queer history “Who Does That Bitch Think She Is? Doris Fish and the Rise of Drag.”
One day in the 1980s, Doris Fish, a San Francisco drag queen, sat for a shoot in a beauty salon. Sitting under a dryer, “curlers in his yellow fright wig, wearing a fuchsia top, turquoise pedal pushers, white peep-toe pumps and (too much) matching makeup, wide-eyed in what looks like despair,” Fish modeled for West Graphics, a local greeting card company, Seligman writes.
These greeting cards featured queer humor. “BOTH YOUR DOCTOR & HAIRDRESSER AGREE! THIS TIME IT’S GOING TO TAKE MORE THAN A COMB-OUT,” the caption to the card with Fish’s stunning beauty parlor photo, read.
Then, most gay people weren’t proud or irritated by these greeting cards, reports Seligman in his captivating history of drag told through the life of Fish, who was legendary in San Francisco from the 1970s until he died from AIDS in 1991.
The greeting cards were just funny to queer people at that moment, Seligman writes, “which was how the rest of the country saw them, too.”
“Yet it’s hard to envision their taking off the way they did a decade earlier,” he adds, “The very people who might once have been appalled to learn they had a queer family member were snapping up these artifacts of gay humor.”
This is one of the many insights into cultural changes in attitudes toward queer people and drag to be found in Seligman’s illuminating bio of Fish.
Fish was born into a middle-class, Catholic family in 1952 as Philip Clargo Mills in Manly Vale, a suburb of Sydney, Australia. (Even the most ironic novelist wouldn’t have come up with that name!)
Doris considered himself to be what we, today, would call cisgender, Seligman reports.
Fish’s Australian friends and family referred to Fish as “he” and “him,” Seligman writes. When Fish’s queer male friends called him “she,” it was “Mary camp banter,” not “gender confusion,” he adds. For these reasons, Seligman refers to Fish with masculine pronouns.
After a childhood spent quietly drawing, Fish became a star of the Sydney drag queen scene. He performed with, what Seligman calls a “psyche troupe” of drag queens, Sylvia and the Synthetics.
After moving to San Francisco in the 1970s, Fish performed in the beloved drag shows “Sluts a Go-Go” and “Nightclub of the Living Dead” as well as the outrageous sci-fi drag film “Vegas in Space.”
Fish, Seligman makes clear, was complex, talented, and creative. Along with being a drag queen, he was a sex worker and artist. Fish was disciplined in all these areas of his life, Seligman writes.
“All three of those personas centered on his gayness,” Seligman adds, “at a time when homosexuality was just beginning to make its way toward the center of the conversation in both of the countries [Australia and the U.S.] he called home.”
Fish’s life and work were entwined with queer history – from Club 181 to Anita Bryant’s vicious anti-queer “Save Our Children Campaign” to the heroic role that Dianne Feinstein (as mayor of San Francisco) played during the AIDS crisis. Many queer histories, especially of the AIDS crisis, focus on New York. Seligman’s work is an eye-opener to queer life in Sydney and San Francisco.
Seligman’s husband, Silvana Nova, was part of “Vegas in Space.” A hat tip to Seligman for working his spouse seamlessly into this thoughtful history.
Drag shows aren’t just entertainment. They accomplish “satire’s deepest dream: not just to rail against society, but to change it,” Seligman writes.
If only Gov. Bill Lee and his ilk could be changed by “Who Does That Bitch Think She Is? Doris Fish and the Rise of Drag.”
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Put this out gay trailblazer’s supportive coach in your bracket
Nate Oats is coaching the Crimson Tide & on the other side will be Kevin Willard, who is not just a seasoned coach, but a strong LGBTQ+ ally
BIRMINGHAM, Al. – When the 8th seeded Maryland Terrapins tipoff against No. 1 Alabama tonight in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships, it’s not just the players on the hardwood who will be working hard for the win.
Nate Oats will be coaching the Crimson Tide less than an hour from their home court as he sideline strategizes. And on the other side will be Kevin Willard, who is not just a seasoned coach, but a strong LGBTQ+ ally.
Willard was Derrick Gordon’s coach at Seton Hall when he transferred from UMass in 2015, a year after he came out as the first out gay Division I Men’s basketball in the NCAA.
Gordon has credited Willard for creating a comfortable environment, after he “bumped heads” with former UMass coach Derek Kellogg during his two seasons with the Minutemen. In contrast, he said he instantly connected with Willard, and told his teammates and Willard following his final season at Seton Hall that he wished he had another year of eligibility remaining. He’s said he considered Willard the best coach he’d ever played for.
“He just made it comfortable for me,” Gordon told Glenn Clark Radio in an interview broadcast on March 22, 2022. “He said, ‘You know what, we’re more focused on who you are as a person and a basketball player and what you bring to the team.’ He voiced that over and over again. When I went on my visit, I just felt even more comfortable, met a couple of the guys. They made me feel right at home as well, so it was kind of like an easy decision. Coach Willard’s awesome. He’s an amazing guy.”
If you don’t believe Gordon, ask the West Virginia Mountaineers, who lost to the Terrapins in the first round last week 67-65. Maryland’s win “took the paint off the floor at Legacy Arena” in Birmingham, Ala., as Brendan Quinn wrote in The Athletic. He described Willard’s style of coaching this way:
“Willard paced the sideline, as he does. The man is intense. Doesn’t suffer fools. Serious stuff. No BS. Black eyes screwed deep in a bald head, no pupils. He regards things sideways, incredulous toward anyone who doesn’t come correct. It’s his whole thing. If Guy Ritchie cast a college basketball coach, it’d be Willard.”
Gordon told Glenn Clark Radio that he particularly recalled the kind of support Willard gave him in one practice early in his Seton Hall career, according to Press Box Online.
