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Actor & activist Brandon Kyle Goodman speaks; Hollywood listens

“I’d say to any queer kid – any Black or Brown or Asian kid in art school – keep talking & keep fighting for what you believe in.”

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Brandon Kyle Goodman (Photo by Luke Fontana)

By Alejandro Cervantes | HOLLYWOOD – Brandon Kyle Goodman (they/them) is the voice modern Hollywood needs. In the past three years, they’ve broadcasted a clear and much needed message about the success of diversity and the power of authenticity.

Known to audiences through their memorable performances in Amazon’s poignant anthology series “Modern Love” and the Netflix dance drama “Feel the Beat”, Goodman also writes for the hit Netflix animated series “Big Mouth” and the upcoming spin-off “Human Resources” – where they voice a new (secret) character.

Their solo show, The Latrell show, is written and performed by Goodman and co-directed by Stefanie Black and Devere Rogers in a stunning virtual production for the Iama Theatre. The show and centers around Latrell, a fearless and charismatic talk show host who explores what it means to be Black and queer in America today.

Goodman hopped on a call with The Los Angeles Blade to discuss queer representation in Hollywood, how Oprah can help new artists and of course, “the LATRELL show” – now extended through June 27th.

Describe the character of Latrell, who is he?

Latrell to me has always been this over the top, fabulous, femme, queer Black person who does what he wants, says what he wants, wears what he wants, but also is loving. He can drag you, he shade you, but it’s always out of love.

For “the LATRELL show”, in its iteration today, I wanted to shake that need to take care of the audience. I wanted to actually allow Latrell and myself to have the space to make people uncomfortable and have real conversations, and shake off ‘the magical negro’. If you take away the makeup, take away the jewelry, take away everything that makes Latrell palatable – is he still ‘safe’? The answer is no. 

Was there a moment in your career where you realized you not only have a voice in the industry, but people are listening?

I think that I was always speaking. But I think that I realized that people were actually listening last year. The unfortunate thing is that we only take people seriously when they have a certain number of followers, or a certain cache, or fame, or visibility. 

I would say to anybody in the arts, or any queer kid – any Black or Brown or Asian kid in art school – keep talking and keep honing your voice and keep fighting for what you believe in. It’s Oprah who says it, “luck is when opportunity meets preparation.” All you can do is keep working, keep preparing and when the opportunity comes – it’ll hit.

It sounds like this philosophy applies to “the LATRELL show” – I understand this was a character that you had been using for a while.

I probably have been playing the character for about 10 years. It started in a sketch comedy show, and the character became pretty popular in the shows, so I tried my hand at doing full-on Latrell Shows, which we would say were “part scripted, part improv, all fabulous.”

I think I was reckoning with my sexuality and my gender and trying to find a space where I could exist. So much of what I heard growing up and in the industry was “you’re great, you’re talented, we don’t know what to do with you.” When you hear that enough then you think: I’m going to show you what to do with me. 

And now, 10 years later, having a career for myself, I put a new lens on him and really unpack where he came from and why I needed him. It’s kind of meta, but I think that’s what Latrell was for me as Brandon – a way to see myself with value.

You’re an impressive multi-hyphenate: you’ve got multiple podcasts, you’ve got the solo show, you’re an actor, voice actor and writer – in those Hollywood meetings do you find yourself code switching? Do you find yourself still using the word queer? 

Yes. I made a choice to definitely use queer in all those spaces. I have tried, especially in the last year, to use less code switching. I’ve had that privilege because of visibility, more people know what they’e going to get. There is a privilege in the visibility, cause people are like, “we know who Brandon is”. I don’t feel like I have to shape shift as much. 

But, I will say prior to any visibility, I was shape shifting and code switching quite a bit for safety and for mobility. The reason that I’m so adamant about not doing that now is because I want to make sure I can create a space where other people, who don’t have the same visibility, don’t have to shape shift.

Speaking of representation, what are your thoughts on queer characters being played by straight actors?

I’m vocal about it. I see people debate about how, “everyone should be allowed to play whatever they want.” But that would only work if queer actors and performers and artists are getting the same opportunities as our straight counterparts. It doesn’t work if that’s not happening. 

If everything was equitable and everything was equal then yes we could argue that, but that is not the case. So instead, what’s happening is that straight people get to play queer, but queer people aren’t working. 

Let’s talk about ‘Big Mouth’, Is there a specific moment on the show that you can point to and say, that’s mine and I’m really proud of it?

