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LA’s comeback, a lesbian community leader has a starring role

There’s a sense of relief and excitement as LA starts to reopen



Madonna Cacciatore, (driving) and spouse Robin McWilliams in the new Discover LA advert

LOS ANGELES – Nearly thirteen long months have passed since the coronavirus pandemic first gripped the greater Los Angeles region as well as the rest of the Golden State.

However, now with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reporting that its Health Metrics data continues to reflect reduced transmission of COVID-19 in the County and test positivity remains at the lowest levels of the pandemic- coupled with 53% of the population getting vaccinated, there’s a sense of relief and excitement as LA starts to reopen.

Having a role in that reopening literally is Madonna Cacciatore and her spouse Robin McWilliams who are part of an ensemble cast in the recently released Discover Los Angeles dot com television commercial celebrating the sights, sounds, places, and destinations in LA.

Cacciatore, a transplant from the Lone Star State of Texas, in addition to being an actor is also Vice President of the Board of Directors at L-Project Los Angeles, the former Executive Director at Christopher Street West/LA Pride, and the former Director of Special Events at Los Angeles LGBT Center.

McWilliams is the owner and CEO of MadCatch Entertainment, a management company representing some of the most amazing theatrically trained actors, singers and writers in the Los Angeles, and NY area.




CBS News: Mitchell Gold’s furniture went bankrupt, here’s how

The company became an American success story until last month, when the company went bankrupt. Now, $50 million dollars have vanished



Furniture company co-founder Mitchell Gold being interviewed by CBS News correspondent Brook Silva-Braga. (Screenshot/YouTube CBS News)

TAYLORSVILLE, N.C. – In 1989, Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams founded a furniture store bearing their names. The company became an American success story until last month, when the company went bankrupt. Now, $50 million in customer deposits have vanished.

CBS Saturday Morning’s Brook Silva-Braga has the story.

“CBS Saturday Morning” co-hosts Jeff Glor, Michelle Miller and Dana Jacobson deliver two hours of original reporting and breaking news, as well as profiles of leading figures in culture and the arts. Watch “CBS Saturday Morning” at 7 a.m. ET on CBS and 8 a.m. ET on the CBS News app.

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Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams furniture co. abruptly shuts down

The furniture manufacturing and retail company Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, named after the two gay businessmen who founded the firm



Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

TAYLORSVILLE, N.C. – The furniture manufacturing and retail company Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, named after the two gay businessmen who founded the firm in 1989 before selling it in 2015, announced last week that it is shutting down all its operations due to a sudden loss of financing.

During the years of Gold and Williams’s ownership, the company expanded its operations from a single furniture store in D.C. to the operation of 24 high-end furniture stores across the country and three furniture factories in North Carolina.

Gold couldn’t immediately be reached by the Washington Blade for comment.

The Washington Post reported that many of the company’s estimated 800 employees received word of the shutdown and their impending layoff over the past weekend through a letter posted at the company’s factories and stores by the Stephens Group, a Little Rock, Ark., equity firm that bought the company from Gold and Williams in 2015.

“Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams has recently and unexpectedly learned that we are unable to continue business operations,” the Post quotes the letter as saying. “As you may know, the current economic climate has presented significant challenges to the furniture industry… [The company] has recently and unexpectedly learned that we are unable to secure critical financing to continue business operations,” the letter states.

According to reports by the Post and the furniture industry publications Furniture Today and Business Of Home, Gold and Williams initially sold the company in 1998 to Rowe Furniture in an arrangement that allowed them to continue managing the company’s operations.

The Post report says the two men, who originally named the company Mitchell Gold, bought the company back in 2002 with a group of New York investors and renamed it Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. Williams and Gold sold the company once again in 2015 to the Stephens Group while remaining on the company’s board and in company management.

The media reports about the shutdown say Gold, 72, retired in 2019, and Williams, 61, retired in 2022. The Post reports that the two men still sit on the board as observers.

Furniture Today reports that Gold served as board chair emeritus after his 2019 retirement and “reengaged with the company” earlier this year to support company CEO Chris Moye.