“I remember a particular situation that happened in practice — came down the court and I was wide open and I didn’t shoot it,” Gordon said in the 2022 interview. “[Willard] stopped practice and he said, ‘You’re not at [UMass] anymore. I trust you. I believe in you. Shoot the ball.’ Ever since then, my confidence was through the roof, especially dealing with I had to deal with when I was at UMass with that coach to playing under Coach Willard and him telling me that specifically, he just let me play my game.”
Last July, Gordon posted on Instagram that after playing a few seasons in Europe for Cyprus and Germany, “I decided to end my career as a professional athlete.”
Gordon is now 31, and he told his followers he is working on a book about his life “on and off the court,” in hopes he might “help gay young people, student athletes in particular and others who are struggling to pursue careers in professional sports or any career paths they chose without fear or shame.”
Since Christmas, he’s been sharing posts that include photos with his boyfriend, actor Scott Backman of Los Angeles, including one from last week, captioned: “Every time we’re together, it’s like falling in love all over again.”
Dance performance benefits LGBTQ+ seniors
“Abbale” performs March 30, 31, & April 1, 8pm, at the Broadwater Main Stage in LA- For tickets & further info visit the Broadwater’s website
LOS ANGELES – There’s always been an endless debate around the value of art to society at large. For some people, it’s a mere distraction from the struggles of everyday life; for others, it’s an enrichment.
That debate is not likely to end soon – any more than the debate over what IS art in the first place – but what happens when art and activism come together to make a tangible, quantifiable impact on the life of a community in need? Does it sway the balance enough to prove that art is more than just a trivial pursuit, but a fundamental element of human expression with the power to change our existence for the better?
That’s a pretty heady question, but when the art has as direct and uncomplicated a purpose as “Abbale” – a dance performance piece from LA’s Bodies in Play set to enjoy its premiere run at the Broadwater Main Stage March 30 through April 1 – it’s difficult to answer with anything other than an unequivocal “yes.”
Written, choreographed and performed by Andrew Pearson (founder and facilitator of Bodies in Play, an LA-based dance collective dedicated to producing works which “further the narrative through dance and movement” and invite a “challenge to conformity… through a lens just queer of center”), “Abbale” is a dance-theater memoir which weaves together the true stories of 3 fatherly relationships, spanning 3 decades and 3 different cultures, as one man tries to understand just what it means to fill “Daddy’s” shoes. Though the Broadwater run is its “official” premiere, it was previously presented in a workshop production which garnered rave reviews from commentators like Dana Martin of “Stage Raw” (who called it “compelling,” “provocative”, and “candid”) and Odyssey Theater Curator of Dance Barbara Mueller-Wittmann (who described it as “a tour de force”).
While it’s the debut of a new work from one of Los Angeles’ most acclaimed dance organizations, it’s also more than that: the premiere run of “Abbale” – a Hebrew word meaning “daddy” – will also serve as a food drive for the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Pride Pantry, which provides food staples for older community members in need. With 24% of LGBTQ+ seniors struggling to meet their food requirements each month, needless to day it’s a service that’s vital to the health and welfare of LA’s queer elders.
According to Pearson, the alliance between his newest performance piece and the Pride Pantry cause arose naturally from the content of the work itself.
“There are a lot of gay themes in the show,” he told the Blade, regarding its alignment with the Center’s mission. “One recurring theme is about food and/or feeding – food becomes a metaphor for an expression of love, specifically to one of the characters’ fathers – and I always wanted it to have some kind of a connection beyond the performance, some kind of connection beyond the stage. So, I was researching different organizations that had a similar ethos, or a connection to the some of these themes, and when I saw that the Pride Pantry was looking for food to provide for gay seniors, gay elders, it checked off so many different boxes that the show represents, so I just reached out to them and asked if they’d be interested in our show doubling as a food drive for them.”
As for “Abbale” itself, Pearson – a six-year veteran of the LA Contemporary Dance Company with an impressive list of career credits and accolades who serves on the faculty of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy – explains that it began with a series of ideas that arose from ruminations about the relationships he and his then-partner each had with their respective fathers, which opened up into a much larger conceptual scope that encompassed “all the iterations that a ‘daddy’ comes in.”
It turned out to be a bigger chunk than he could chew on his own, so he reached out to longtime frequent collaborator Lisa Owaki Bierman – an NYU-educated theater artist whose work has been performed across Los Angeles, from Bob Baker’s Marionette Theater to the Carousel at the Santa Monica Pier – for help.
“I came in with this very broad first draft which had way too much in it,” he says, “and she astutely said to me, ‘I think the personal relationships you’ve developed in this script are really fruitful and if we develop those further, then all these other themes you’re aiming to highlight will naturally come through.”
Their collaboration resulted in the initial showcase production, which took place in February 2020. Encouraged by the positive feedback and armed with observations about what worked and what didn’t, the pair geared up to build on the foundation they had created and expand the polish the piece into its finished form.
“Two weeks later, we were in lockdown,” Pearson says.
The pandemic-induced setback turned out, in many ways, to be a blessing in disguise.
“It was almost a saving grace for me creatively, because I couldn’t be choreographing in the studio, like I normally would be, so I got to develop and hone my writing practice, and I had Lisa to hold my hand the whole time as I was discovering my authorship, and my voice.”
Bierman also found it unexpectedly beneficial, thanks to an ill-timed additional circumstance in her personal life. As she told the Blade, “Not only were we in lockdown, but I had a baby. It was sort of a wild way to create a theater piece. Being in a pandemic, with absolutely no help with child care, or any of that stuff, it helped that Andrew was such a workhouse – the bulk of the labor, the writing and the generative stuff, was on his shoulders, and I could just go through the script at my own pace and then jump on Zoom touch base with him.
“And it was helpful for me to have this to work on, because – especially in early parenthood – it’s easy to feel defined by that role, but to have a way to carve out space to be creative, during a time when nothing else would have been possible, I was so grateful that we had each other, and that we had this piece to be putting our attention on at that time.”