It’s really, really fucking small but I’m very proud of it, I think it’s the small things that are all that are usually the biggest anyways. In the episode I co-wrote with Mitra Jouhari there’s one scene where Matthew (a gay character voiced by Andrew Rannells) and Aiden (an openly gay character voiced by Zachary Quinto) are having a conversation about straight people and gay things with two friends. And I specified in the script that one of those friends would be Black and one of those friends would be Middle Eastern. 

It was important to me that when we got to this scene, even though these characters only have like three lines, that they were there in the space with Matthew and Aiden. It was really important to me for us to see a Black queer character and a brown queer character that are teenagers, middle schoolers, talking shit and laughing. It’s in Aiden’s living room, so even though we don’t meet Aiden’s mother, you can gather that there’s a safety in his home. 

So what, if anything, can you tell us about “Human Resources”? 

In “Big Mouth” we have our Hormone Monsters and we’ve got the Shame Wizard and the Anxiety Mosquito, “Human Resources” is our way to follow the lives of those creatures, and tell stories that impact adults. “Human Resources” is our way to explore beyond puberty.

So you’re writing on it and you’re also voicing a character?

It’s fucking bananas. I can’t tell you much about character, but I can tell you that he’s fucking awesome.

Alejandro Cervantes is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles.

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Audra McDonald and Chita Rivera come to Gay Days Disneyland

During Gay Days thousands of LGBTQ+ Disney fans celebrate in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure in Anaheim

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Photo courtesy of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, Inc.

ANAHEIM- Broadway is back, and it’s come to Anaheim. The legendary Audra McDonald and Chita Rivera, two absolute Titans of musical theatre, stopped by Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel Friday night for two intimate back to back engagements for the crowds at the annual Gay Days Anaheim, or as it is more popularly known: Disneyland Gay Days. 

During Gay Days thousands of LGBTQ+ Disney fans celebrate in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, with a weekend filled with scavenger hunts, meetups and parties. The park and the hotels almost feel like West Hollywood on a Friday night. The energy this year is especially lively, as Covid prevented last year’s celebration. 

Gay Days began in 1998, attracting a crowd of 2,500 visitors. The weekend now pulls in over ten times that, with 30,000 visitors joining in on the magic in 2019. In a massive group photo outside Sleeping Beauty’s castle, the entire group is decked out in the signature Gay Days red t-shirts – the 2019 edition featured a fabulous Star Wars Storm Trooper with the text “May the Fierce Be With You.”

While the event is not officially sanctioned by Disney, it is supported by it. Disney Pride, as well as several other branches of the Disney empire, have joined in as sponsors for the weekend. It’s also a favorite weekend for the Disneyland cast and staff. 

Photo courtesy of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, Inc.

The schedule is simple: Friday is arrival day, Saturday is about Disneyland and Sunday is about  California Adventure and the pool party. But Gay Days has got so much more than just a park visit: it now has Hollywood Bowl level-talent coming in for concerts. Kicking off the return to Disneyland this year is Audra McDonald and Chita Rivera. 

The two stars headlined Broadway Night at the 23rd annual Gay Days, kicking off the weekend-long celebration which ran from September 17–19. Drag Race fan favorites Nina West, Jackie Cox and Jan Sport joined in the weekend’s entertainments, with shows on Saturday and Sunday.

Friday night is buzzing. In the hotel lobby, Gay Days visitors are striking up conversations, getting to know each other, sharing stories about Gwen Verdon, Bob Fosse and that time they worked with Debbie Reynolds. Gay Days is definitely a great way to meet your Prince Charming. 

Three-time Tony Award winner Chita Rivera began the evening with An Intimate Conversation With Chita Rivera featuring the Broadway legend in conversation with theatre historian Eddie Shapiro. She’s a decorated performer with a score of firsts. She was the original Velma Kelly in Chicago, she was the original Anita in West Side Story, and she’s the first Latino American to receive a Kennedy Center Honor. 

When Rivera was called out on the stage she kicked her leg out high from behind the curtain, and then strutted her way to her chair. She’s 88 years old, but has the bright energy, wit and sparkle of someone decades younger. With charm and humor she tells a captivated audience about that time she won the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama, dancing with Dick Van Dyke and why she loves gay audiences – “they get it.”

She looks back on her storied career with humble gratitude, unexpected for someone who has an award named after themselves (The Chita Rivera Awards for Dance and Choreography). When asked about a star studded concert she appeared in recognizing entertainment’s greats she simply said “it’s God’s way of saying you’re doing something right.” Chita Rivera left the Disney audience spellbound. 