“I was devastated and in shock. Both Bob and I are,” Gold told the Post in recounting his feelings upon learning of the shutdown. “And if I had to use one word, it’s heartbroken.”

An employee who answered the phone at the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams store in D.C. at 1526 14th Street, N.W., told the Blade on Wednesday that a liquidation sale of the store’s merchandise would take place Saturday, Sept. 2.

Often with Gold acting as host, the upscale D.C. store has opened its doors for LGBTQ events, including fundraising events for local and national LGBTQ organizations.

Gold and Williams have been credited with emerging as advocates for LGBTQ equality during their years living in North Carolina while operating the company’s main furniture factory in rural Taylorsville, N.C. In 2005, Gold founded the LGBTQ organization Faith in America with the mission of combating “religious-based bigotry” targeting the LGBTQ community.

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Outdoor retailer The North Face affirms commitment to inclusivity

The North Face released its new Pride month collection earlier this week, and included a video featuring drag queen Pattie Gonia



'Summer of Pride' advertising campaign. (Screenshot/YouTube)

DENVER, CO. – After a targeted campaign by far-right transphobic and homophobic groups and individuals on social media platforms aimed at American outdoor recreation products company The North Face, for its LGBTQ+ ‘Summer of Pride’ advertising, the Denver-based company responded affirming its commitment to LGBTQ+ and allied consumers.

“The North Face has always believed the outdoors should be a welcoming, equitable and safe place for all,” the company said in a statement, pointing out that the ‘Summer of Pride’ series is now in its second year and has helped “individuals from all backgrounds experience the outdoors.”

“Creating community and belonging in the outdoors is a core part of our values and is needed now more than ever. We stand with those who support our vision for a more inclusive outdoor industry.”

The North Face released its new Pride month collection earlier this week, and included a video featuring drag queen Pattie Gonia, whose appearance set off the firestorm of homophobia and anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech.

In a statement, LGBTQ+ media advocacy group GLAAD responded:

“Including LGBTQ people and holding true to your corporate values is good for business. The North Face is following hundreds of other businesses that include and stand with LGBTQ people and our allies. At a time when over 20% of Gen Z is LGBTQ and a supermajority of Americans support LGBTQ people, The North Face’s decision should be a signal to other companies that including LGBTQ people and allies is better for business than siding with a small number of violent extremists who want to keep LGBTQ consumers and employees invisible.”

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Comcast: NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell gone, cites improprieties

“Today is my last day […] I had an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, which I deeply regret. I’m truly sorry”



Jeff Shell, former Chief Executive Officer of NBCUniversal (Los Angeles Blade graphic)

PHILADELPHIA- Global media and technology giant Comcast announced Sunday that the Company and Jeff Shell, Chief Executive Officer of NBCUniversal, have mutually agreed that he will depart effective immediately following the Company’s investigation led by outside counsel into a complaint of inappropriate conduct.

“Today is my last day as CEO of NBCUniversal. I had an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, which I deeply regret. I’m truly sorry I let my Comcast and NBCUniversal colleagues down, they are the most talented people in the business and the opportunity to work with them the last 19 years has been a privilege,” Shell said in a statement.

Variety reported that a successor to Shell has not been named. Shell’s senior team will now report directly to Mike Cavanagh, president of Comcast Corporation.

In a memo that sent shockwaves through the company, Comcast CEO Brian L. Roberts and Cavanagh wrote, “We are disappointed to share this news with you. We built this company on a culture of integrity. Nothing is more important than how we treat each other. You should count on your leaders to create a safe and respectful workplace. When our principles and policies are violated, we will always move quickly to take appropriate action, as we have done here.”

Comcast is a major employer in Southern California employing thousands with Xfinity/Comcast, as well as producing, distributing, and streaming entertainment, sports, and news through platforms including NBC, Telemundo, Universal, Peacock, and Sky.

The company also runs theme parks and attractions through Universal Destinations & Experiences including its Universal Studios Hollywood.

Shell was named Chief Executive Officer of NBCUniversal in January 2020.