Now, the pair – along with Producer and Story Consultant Ben Jehoshua – are gearing up to put the end result of their collaboration onstage at the Broadwater in a partnership that makes it an especially important event – potentially even a life-changing one for LGBTQ+ seniors who rely on the LA LGBT Center for help with their basic food needs.
As Pearson explains, “Pretty early on in it we define a ‘daddy’ as a ‘giver’. That was the angle I was interested in, how this show could also be a catalyst for giving.”
Of course, the show won’t be over after its premiere run has ended – as its co-creator and solo performer happily tells us, “It will be touring up to San Francisco in June, so this is our kick-off for what hopes to be a life for this show.”
“Abbale” performs March 30, 31, and April 1, 8pm, at the Broadwater Main Stage in Los Angeles:
For tickets and further information, visit the Broadwater’s website.
Elton John’s annual Oscars WeHo viewing party raises $9 million
“We mustn’t forget that HIV is still causing needless suffering around the world and we must protect those most vulnerable to this disease”
By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – Elton John and husband David Furnish’s annual Academy Awards Viewing Party, featuring special guests Eric McCormack and Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, raised over $9 million for the global fight against AIDS via the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
The event, which took place at West Hollywood Park Sunday evening, attributed its success to the Foundation’s donors, sponsors, and supporters. The star-studded fundraiser included a performance by singer-songwriter and actress Rina Sawayama.
The guest list included Donatella Versace, Maren Morris, Fan Bingbing, Emma Watson, Wiz Khalifa, Heidi Klum, Dove Cameron, Hilary Duff, Brooke Shields, Lucien Laviscount, Noah Schnapp, Kesha, Rege Jean-Page, Saweetie, Stella Maxwell, Tyga, Sharon Osbourne, Sophia Bush, Maggie Rogers, Jenna Dewan, Julianne Hough, Smokey Robinson, Karen Pittman, Simona Tabasco, Michael Imperioli, and more. Dinner guests were gifted an exclusive Spotlight sunglass frame from the Elton John Eyewear collection.
“We mustn’t forget that HIV is still causing needless suffering around the world and we must protect those most vulnerable to this disease with testing and compassionate care,” said Elton John via a statement. “We can see an end to AIDS in our lifetimes, but first we must break down stigma and discrimination and provide equal access to healthcare to finally end the epidemic for everyone, everywhere.”
“Elton and I are so touched and elated by the generosity we’ve seen throughout this glittering and massively successful evening,” says David Furnish, Chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. “This funding will help us continue HIV and AIDS prevention and care programs across the world, save millions of lives and help countless people to have a brighter future.”
Rina Sawayama sang “Minor Feelings,” “Hold The Girl,” and “This Hell.” Elton John joined her on stage to perform a duet to the song “Chosen Family.”
“What a spectacular and memorable evening for our 31st Academy Awards Viewing Party,” says Anne Aslett, CEO of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. “We are blown away by the incredible support we’ve received tonight and want to thank every donor, sponsor and attendee who made the evening possible. We’re energised by the funding we raised together, which will significantly boost our life-saving work to ensure that all vulnerable people around the globe can access HIV testing, treatment and care.”
This year’s event, which took place on the 31st anniversary of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, has been instrumental in advancing global health equity for vulnerable groups. The Foundation has been able to raise millions for their life-saving work since the party’s inception in 1992.
Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist.
The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.
TikTok to divest from Chinese parent if U.S. security deal fails
GLAAD’s annual Social Media Safety Index gave TikTok a failing score on LGBTQ+ safety, yet the app is popular, especially among LGBTQ+ youth
CULVER CITY – As the battle over TikTok posing a threat to U.S. national security and Americans continues to escalate, Shou Zi Chew, the chief executive of the Los Angeles-based video-sharing app, will make his first appearance before Congress to testify next week.
In contention is that TikTok is wholly and privately owned by Chinese parent company, ByteDance, which has raised bipartisan fears in local and state governments as well as in Congress of the app being used to collect and manipulate users’ data by the Chinese government or related entities.
The controversy surrounding misinformation, addictive content, censorship, and kids’ data allegedly being accessed by the Chinese government in addition to adults has seen several state governments ban the app entirely from state-owned mobile phones, computers, and data pads.
Shou Zi Chew, a Singaporean entrepreneur, will be attempting to skeptical lawmakers on Capitol Hill that his company’s social networking company poses no dangers to Americans, especially children.
TikTok’s LGBTQ+ following has generally positive experiences although there have been widely reported instances of users, notably transgender users seemingly targeted by the platform’s algorithms and having their accounts banned or repeatedly suspended.
Of greater concern is the staggering rise in anti-LGBTQ+ violence and threats on the platform prompting LGBTQ+ advocacy group GLAAD, in its annual Social Media Safety Index, to give TikTok a failing score on LGBTQ+ safety.
Yotam Ophir, an assistant professor of communications at the University at Buffalo, who studies misinformation and extremism, told Scientific American journalist Helen Santoro in a December 2022 interview:
“It’s become pretty clear that the LGBTQ+ community is now at the heart of the new iteration of the culture wars that we have been unfortunately going through in recent years,” he says. This community has become “a staple of right-wing messaging and often propaganda.”
Scientific American reported the false claims and rhetoric used by right-wing extremists dehumanize and vilify the LGBTQ+ community and provoke stochastic terrorism, a phenomenon in which hate speech increases the likelihood that people will attack the targets of vicious claims.
Research has also shown that this type of rhetoric can motivate people to express and possibly act on their prejudiced views.
According to GLAAD, Media Matters for America, and the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI social media plays a crucial role in the spread of this stochastic terrorism to include TikTok.
TikTok to divest from ByteDance if U.S. security deal fails- Report from Yahoo Finance:
Vermont Christian school banned from state sports for anti-trans
The Mid-Vermont Christian School basketball team forfeited a tournament game rather than compete with a transgender student-athlete
QUECHEE, Vt. – A Christian school that chose to forfeit a girls’ basketball tournament game rather than play against a team with a transgender player has been banned from Vermont school sporting events, VTDigger reports.