An hour later, Audra McDonald walked out on the same stage for a piano concert – with Chita Rivera in the front row! Audra is a record-breaking icon. She’s a 6-time Tony winner, and has won at least one Tony in all four acting categories. But, like Chita, she is down to Earth, well-spoken and incredibly gracious. Between songs she peppers in stories about her daughter, playing Mother Superior in Sound of Music Live and Chita Rivera’s influence. 

Audra McDonald sings with a flawlessly smooth, often operatic quality. Standouts from her set include her cover of “Children will Listen” from Sondheim’s Into the Woods and an eerie reimagining of the title track from “Cabaret”, which she performed at The Met Gala by Anna Wintour’s request. She also included a moving performance of the song “I’ll be Here” from the lesser known musical Ordinary Days. The narrative of the song centers on a woman’s relationship with her husband who dies in 9/11. In the capable hands of McDonald, the audience is moved to tears.

The evening is a shining example of the exceptional programming Gay Days has added to an already incredible weekend. The two live performances are signs that a pre-Covid world is slowly returning.

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The 37TH annual LA Asian Pacific Film Festival- Sept. 23 to Oct. 2

For over three decades, LAAPFF has presented over 5,000 films by Asian & Pacific Islander talent- promoting the development of API filmmakers

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The 37TH annual LA Asian Pacific Film Festival (Graphic via Visual Communications)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF), presented annually by Visual Communications (VC), announced this week that the first set of films that will screen as part of the 37th edition of the Festival, which will be a hybrid event taking place virtually and in person at select cinemas in the Los Angeles area from September 23 to October 2, 2021.

The Festival will open on Thursday, September 23 at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center’s Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo, Downtown Los Angeles with the Los Angeles premiere of Ann Kaneko’s MANZANAR, DIVERTED: WHEN WATER BECOMES DUST, a poetic look at the unexpected alliance formed by Native Americans, Japanese American WWII incarcerees, and environmentalists to defend their land and water from Los Angeles.

“Visual Communications looks forward to sharing the stories that intersect and converge movements such as MANZANAR, DIVERTED,” says Francis Cullado, Executive Director of Visual Communications. “From emerging to established filmmakers, the Festival continues to celebrate artists who are making an impact in our communities.”

Following Opening Night, LAAPFF will showcase new works as part of Centerpiece Weekend at the Aratani Theatre and Regal L.A. LIVE. Highlights include the Los Angeles premieres of: Iman Zawahry’s AMERICANISH, the first American Muslim rom-com directed by an American Muslim female filmmaker; Sujata Day’s comedy-drama DEFINITION PLEASE, which she also stars in; Christopher Makoto Yogi’s Sundance hit I WAS A SIMPLE MAN, starring Constance Wu; Dante Basco’s directorial debut THE FABULOUS FILIPINO BROTHERS; and Suzanne Kai’s long awaited crowdpleaser from Tribeca, LIKE A ROLLING STONE: THE LIFE & TIMES OF BEN FONG-TORRES, about the legendary Rolling Stone editor and writer Ben Fong-Torres.

LAAPFF is a proud Academy Award®-qualifying film festival for the Short Film Awards. Recipient(s) of the Film Festival’s Golden Reel Award for Narrative Short Film will be eligible for consideration in the Animated Short Film/Live-Action Short Film category of the Academy Awards®.

This Festival is the only one of its kind in the world to have earned this qualification. Some highlights from the shorts lineup include the World Premiere presentations of: Candace Ho’s CHASING CLOUDS, a narrative short about a Taiwanese American woman forced to confront the harsh reality of her mother’s dementia; Paolo Bitanga’s NIGHT & DAY, a documentary short from the Philippines about a mother′s home that comes alive once a year when her many children return for the holidays; and Dakota Camacho’s FANA’GUYAN, a short dance film that explores ending violence and generating healing through embodiment, intimacy, and ancestral creativity. FANA’GUYAN will screen as part of Pacific Cinewaves, programming which represents LAAPFF’s commitment to amplify Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities from Hawai’i, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Guåhan (Guam), Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Samoa, and throughout the Pacific region.

“It is an honor to work in this landscape and witness the rise of storytellers from Asian & Pacific Islander communities,” said Eseel Borlasa, Programmer & Festival Operations Director of Visual Communications. “Each year, the Festival is proud to share these diverse perspectives, and we hope to continuously bridge understanding and build empathy and solidarity amongst our audiences. That collective work of storytelling to audience impact helps put values into action. LAAPFF believes in that work, and we are proud to be part of the process.”

Visual Communications is proud to continue their partnership with HBO for the fifth annual HBO Asian Pacific American Visionaries, a short film competition which showcases cinematic storytellers of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.