In a bio posted the company website, the company also noted he had previously served as Chairman of NBCUniversal Film and Entertainment from 2013 to 2019. Over the course of his tenure, Universal celebrated four years of record profit, and the two most profitable years in the studio’s 107- year history with titles from some of its biggest franchises such as Fast & Furious, Jurassic World and Illumination’s Despicable Me. Additionally, the company acquired DreamWorks Animation in 2016.

Prior to joining UFEG, Shell served as Chairman of NBCUniversal International and previously served as President of Comcast Programming Group.

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Knott’s Berry Farm is planning to hire 2,500 seasonal employees 

The weeklong job fair will be held at Knott’s Berry Farm Feb. 18 until Feb. 24. Interviews will take place daily between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.



Courtesy of Cedar Fair Entertainment Company

BUENA PARK, Calif. – As the new Spring and Summer seasonal events ready to launch, Knott’s Berry Farm announced that it is hiring 2,500 seasonal employees.

Parent company Cedar Fair Entertainment Company announced in a press release Monday that this is the largest hiring campaign for all of its parks as it plans to add approximately 35,000 seasonal associates to help staff its parks in 2023.

The company anticipates filling up to 80% of those roles – or 28,000 jobs – during a week-long hiring blitz to be held across all its parks in the United States and Canada Feb. 18-24. It promises to be the largest recruiting event in Cedar Fair’s history.

The weeklong job fair will be held at Knott’s Berry Farm from Feb. 18 until Feb. 24. Interviews will take place daily between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Courtesy of Cedar Fair Entertainment Company

Knott’s Berry Farm will be hiring for a variety of positions, including:

  • Ride operators 
  • Food and Beverage
  • Lifeguards and Aquatics
  • Security
  • And many more roles.

The hourly pay ranges from $16 to $19 and those with prior experience can earn even more, according to a company news release.

“Our seasonal associates play an important role in our mission of delivering amazing experiences to all of our guests,” said Tim Fisher, Cedar Fair chief operating officer. “We’re proud to offer highly competitive wages and amazing perks, and a seasonal job at one of our parks can offer so much more than other workplaces. You can gain valuable experience, develop marketable skills for the future, and make new friends in a fun and unique environment while being part of something truly special. Our parks offer a job that’s fun for everyone, with a variety of shifts to meet the needs of those interested in full-time, part-time, seasonal and occasional work hours.”

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Black Joy, a fat body candle celebration for Black History Month

Morgan creates trans inclusive, gender-free candles that allow people to see their bodies, & the bodies of people they love in accessible art



Photo courtesy of Jodyann Morgan (Photo by McKenna Patterson)

MILWAUKEE – A Black, queer owned candle company based in Milwaukee, founded by Jodyann Morgan in November of 2021, has quickly become an internet sensation, with many prominent plus size, Black, and LGBTQ influencers sharing the candles on their social media platforms.

To celebrate Black History Month, the company’s founder launched the Black Joy collection. Trauma, death and sorrow are deeply intertwined with the Black lived experience, Morgan says but Black joy is critical to survival. Her Black Joy collection pays tribute to Black creativity, expression, excellence, and euphoria.

Her company, CTOAN, is best known for gender free body sculpture candles that are size fat, and also occasionally offers tealights, mini fat body wax melts and luxurious jarred candles. The company prides itself in giving back to the community with a portion of sales from every collection donated to various causes.

Morgan in a press release stated that she never dreamed of owning a small business. With over a decade of sport and entertainment security under her belt, she was simply in search of a hobby when she started making candles in early 2021.

By November 13th of that year she had a website, a business name, a kitchen full of candle making supplies, and an eager community celebrating her business launch with a flood of orders. In March of 2022, after celebrating her 35th birthday, she left her security job to be a full time business owner. 

Morgan creates lovingly hand poured, trans inclusive, gender-free candles (including 7 original designs!) that allow people to see their bodies, and the bodies of people they love, in accessible art.

Photo courtesy of Jodyann Morgan (Photo by McKenna Patterson)

This past November, her company celebrated one year of loudly and proudly creating art that makes a difference.