The Vermont Principals’ Association, which oversees school athletics in the state, said Mid-Vermont Christian School in Quechee, Vt. will no longer be eligible to participate in any sports or any other sponsored activities.
Members of the Vermont Principals’ Association executive committee decided at a meeting Monday “that policies have been violated at the school level and thus there is an immediate determination of ineligibility for Mid-Vermont Christian in VPA sanctioned activities and tournaments going forward,” according to a statement posted online.
Specifically, the private religious school violated the organization’s anti-discrimination and gender identity policies, the organization told the school in its letter of ineligibility. Those policies allow athletes to play on teams that are “consistent with their gender identity” and prohibit discrimination “based on a student’s actual or perceived sex and gender.”
As the Los Angeles Blade reported, Mid Vermont Christian School head of school Vicky Fogg issued a statement last month, defending their decision to forfeit. “We believe playing against an opponent with a biological male jeopardizes the fairness of the game and the safety of our players,” said. “Allowing biological males to participate in women’s sports sets a bad precedent for the future of women’s sports in general.”
MVCS’s decision made headlines around the world, with opponents of transgender inclusion hailing the school for standing up for cisgender girls and women, and LGBTQ+ rights advocates and allies labeling the school transphobic and bigoted.
Administrators at the school did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.
GLAAD Media Awards 2023
Margaret Cho to host the 34TH Annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles featuring special performances from Fletcher and Orville Peck
LOS ANGELES- GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer media advocacy organization, announced today that for the third consecutive year, Hulu will serve as the official streaming destination for the GLAAD Media Awards.
The Awards will be held in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 30, 2023 and will be available to stream on Hulu beginning Wednesday, April 12, 2023.
Emmy and Grammy nominated comedian and actress Margaret Cho will host the 34th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles which will feature performances by GLAAD Media Award Nominees for Outstanding Music Artist, FLETCHER and Orville Peck at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, March 30, 2023.
The GLAAD Media Awards honor media for fair, accurate, and inclusive representations of LGBTQ people and issues. Since its inception in 1990, the GLAAD Media Awards have grown to be the most visible annual LGBTQ awards show in the world, sending powerful messages of acceptance to audiences globally.
Special guests include Angelica Ross (Pose, Framing Agnes), Betty Who, Billy Eichner (Bros), Brian Michael Smith (911: Lone Star), Brooke Eden, Chase Joynt (Framing Agnes), Gabrielle Union (The Inspection), Geena Davis (The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media) Geena Rocero (Horse Barbie), Harvey Guillen (What We Do in the Shadows), Isis King (With Love), Jake Borelli (Grey’s Anatomy), Jen Richards (Framing Agnes), Joel Kim Booster (Fire Island), JORDY, Rafael Silva (911: Lone Star), Ronen Rubinstein (911: Lone Star), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Wolf Pack), Sherry Cola (Good Trouble), Ts Madison (Bros), Zackary Drucker (Framing Agnes), Zuri Adele (Good Trouble) and more.
As previously announced, Christina Aguilera will receive GLAAD’s Advocate for Change Award, recording artist and actor Bad Bunny will receive the Vanguard Award and film, television and Broadway star Jeremy Pope will receive the Stephen F. Kolzak Award.
During the Los Angeles ceremony, GLAAD will also announce award recipients for LGBTQ representation in categories that span film, TV, news, and Spanish-language media.
Earlier this year, GLAAD announced nearly 300 nominees.
This past January GLAAD, announced that it is presenting its prestigious Barbara Gittings Award for Excellence in LGBTQ Media to the Los Angeles Blade along with the Washington Blade.
“Together, representing 50 years, the Los Angeles Blade and Washington Blade’s relentless reporting reflects best-in-class journalism, reminding us all that LGBTQ issues and people have a stake in every news story and headline,” GLAAD said in a statement.
Previous recipients of the award have included The Advocate, Windy City Times, and Curve.
Margaret Cho is a five-time Grammy and Emmy nominated comedian, actress, musician, advocate and entrepreneur. Her recent television appearances – guest star on Season 2 of The Flight Attendant (HBO Max), guest star on Season 2 of Hacks (HBO Max) and two Netflix is a Joke comedy specials: Stand Out: An LGBTQ+ Celebration and Jane Fonda & Lily Tomlin: Ladies Night Live – have expanded an already wide-ranging career, and her role as the ‘mother hen’ in the well-reviewed movie Fire Island.
As a comedian Margaret has been named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s 50 Best Stand-Up Comics of All Time, one of Vogue magazine’s Top 9 Female Comedians of all time, while CNN chose her as one of the 50 People Who Changed American Comedy. Her Disney+ movie, “Prom Pact” premieres on March 30.
Praised by leading outlets like Rolling Stone, TIME, Interview Magazine, and more, acclaimed singer and songwriter FLETCHER hails from Asbury Park, New Jersey, where she cultivated her passion for music and her unforgettably candid storytelling.
In 2019 she released her debut EP ‘you ruined new york city for me.’ The widely lauded EP features her breakthrough hit “Undrunk,” a track that spent several weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, scored the No.1 spot on Spotify’s Viral Chart, and emerged as the fastest-rising song at pop radio from a new artist in the past five years.
Released in September 2020, FLETCHER’s EP THE S(EX) TAPES hit No. 1 on iTunes across all genres featuring gold-certified lead single “Bitter” – which has amassed over 200 million global streams.
FLETCHER’s debut album Girl Of My Dreams arrived in September 2022 featuring the smash single “Becky’s So Hot” which hit #3 on the iTunes chart across all genres and landed on Billboard’s Hot Rock and Alternative Songs chart. The album earned raves from the likes of Rolling Stone, Billboard, Alternative Press, Vulture and many others while her music has amassed over a billion combined streams worldwide.
FLETCHER’s latest single, “Better Version (feat. Kelsea Ballerini) is available now on the Girl Of My Dreams (Deluxe) edition. In support of her LP, FLETCHER performed on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”, and set out on sold-out headline tours across North America, Australia and Europe throughout 2022.