The finalists were selected from hundreds of submissions and were judged by a distinguished panel of HBO executives, industry leaders and fellow APA filmmakers. The three winning films exemplified this year’s competition theme: “Taking the Lead.” Jess X. Snow’s LITTLE SKY, Jesse Gi’s NEH, and Urvashi Pathania’s UNMOTHERED will premiere at LAAPFF on September 25, and debut on HBO Max on September 27.

This year, the Festival will also continue to host C3, a space for creators to converge and celebrate creative communities. These consist of both virtual and in-person panels and conversations.

Established in 1983, LAAPFF is the largest festival of its kind in Southern California, and the premier showcase for the best and brightest of Asian Pacific cinema. It was recently named one of the “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World” by MovieMaker Magazine.

For over three decades, LAAPFF has presented over 5,000 films by Asian & Pacific Islander talent, and continues to expand its commitment to nurturing new talent and promoting the development of Asian & Pacific Islanders both behind and in front of the camera. The Festival is proud to be an Oscar® qualifying fest for the best short film Academy Award category – either live action or animation.

LAAPFF will announce its full lineup on Wednesday, September 1, 2021. Ticketing for the general public will be available starting Monday, September 13, 2021 at 12:00pm PT.

For program information, please visit festival.vcmedia.org.

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Rapper & singer-songwriter Lil Nas X heads up new role at Taco Bell

The 22-year-old musical artist, now riding the success of two global No. 1 hits was an hourly wage earner as part of a Taco Bell team in 2017

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Lil Nas X (Screenshot courtesy of Taco Bell)

IRVINE – The iconic American fast-food chain serving Mexican-inspired fare such as tacos, quesadillas and nachos has a new pitchman, former Taco Bell employee and now Grammy award winning rapper & singer-songwriter Lil Nas X, (real name Montero Lamar Hill).

In an announcement Monday, Mark King, CEO of Taco Bell commented that “Lil Nas X knows the job, the experience and the culture Taco Bell creates for its fans – including its people,” King added; ““This unique partnership will deliver on more than just marketing, allowing us to tap into the genius of Lil Nas X to inspire our team members and align with our commitment to unlocking opportunities for young people.”

As a cultural icon with an insider’s perspective on the Taco Bell team member experience, Lil Nas X has been appointed the title of ‘Chief Impact Officer,’ a newly created role that will allow him to collaborate on the brand experience from the inside out.

The 22-year-old musical artist, who catapulted to fame and now is riding the success of two global No. 1 hits in “Old Town Road” and “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” was an hourly wage earner as part of the Taco Bell team at an Atlanta-area restaurant in 2017.

Two years later as a successful up and coming musical artist, on June 30, 2019, the last day of Pride Month, he came out publicly as gay tweeting: “some of y’all already know, some of y’all don’t care, some of y’all not gone fwm no more. but before this month ends i want y’all to listen closely to c7osure. 🌈🤩✨”

(Courtesy of Taco Bell)

In today’s announcement the company acknowledged his ascendency to artistic celebrity as well as his sexual orientation.

Back in 2017, Lil Nas X laid down roots working at an Atlanta-area Taco Bell as a team member and less than five years later he’s ascended to stardom by defying conventions, charting his own course and remaining authentically true to himself – all things that Taco Bell stands for in its own way.”

As part of his new role, Lil Nas X will support the Taco Bell Foundation’s mission and help announce awards to recipients of the Live Más scholarship to enable them to pursue their creative passions. The Taco Bell Foundation breaks down barriers to educate and inspire the next generation of America’s leaders.

Since 1992, the Taco Bell Foundation has reached more than 4 million young people across the country and has awarded more than $110 million in Live Más Scholarships and grants to youth-serving nonprofit organizations focused on education and career readiness.

The artist’s “expertise in understanding social media and youth culture alongside his skills in creating great music makes this partnership with Taco Bell exciting, brave and one of the most innovative campaigns I’ve had the pleasure of creating,” said Jennifer Frommer, senior vp brand partnerships & commercial sync at Columbia Records.

As one of his first initiatives, Lil Nas X will make a cameo in Taco Bell’s breakfast campaign, which kicks off today, as the brand brings its breakfast offerings back to approximately 90% of restaurants nationwide by mid-September.

According to music industry trade magazine Billboard, in June, the rapper revealed his highly anticipated first full-length album would be “coming soon,” though a release date has not been announced.

Lil Nas X x Taco Bell:

From the press release:

As a brand known for its late night Fourth Meal, Taco Bell is celebrating fans who begin craving and planning for their morning meal in the evening to remind them that Taco Bell breakfast awaits come morning.

Breakfast, In Bedtime Stories – Toasted Breakfast Burritos (Commercial) |Taco Bell:

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