Her candles have been featured in national and local media, by celebrities like Gabrielle Union and Tess Holliday, and by dozens of the most popular influencers of all body types, genders, and backgrounds.

Morgan is married to Chaya Milchtein aka The Mechanic Shop Femme, a queer automotive influencer. Their wedding was featured in the New York Times.

The Black Joy collection will be available in two colorways:

  • The first is a layered candle in the colors of the pan african flag – green, yellow and red – evoking freedom from colonialism and tyranny. Being from Jamaica, this colorway was a familiar sight for Jodyann. 
  • Jodyann’s second design is pink, teal and yellow, in a hand painted floral print. The leopard print candle is a celebration of maximalism – an exaltation of Black trans women, cis women and femmes living loudly and proudly, consequences be damned.

The candles come in three complex scents:

  • Figs & Molasses
  • Floral Euphoria
  • Cocoa Butter Cashmere 

Each candle will cost $35. 

With a focus on giving back, last year Morgan donated over $4100 to mutual aid funds and non profits serving her communities. Her Black Joy collection continues the tradition, with $2 from every candle being donated to Roots & River Productions, which produces the work of queer and trans Black artists. 

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Frontier Airlines announces “all-you-can-fly” summer pass

Airline welcomed a new plane to its fleet, Hamber the California Condor, named after Jan Hamber, an American ornithologist & conservationist



Courtesy of Frontier Airlines

DENVER – Frontier Airlines announced a new “all-you-can-fly” summer pass this week.

It costs $399 and includes nearly unlimited flights between May and September. There are currently more than 100 destinations. Flights will cost 1 cent plus taxes and fees for pass-holders. This includes charges for seats or checked baggage.

Frontier also plans to add new non-stop services between multiple cities and Puerto Rico this summer. Flights will be available to book starting May 2.

The airline also unveiled its latest tribute aircraft- Hamber the California Condor.

The California condor is the largest flying bird in North America. Their wings stretch nearly 10 feet from tip to tip. Hamber is named after Jan Hamber, an American ornithologist and conservationist. While working at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History in the 1970s, she became involved in the effort to save the California condor. She played a significant role in the condor’s survival in the wild.

In a statement released on social media, the airlines said: “Frontier is committed to reducing our carbon footprint, protecting the environment, and bringing awareness to incredible animals, such as Hamber, who need our help.”

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Queer to Stay grants announced, four LA businesses are recipients

“The Los Angeles Blade is honored to be one of these four grant recipients and we thank Showtime & HRC,” said Troy Masters



Los Angeles Blade graphic

LOS ANGELES – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, and SHOWTIME announced Tuesday that four Los Angeles businesses, Detroit Vesey’sLos Angeles BladeSalon Benders and Urbody, as recipients of “Queer to Stay: An LGBTQ+ Business Preservation Initiative” to support and uplift small businesses that focus on LGBTQ+ people of color, women and the transgender community who continue to be impacted by economic setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year, on top of economic setbacks from COVID, we’ve seen a disturbing rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and attacks, including harm to some LGBTQ+ small businesses. That’s why it is critical to uphold affirming, welcoming spaces and services for our LGBTQ+ communities,” said Kelley Robinson, HRC President. “This initiative celebrates and supports our community by putting funds directly into the hands of multiply marginalized LGBTQ+ owned, and serving, small businesses around the country. We’re excited to partner with SHOWTIME once again to ensure that LGBTQ+ patrons, employees and business owners continue to occupy spaces freely and without exception as their authentic selves.”