FLETCHER kicked off 2023 with a viral performance alongside Miley Cyrus on her “New Year’s Eve Party” on NBC. FLETCHER will continue her “Meet Her At The Bar Experience” in 2023, a program she launched last year in support of woman-owned queer bars around the country and GLAAD (raising $50,000 for their key initiatives with the support of her fanbase, brand partner JD Sports and co-sponsor Lyft).
Orville Peck is a country recording artist and songwriter known for his deep baritone voice, strong musicianship and songs that are sincere yet bold in their storytelling. Never confirming his identity, Orville, who is openly gay and lived an itinerant life across South Africa and the rural south, is never seen without his signature, fringed mask.
Following the release of his self-produced debut album Pony in 2019, Orville signed with Columbia Records and released his Show Pony EP. Released to immediate critical acclaim early last year, the EP features a duet with global icon Shania Twain and puts Orville’s triumphant songwriting skills and intentional craftmanship on full display. He then followed that up with BRONCO, which he released in chapters, alongside a multitude of cinematic videos. He was also hand selected by Lady Gaga for her Born This Way 10th Anniversary album.
Orville, known for his unique personal style, has collaborated with many fashion brands including but not limited to Dior, Michael KORS, ADIDAS X Ivy Park and Pamela Love amongst others.
Known for his live shows, Orville was one of the first artists to return to touring and has toured across the US, Europe, Australia and Canada. He has had sold out shows at Hollywood Bowl and Ryman Theatre, as well as major festival appearances at Lollapalooza, Stage Coach and Coachella amongst others.
When Orville is not performing or touring, he lends his time to activism and the causes he is committed to.
The Christina Aguilera Advocate for Change Award
Christina Aguilera, who has one of the most celebrated voices in history, has used her platform to be a bold advocate for the LGBTQ community, advancing conversations around LGBTQ acceptance and more, through music. Most recently, her impact on the LGBTQ community was realized after Club Q Colorado Springs shooting survivor, Michael Anderson, invoked her lyrics as he testified before the U.S. House Oversight Committee on LGBTQ violence.
In 2002, Aguilera dedicated her single, “Beautiful,” to the LGBTQ community, with the line “words can’t bring us down” becoming a personal mantra for many queer people. The song brought a unique awareness and a sense of compassion in the face of hate, earning Aguilera a Special Recognition honor at the 14th GLAAD Media Awards. Last year, the seven-time Grammy-winner celebrated 20 years of “Beautiful” with a brand new music video, reminding people of the importance of accepting themselves for who they are.
A staunch supporter of LGBTQ rights and a visionary for representation, Aguilera raised over $500 million for HIV research with MAC cosmetics in 2004, spoke out loudly against Proposition 8 in 2008 and brought trans dancers and drag artists into the limelight during the 2012 American Music Awards.
Following the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting in Orlando, Aguilera dedicated the song, “Change,” to those affected by the tragedy with proceeds from the song going to victims’ families. She later penned a “Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community” for Billboard in 2017. Her very own Pride collection was launched in 2021, to proudly support two nonprofit organizations: TransTech and TransLash. Using the power of music to build bridges and demand change, Aguilera has redefined what it means to be a true advocate for the LGBTQ community, creating spaces for queer voices and talent to be known and thrive: From performing alongside breakthrough LGBTQ artists like Anitta, Syd, Kim Petras, Chika and Michaela Jaé, to condemning anti-LGBTQ legislation like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.
“Christina Aguilera is a beloved icon who has inspired and shared messages of love for the LGBTQ community since the start of her music career. From using her voice to speak out against anti-LGBTQ legislation to creating songs and music videos that showcase LGBTQ love, Christina loudly and proudly raises the bar for what it means to be a LGBTQ ally today,” said GLAAD President & CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis.
Bad Bunny’s Vanguard Award
Bad Bunny’s advocacy and outspoken allyship for the LGBTQ community has reached millions around the world . Named Spotify’s most-streamed artist of 2022, with 8.3 billion streams globally, the three-time Grammy-winning artist uses his craft to powerfully speak out as an ally to transgender people and advance equality for the LGBTQ community, bringing his own voice to the forefront to help others see themselves in the world.
As he reimagines the Latin urban music genre, LGBTQ people and issues remain in the vanguards of equality and inclusion for him, especially those in Puerto Rico, where he was born. His live performances and music videos cast an array of voices, experiences and backgrounds, showcasing queer love and affection on full display. For his music video for “Yo Perreo Sola,” he dressed in drag, telling Rolling Stone, “I did it to show support to those who need it. I may not be gay, but I’m a human.”
In a performance for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” the rapper paid homage to Alexa Negrón Luciano, a trans woman murdered in the city of Toa Baja, wearing a shirt in Spanish that read: “They killed Alexa, not a man in a skirt.” In 2019, the artist also helped influence a movement to force former Puerto Rican Governor, Ricardo Rosselló, to step down from office, after being exposed for corruption and anti-LGBTQ attitudes.
Moving from sound booth to the big screen, Bad Bunny plans to executive produce the forthcoming Netflix adaptation of the New York Times bestselling novel, “They Both Die in the End,” which features a queer Latinx storyline.
Previous GLAAD Vito Russo Award recipient Ricky Martin told Rolling Stone that Bad Bunny is an “icon for the Latin queer community.”
“Bad Bunny uses his role as one of the world’s most popular music artists to boldly shine a light on LGBTQ people and issues, including transgender equality and ending violence against trans women of color,” said GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “By consistently advocating for our community, elevating our stories, and demanding action from anti-LGBTQ leaders, Bad Bunny redefines the positive influence Latin music artists can have within the LGBTQ community, and has set an example for all artists.”