The four Los Angeles businesses that will receive Queer to Stay grants are the following:

  • Detroit Vesey’s – Erin Detroit Vesey is the owner and chef of Detroit Vesey’s, a cafe designed with the intention of being a place for folks in LGBTQ+ and cycling communities.” Erin wanted to create a “daytime space” for LGBTQ+ people that did not focus on nightlife, and was inspired by the community that they witnessed during AIDS Lifecycle, a “bike ride from San Francisco to LA that raises funds to fight HIV/AIDS and the stigma, where everyone is welcome to participate and work towards a common goal.”
  • Los Angeles Blade – Troy Masters founded the Los Angeles Blade after realizing that LA was  “a city that – despite its importance – had no LGBT newspaper.” Masters had over two decades of LGBTQ+ journalism experience after founding Gay City News in New York during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Since its founding, the Los Angeles Blade has become one of the most well-respected sources for LGBTQ+ news.
  • Salon Benders – Jessie Santiago, co-owner and founder of Salon Benders, founded the salon to be a trauma-informed space for LGBTQ+ people after she had experienced working in a number of “toxic work environments that encouraged unhealthy habits” and took a toll on her physical and mental health. With encouragement from her partner and now co-owner of Salon Benders, Santiago created a salon “where people can come as they are and leave a better version of themselves.”
  • Urbody – Mere Abrams and Anna Graham co-founded Urbody to be a high-quality, gender affirming underwear and activewear brand that will display “positive, humanized representations of gender diversity.” Abrams and Graham wanted to create a “safe and affirming” shopping experience for all people that includes options for people across the gender spectrum, and they plan to use some of their grant money to continue designing pieces that accomplish that goal.

“The Los Angeles Blade is honored to be one of these four grant recipients and we thank Showtime & HRC,” said the Blade’s publisher Troy Masters.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the inaugural “Queer to Stay” initiative awarded funds to 10 LGBTQ+ businesses across the country. Since then, it’s been reported that LGBTQ+ businesses were less likely to receive COVID relief funds. At the same time, some LGBTQ+ small businesses have been the target of outrageous, extremist anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and attacks. With many LGBTQ+ businesses continuing to struggle in the economic aftermath of the global pandemic, HRC and SHOWTIME scaled up the initiative to include 25 businesses this year – five more than in 2021 – with a funding pool of $250,000. Watch a video about Queer to Stay here.

The additional awardees of “Queer to Stay: An LGBTQ+ Business Preservation Initiative” include:

Dorothy Downstairs (Chicago, IL), Three Palms Bar & Grill (New Orleans, LA), Stag PDX (Portland, OR), Bake Me Happy (Columbus, OH), Queer Therapy Network (Houston, TX), Celebrate Therapy (Provo, UT), M-Care (Witchita, KS), Queer Kid Stuff (Portland, ME), Harana Market (Woodstock, NY), Urbody (Los Angeles, CA), Peachy Births (Kansas City, MO), PTSFeminist (Atlanta, GA), As You Are (Washington, DC), Santé Bar (Portland, OR), Coffee Mafia (Auburn, AL), Goldspot Brewing Company (Denver, CO), Queer Chocolatier (Muncie, IN), Mountainsong Expeditions (Worcester, VT), Womencrafts (Provincetown, MA), Queer Dance Project (Lakewood, CO), Euphoria (Denver, CO), and Franny Lou’s Porch (Philadelphia, PA).

“I am so proud of SHOWTIME for extending its QUEER TO STAY campaign! Supporting LGBTQ+ businesses combined with all the LGBTQ+ representation in SHOWTIME programming, QUEER TO STAY has made a major impact all over the country,” said actor Jamie Clayton, star of THE L WORD®: GENERATION Q. “I’m honored to star on a show that depicts a vital LGBTQ+ small business on television. Playing Tess, who manages the inclusive, queer space, Dana’s Bar, on THE L WORD: GENERATION Q is such an exciting and vital thrill!”

HRC Foundation has published a research brief outlining the health and economic risks faced by the LGBTQ+ community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Key findings show that many LGBTQ+ people may lack the resources to effectively combat COVID-19; lack access to paid sick leave or live without health coverage; and are more likely to work in an industry that has been most affected by the pandemic, putting them in greater economic jeopardy or increasing their exposure to the virus. HRC Foundation research has also shown that LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be unemployed and to have lost work hours compared to the general population, with transgender people and people of color most at risk.