Jeremy Pope’s Stephen F. Kolzak Award
Jeremy Pope is a multi-faceted out performer who has broken barriers across Broadway, television and film, earning two Tony Award nominations, a Grammy Award nomination, an Emmy Award nomination, and a Golden Globe Award nomination.
His breakthrough film role as Ellis French in Elegance Bratton’s autobiographical first feature, “The Inspection,” follows a closeted Black gay man through Marine Corps Recruit Training in a “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” era. That performance earned him his first Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, as well as a Film Independent Spirit Award nomination for “Best Lead Performance.”
Pope’s rise from stage to screen began in 2018, when he earned two Tony Award nominations in the same season – one for Best Lead Actor in A Play for his Broadway debut performance in “Choir Boy” and a second nomination for Best Featured Actor in a musical for his performance in “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.” Pope was soon cast in Ryan Murphy’s series “Hollywood,” where he earned an Emmy nomination for his lead performance as aspiring Black screenwriter Archie Coleman. Pope also had a meaningful arc in “Pose” and in the final season of the FX series, his character, Christopher, gave audiences a sense of visibility and belonging for trans experiences and for those living with HIV.
Pope is about to wrap his Broadway run as Jean-Michael Basquiat in Manhattan Theater Club’s “The Collaboration.” Later this year, he will be seen revisiting the role on the big screen.
“Jeremy Pope is one of today’s most talented and dynamic actors who has given life and excitement to important stories that impact and honor the LGBTQ community. Offscreen, Pope has used his voice to have important conversations about being an out actor in Hollywood, which are key to continuing to erase stigma and bias that affect out actors today,” said GLAAD President & CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis.
The 34th Annual GLAAD Media Awards
This year, GLAAD announced 295 nominees across 33 categories including two new categories: Outstanding Podcast and Outstanding Live TV Journalism – Segment or Special. For the first time ever, the Outstanding Reality Program category was also split to nominate both reality competition series and non-competition series independently.
The Outstanding Kids & Family Programming category was also split to nominate animated and live action programs independently. This year also includes ten nominees in the Outstanding Film – Wide Release category for the first time.
Last year, the 33rd GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles were hosted by Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O’Hara and Shangela and were streamed on Hulu.
Cody Rigsby and Peppermint hosted the 33rd GLAAD Media Awards in New York City.
Both ceremonies featured appearances and performances by Dove Cameron, Kacey Musgraves, Ben Platt, Cody Rigsby, Ariana DeBose, Laverne Cox, Karine Jean-Pierre, Wilson Cruz, Cynthia Nixon, Gigi Gorgeous, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Judith Light, Anthony Rapp, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Christina Ricci, Cynthia Erivo, Shangela, JoJo Siwa and many more.
The Executive Producers of the 34th Annual GLAAD Media Awards are GLAAD President & CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis and GLAAD’s Rich Ferraro and Anthony Allen Ramos. STAMP Event Co. will produce.
The 34th Annual GLAAD Media Awards are presented by Gilead Sciences, Inc., Hyundai, and Ketel One Family Made Vodka. GLAAD is also grateful to Major Sponsor Delta Air Lines and Official Sponsor Sony Music Group.
To purchase tickets for the 34th Annual GLAAD Media Awards, please visit: www.glaad.org/mediaawards/tickets.
On socials please follow @GLAAD and #glaadawards
Save the date: WeHo Pride 2023
WeHo Pride 2023 in the City of West Hollywood > Updates and Details will be Announced at www.wehopride.com
WEST HOLLYWOOD – The City of West Hollywood announces dates for its WeHo Pride 2023 celebration in May and June:
- WeHo Pride Weekend will take place on Friday, June 2, 2023; Saturday, June 3, 2023; and Sunday, June 4, 2023 in and around West Hollywood Park, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard. The weekend will include a free Street Fair, the Women’s Freedom Festival, the Dyke March, the WeHo Pride Parade, and the ticketed OUTLOUD @ WeHo Pride music festival.
- The WeHo Pride Street Fair will take place on Saturday, June 3, 2023 and Sunday, June 4, 2023 and will celebrate Pride with diverse participation of LGBTQ+ community groups and allied organizations as part of visibility and expression. The Street Fair is free and will feature a vibrant variety of exhibitors along Santa Monica Boulevard. There will be live entertainment and performances on a community stage, highlighting the LGBTQ+ community. The Street Fair is a family-friendly event and is open to everyone. It is a great occasion to take part in WeHo Pride’s LGBTQ+ community experience.
- The Women’s Freedom Festival presented by the L-Project Los Angeles is planned to take place on Saturday, June 3, 2023. The 2023 event will feature emerging LGBTQ and BIPOC women and non-binary musicians, comedians, poets, and activists. More information will be available in the coming weeks at www.wehopride.com.
- The Dyke March is planned to take place on Saturday, June 3, 2023. For people who are interested in marching, stay informed at www.wehopride.com for route and timing information!
- Get festive as we roll down Santa Monica Boulevard for the WeHo Pride Parade on Sunday, June 4, 2023! The WeHo Pride Parade is an imaginative and colorful annual tradition along Santa Monica Boulevard that embraces LGBTQ+ representation, inclusion, and progress. Full of music, dancing, colorful floats, festive marching contingents, and creative flair, the Parade celebrates LGBTQ+ people and our contributions to community and culture. The Parade is a lively, energetic experience with good cheer and great vibes, and a whole lot of rainbows! Whether you participate in the Parade or join in the fun as a spectator, there’s something for everyone at the WeHo Pride Parade! Organizations and individuals interested in submitting an application to participate as an entrant in the annual WeHo Pride Parade must apply by 5 p.m. on April 15, 2023 by using the form posted at https://www.wehopride.com/news/weho-pride-parade-applications-now-available-2023. Get creative and think outside of the box! The WeHo Pride Parade welcomes floats, bands, drill teams, dance teams, entertainment entries, marchers, and more.