Season three of THE L WORD: GENERATION Q, the returning series based on the groundbreaking drama series THE L WORD®, is currently airing Friday nights on SHOWTIME. Packed with jaw-dropping surprises and guest stars, this season continues to follow the cast of characters as they struggle with secrets, old scars and new flames on their search for “The One.”

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FCC requires Broadband providers to display ‘nutrition’ info labels 

New rules will require broadband providers to display easy-to-understand labels to allow consumers to comparison shop for broadband services



FCC Headquarters Washington D.C. (Photo Credit: FCC/GSA)

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday unveiled new rules that will for the first time require broadband providers to display easy-to-understand labels to allow consumers to comparison shop for broadband services. 

The Report and Order approved by the Commission creates rules that require broadband providers to display, at the point of sale, labels that show key information consumers want−prices, speeds, fees, data allowances, and other critical information.  The labels resemble the well-known nutrition labels that appear on food products.

“Broadband is an essential service, for everyone, everywhere.  Because of this, consumers need to know what they are paying for, and how it compares with other service offerings,” said Chairwoman Rosenworcel.  “For over 25 years, consumers have enjoyed the convenience of nutrition labels on food products.  We’re now requiring internet service providers to display broadband labels for both wireless and wired services.  Consumers deserve to get accurate information about price, speed, data allowances, and other terms of service up front.”

Additionally, the new broadband labels will empower consumers with several features including:

  • Prominent Display.  The Order ensures that consumers see their actual label when purchasing broadband by requiring providers to display the label – not simply an icon or link to the label – in close proximity to an associated plan advertisement.
  • Account Portals.  The Order requires ISPs to make each customer’s label easily accessible to the customer in their online account portal, as well as to provide the label to an existing customer upon request.
  • Machine Readability.  To further assist with comparison shopping, the Order requires that providers make the information in the labels machine-readable to enable third parties to more easily collect and aggregate data for the purpose of creating comparison-shopping tools for consumers.
  • Further Refinements.  The Commission also adopted a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on ways that it can further refine and improve its rules in order to ensure that we further our consumer transparency goals.

The Report and Order also includes a template of the required label that reflects comments the FCC received from consumers, consumer advocates, and government and industry experts who participated in three public hearings and many others that submitted comments in response to the earlier Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.  To ensure the label benefits all consumers, the Commission adopted language and accessibility requirements for the label’s display.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act directed the FCC to require providers to display consumer-friendly labels with information about their broadband services.  The new label is based on voluntary labels the Commission previously approved in a 2016 Public Notice.  In adopting the label, the Commission stated that access to accurate, simple-to-understand information about broadband internet access services helps consumers make informed choices and is central to a well-functioning marketplace that encourages competition, innovation, low prices, and high-quality service.  The FCC also sought comment on ways it can enhance the newly-adopted label in the future, including different ways to display broadband performance information.

The Commission will announce the effective date of the label after it has completed necessary next steps, including requirements under the Paperwork Reduction Act.

Here is a sample of the new broadband label:

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Grindr goes public with new gay CEO & majority LGBTQ+ board

Arison’s appointment to helm Grindr comes as the app has assumed a more active role in fighting the monkeypox virus (MPV) outbreak



Grindr's new CEO, George Arison (Los Angeles Blade graphic)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Grindr, the dating and hookup app that boasts about 11 million gay, bisexual, transgender and queer users per month around the world, is preparing to go public this fall with a $2.1 billion valuation. 

Ahead of its merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), the company formed a board comprised of 60% LGBTQ+ members and on Tuesday installed, as its new CEO, George Arison, the openly gay founder and former CEO of Shift Technologies.

The move marks the company’s second attempt at going public, after hopes for an initial public offering (IPO) were dashed in 2016, when Chinese company Beijing Kunlun Tech divested its shares of Grindr over concerns by the U.S. government regarding the potential for blackmail or espionage by the Chinese Communist Party. 

Arison’s appointment to helm Grindr comes as the app has assumed a more active role in fighting the monkeypox virus (MPV) outbreak, which has overwhelmingly affected gay and bisexual men who have sex with men. 

The news also arrives on the heels of controversy stemming from Facebook posts published by former Grindr CEO Scott Chen: “Some think marriage is between a man and a woman. I think so, too, but it’s a personal matter,” he wrote. “Some people think the purpose of marriage is to have your own biological children. It’s a personal matter, too.”

Some may have foreseen the change in leadership from the negative reactions to Chen’s comments at the time from other CEOs of LGBTQ+ dating apps – CEOs who, unlike Chen, were members of the communities they served. 

LGBTQ+ people serve as CEOs of some of the most powerful companies in the world. Tim Cook, for instance, has led Apple since 2011, and the tech giant now has the largest market cap at $2.4 trillion. 

NASDAQ listed companies with one or more LGBTQ+ board members, meanwhile, include Apple, Google, Papa John’s, and M&T Bank. 

It is unusual, however, for a publicly traded corporation to be led by an LGBTQ+ CEO and majority-LGBTQ+ board of directors, as will be the case for Grindr if the acquisition is successful. 

According to a press release from Grindr, LGBTQ+ identifying members of the company’s board are: “former United States Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Daniel Baer; senior partner at Simpson Thacher, Gary Horowitz; CMO of Hootsuite, Maggie Lower; Investor and Tech Executive, Nathan Richardson; and SVP of Marketing and Communications at BigCommerce, Meghan Stabler.”

They, along with Arison and Grindr’s VP/Global Head of Communications, Patrick Lenihan, either declined to comment or did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

“Grindr is an unbelievable business and I am beyond excited to help them navigate through this next part of their journey. Their hard work and a laser focus on delivering great products to a starkly underserved market are inspiring, and deliver incredibly strong business results,” Arison said in a statement that accompanied the company’s announcement of his appointment as CEO.

Since it was launched in 2009, Grindr has faced criticism over its potential use for sexual exploitation, racism on the app, and concerns about its impact on mental health. A few years ago, the company was found to be sharing users’ HIV statuses and locations to outside vendors. 

Grindr sought to combat racism and other forms of discrimination with its Kindr initiative, introduced in 2018. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” the company wrote. “Their type. Their tastes. But nobody is entitled to tear someone else down because of their race, size, gender, HIV status, age, or – quite simply – being who they are.”

Revamping its help center, community guidelines, and safety tips, Grindr has also worked to fight the sexual exploitation of minors and mitigate instances of bullying on the app.

A CEO who has a record of prioritizing diversity 

As CEO of Shift Technologies, an online marketplace for buying and selling used cars, Arison prioritized diversity when taking his company public and choosing members of its board. It was important for Arison, himself an immigrant from the Eastern European country of Georgia, because data shows companies do better with women serving on their boards. And more to the point, considering his leadership at Grindr, he wanted Shift to “represent all the people [the company] caters to.”

Three of Shift’s eight board members were women, as of the company’s successful IPO via acquisition by a SPAC in 2020.  “We’ve done our best to include men and women, straight and gay as well as immigrants and people of different ethnicities, heritages and races on our board,” Arison told Market Watch. 

It is not just Arison who is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion when it comes to Grindr’s forthcoming debut as a public company. Grindr will “continue to expand the ways it serves the LGBTQ+ community, from products, services to the philanthropic and advocacy work done through Grindr 4 Equality [G4E],” said Jeff Bonforte, the company’s outgoing CEO, who will serve on the board. 

The company’s press release describes G4E as a program that leverages “the Grindr app’s global reach and leadership to empower local LGBTQ+ activists, spread information, and empower our users in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights… Through G4E, we work with various groups worldwide to make HIV testing more accessible, encourage voting, and fight homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.”

Former hedge fund manager and Grindr board member G. Raymond Zage said, in the company’s press release, “We are excited to bring this diverse and thoughtful board together with the talented Grindr team to grow the business and deepen its commitment to the LGBTQ+ community,” which he noted has traditionally been underserved. 

“On behalf of my community, I can’t wait to work with this board and the impressive folks at Grindr to show up for even more LGBTQ+ people,” Lower said.

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