- OUTLOUD @ WeHo Pride produced by JJLA is the flagship music festival and concert experience of WeHo Pride featuring Grace Jones, Orville Peck, Santigold, Carly Rae Jepsen, and dozens more! It will take place on Friday, June 2, 2023; Saturday, June 3, 2023; and Sunday, June 4, 2023 at West Hollywood Park, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard with a star-studded, high-energy line-up celebrating and advocating for queer voices in music. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.weareoutloud.com.
- WeHo Pride Arts Festival will take place during 40 days from Harvey Milk Day on Monday, May 22, 2023 to Friday, June 30, 2023 at various locations throughout the City of West Hollywood. First launched in 2008, and formerly known as the One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, this year’s Arts Festival will feature a stellar range of LGBTQ+ dance, visual art, performance, literary arts, craft, and more. Learn more about Arts Festival events by visiting www.wehopride.com/artsfestival (programming details will be posted as they become available). This year’s Arts Festival launches with a celebration of Harvey Milk Day taking place on Monday, May 22, 2023 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., which features the 1st Annual José Sarria Amateur Drag Pageant, a voter registration table, and an interactive photo opportunity.
WeHo Pride celebrations during WeHo Pride Weekend and during May and June 2023 will include a diverse array of LGBTQ+ community groups as part of visibility, expression, and celebration. The City of West Hollywood invites community groups to take part in WeHo Pride 2023. Through an application and review process, community groups may apply to request City funding for an independent Pride event, produced entirely by the group or organization. Details are posted at www.wehopride.com/getinvolved by clicking on the Community Group Grants tab for an application. If selected, your event will enter into a co-sponsorship agreement with the City and be a part of the City’s Official WeHo Pride program, occurring between May 22, 2023 and June 30, 2023. The deadline to apply is March 24, 2023.
WeHo Pride Street Fair applications are also currently open for vendors, artists, performers, and more. The Street Fair promises to be bigger and better than ever before. With a wide range of activities and options, there is sure to be something for everyone. LGBTQ+ affiliated community groups who would like to apply for a free booth space in the WeHo Pride Street Fair can apply here. All other organizations interested in exhibiting at the WeHo Pride Street Fair can apply here.
Additional details about WeHo Pride 2023 will be posted as they become available at www.wehopride.com. Follow @wehopride on Instagram and Facebook and follow @officiallyoutloud on Instagram and Facebook.
Since its incorporation in 1984, the City of West Hollywood has become one of the most influential cities in the nation for its outspoken advocacy on LGBTQ issues. Home to the “Rainbow District” along Santa Monica Boulevard, which features a concentration of historic LGBTQ clubs, restaurants, and retail shops, West Hollywood consistently tops lists of “most LGBTQ friendly cities” in the nation. More than 40 percent of residents in West Hollywood identify as LGBTQ and three of the five members of the West Hollywood City Council are openly gay or lesbian.
Pride is deeply rooted part of West Hollywood’s history and culture. In fact, Pride events have taken place in West Hollywood since 1979, five years before the City of West Hollywood was incorporated as a municipality. The City’s embrace of Pride is part of its advocacy for nearly four decades for measures that support LGBTQ individuals, and the City is in the vanguard on efforts to gain and protect equality for all people on a state, national, and international level. The City of West Hollywood is one of the first municipalities to form a Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board (now LGBTQ+ Advisory Board) and a Transgender Advisory Board, which each address matters of advocacy. As part of its support of the transgender community, the City has a Transgender Resource Guide available on the City’s website.
In 2022, the City of West Hollywood inaugurated WeHo Pride with programming that represents a diverse array of LGBTQ community groups as part of visibility, expression, and celebration. West Hollywood is a community of choice for LGBTQ people from throughout the world and WeHo Pride embraces a source of deep connection for its LGBTQ history and culture.
WeHo Pride Weekend: June 2 to June 4
OUTLOUD @ WeHo Pride: June 2 to June 4
WeHo Pride Parade: June 4
WeHo Pride Street Fair: June 3 to June 4
Women’s Freedom Festival & Dyke March: June 3
WeHo Pride Arts Festival: May 22 to June 30
WeHo Pride Community Group Events: May 22 to June 30
Updates and Details will be Announced at www.wehopride.com
Follow @wehopride on Instagram and Facebook and @officiallyoutloud on Instagram and Facebook
For more information about WeHo Pride and the WeHo Pride Arts Festival, please visit www.wehopride.com/contact.
For more information about Outloud @ WeHo Pride, please visit www.weareoutloud.com/get-involved.
For inquires to the City of West Hollywood’s Event Services Division, please email [email protected].
For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.
Arts & Entertainment
Oscars so safe
Fraser wins for playing gay in ‘Whale,’ but night belonged to ‘Everything’
LOS ANGELES – It must be said that the 95th Annual Academy Awards were doomed to be a letdown before they ever started. After all, last year’s ceremony included a physical assault on a presenter by an A-lister – who then proceeded to win the Best Actor award!
Even by rewarding an indie underdog for becoming a populist hit by giving it a record-setting sweep of the major categories, how could this year’s Oscar broadcast hope to top that?
Snarky digs aside, the Academy had already squandered a lot of its good will by announcing a slate of nominees that seemed a step backward in its recent efforts toward diversity. While 2022’s honors included overdue recognition for Asian American talent, the notable shortage of people of color or LGBTQ individuals among the nominees had already led many observers to write off this year’s Oscars as just another backsliding return to the all-too-familiar status quo; and when the broadcast itself finally happened, the Jimmy Kimmel-led ceremony played it so safe that the proceedings seemed dull even in comparison to other Oscar shows – and as anyone who’s ever watched one will certainly attest, that’s saying a lot. It’s almost as if, after a few years of pushing the boundaries, controversy, and conservative backlash over a perceived capitulation to “woke” sensibilities had pressured the Academy into a return to business as usual.
In fairness, that assessment feels a little unreasonable, considering that “Everything Everywhere All at Once” – a movie in which the survival of multiple universes hinges in no small part on a mother’s acknowledgment and acceptance of her child’s queer sexuality – had enough critical and popular momentum going into the ceremony to make its claiming of the top prize all but inevitable. The popular surprise indie sci-fi hit claimed that prize and more – including Best Actress for cinema icon Michelle Yeoh and supporting honors for co-stars Ke Huy Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis, as well as wins in the Direction and Original Screenplay categories for filmmakers Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan – to take home an impressive seven of the 11 awards for which it was nominated; child-actress-turned-celebrated-filmmaker Sarah Polley, while shut out of the Best Director category for “Women Talking” in favor of an all-male roster of nominees, took the prize for Best Adapted Screenplay nevertheless; Best Actor winner Brendan Fraser, while himself not gay, earned his victory for a deeply humanizing portrayal of a gay man and is a very public survivor of alleged same-gender sexual harassment in the workplace – a reminder that #MeToo is not just a “women’s issue” but a cause encompassing even those in positions most seemingly insulated from such abuses.
All these winning films – as well as numerous others among their fellow winners and nominees –are queer-inclusive, if not directly queer-focused. Though other queer nominees – like Belgian director Lukas Dhont’s “Close” for Best International Feature and Laura Poitras’ Nan Goldin profile “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” for Best Documentary Feature – failed to take their respective categories, the overall queer presence represented in this year’s nominated films is too widespread and deeply integrated to be ignored.
Still, in today’s very divided cultural atmosphere, such equivocating overtures toward a more equitable Oscar playing field can undeniably feel like hollow, insincere tokens, convenient to bestow on their non-LGBTQ recipients thanks to the more universal appeal of the movies that earned them a place at the table; and while the wins for Yeoh and nostalgic Gen X fan favorite Quan represented historic firsts for Asian American inclusion, nominations for Viola Davis in “The Woman King” and “Till” star Danielle Deadwyler as Best Actress, or for Jeremy Pope and Gabrielle Union of “The Inspection” as Best Actor and Supporting Actress, respectively, would have gone a lot further toward proving the Academy’s commitment to true diversity than its loading of the stage with an ostentatiously multi-ethnic roster of presenters – an overcompensation tactic that becomes increasingly obvious every time they deploy it.
As for the ceremony itself, there were some highlights, such as Lady Gaga, with a face freshly scrubbed of her red carpet makeup, passionately delivering a performance of nominated song “Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick,” or fellow pop diva Rihanna’s rendition of “Lift Me Up” from “Wakanda Forever” – not to mention the wildly entertaining production number staged to the eventual Best Song winner, “Naatu Naatu” from the Indian blockbuster “RRR.” So, too, were there memorable moments from among the presentations, like the infectious wave of authentic joy that met Quan’s and Curtis’ early wins or Fraser’s genuinely choked-up, self-effacing acceptance speech, as well as a few polite-but-pointed barbs and zingers aimed at various low-hanging political targets – and, of course, at Will Smith – along the way. Even so, the atmosphere of the evening was decidedly contained, marked by a frankly uncharacteristic effort from Hollywood’s elite to remain on their best behavior and avoid ruffling too many feathers – and while that may have made for an evening relatively free of controversy, it also resulted in an Academy Awards show arguably far less entertaining than some of the notoriously embarrassing debacles they’ve produced in past years.
With all that in mind, it’s easy to see Sunday night’s Oscar ceremony as just another validation for people who loathe the Oscars. Yet while the Academy might seem to be some monolithic organization handing out decrees, its awards are bestowed by a voting body made up of individual film professionals, each with their own opinions about who the winners should be, and many of whom likely feel no obligation toward following whatever cultural or political agendas the organization itself may be hoping to advance. That means that whatever good intentions it proclaims itself to have, the Academy will always be little more than a barometer – and, perhaps, a convenient scapegoat – for an industry that perpetually drags its feet. After all, can we really blame the Academy for failing to recognize queer-centric and queer-friendly content – or content centered on any demographic that isn’t white, male, and heterosexual – when there is still so little of it to choose from among the award-worthy movies the mainstream continues to offer us?
There’s no right answer to that question, perhaps, only food for thought as we continue to press Hollywood to do better; that’s the only way we’ll ever see wider inclusion on the big screen. In the meantime, it’s important to remember that deciding the “best” of anything is always an entirely subjective exercise, which means that the Oscars are ultimately less about gauging quality than they are about measuring cultural attitudes toward the content – and the way that content is presented – that the movie industry produces. That makes awards like the Oscars an invaluable tool, perhaps, but does that mean it’s worth putting up with all the shallow, facile, tribalistic conversation that inevitably happens around them?
In a year like this one, when the Academy honors films that uplift and celebrate outsiders, underdogs, and ordinary people, that emphasize kindness and compassion, that allow for resolution and redemption without destructive conflict or violence, then it feels like the answer is yes.
The complete list of winners is below:
Best Picture: “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Brendan Fraser, “The Whale”
Best Director: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert,“Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Actress in a Supporting Role: Jamie Lee Curtis, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Actor in a Supporting Role: Ke Huy Quan, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Best Animated Feature Film: “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”
Best Original Song: M.M. Keeravani and Chandrabose,“Naatu Naatu,” “RRR”
Best Original Screenplay: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert,“Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Best Adapted Screenplay: Sarah Polley, “Women Talking”
Best International Feature Film: “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Best Documentary Feature Film: “Navalny”
Best Cinematography: James Friend, “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Best Visual Effects: “Avatar: The Way of Water”
Best Costume Design: Ruth E. Carter, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Adrian Morot, Judy Chin, and Annemarie Bradley, “The Whale”
Best Production Design: Christian M, Goldbeck and Ernestine Hipper,“All Quiet on the Western Front”
Best Film Editing: Paul Rogers, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Best Original Score: Volker Bertelmann,“All Quiet on the Western Front”
Best Live Action Short: “An Irish Goodbye”
Best Animated Short: “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”
Best Documentary Short: “The Elephant Whisperers”
Best Sound: “Top Gun: Maverick”
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