Celebrity Features

Anjelica Huston

Anjelica Huston Interview

  • May 20, 2019 - 5:09pm

Give Anjelica Huston a character so fierce it will single-handedly galvanize the gay community and she’ll devour the role. Unapologetically powerful, her Grand High Witch in The Witches wielded kid-hexing Wiccan powers, her ghastly face both a hideous fright and a delicious, drag-queen-dream marvel. 

A year later, in 1991, she made weirdness cool as Morticia Addams, bringing a grace all her own to The Addams Family as the household’s ghoulish glue. On NBC’s short-lived musical-drama Smash, from 2012 to 2013, the Academy Award winner played legendary tough-as-nails producer Eileen Rand. Now, complete with Russian accent, she portrays The Director – the leader of the assassins’ headquarters – opposite Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry and non-binary actor Asia Kate Dillon in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. A mighty role for a mighty woman. 

During a recent call with the 67-year-old actress, just hours before the John Wick premiere in New York, Huston discussed her affinity with the LGBTQ community, her wig in Smash, and going head-to-head with a giant latex penis during a Pride parade. 


What do you think is the connection between your strength and resilience as a woman – both in life and in film – and the gay men who are empowered by you?

Aww! Well, I like to think I empower the people around me, and that definitely is something that I would wish. I think maybe, hmm… I’ve never really considered it. But I think maybe it’s just a sort of similar feeling, similar reaction to certain things, and I think maybe the ability to speak out for yourself even though it might get you in trouble sometimes (laughs). I think that’s something, you know, that we all have to deal with.


You laugh like you might have just had experience with the latter.

(Laughs) Recently, I had a little experience with this Vulture interview (Huston recently gave a controversial tell-all to the news site). But you know, it has to do with speaking your mind and speaking your truth, and I think that’s something that has gone a little bit out of fashion since I’ve been working and giving interviews. (Laughs)

One of the things about the gay community is that they’ve always been outspoken; they speak their truth and they’ve taken a lot of chances in their lives, because often these opinions aren’t popular. But it takes all kinds to make a world, and I think we narrow our sights very much when we constantly adapt to the sort of rigors of everyday life and that everything has to be safe and that everything has to be presentable. 


And you don’t do that. You don’t play it safe.

I’m afraid I don’t. I’d like to a lot of the time, but I don’t really think that that’s my truth, though sometimes it is. But overall, I like to have the freedom to have my opinions that don’t necessarily adhere to everyone else’s. And I think that’s sort of an individuality, maybe. A sign of speaking one’s own mind and not necessarily being influenced by trends and what people consider to be proper. 


Because you play these powerful women and because those women sometimes dress exuberantly, many gay men have even given you credit for their gayness. Looking back, what roles of yours do you think could have had that kind of power over them? 

I don’t know, and I’m sort of hesitant to say because, again, everyone’s different and I think different things attract different people. But I think overall the parts that I’ve done that are not necessarily cookie-cutter, in which characters have some kind of power even though it’s not necessarily going to win them any kudos (laughs), are the ones who have a personal power that I think is attractive to the gay community. 


There was a real appreciation in the gay community for the shade you threw as the evil stepmother in Ever After, and with simply a single eyebrow raise. 

Aww, well, thank you. (Laughs) 


Some in the LGBTQ community have classified Morticia Addams as a gay icon. Do you think she has what it takes to be one?

I can only wish! (Laughs) I loved playing Morticia, and I think, also, probably because she had so much going on – so many corsets and wigs and nails – that yeah, she was almost drag. 


Your role as The Director could be potential inspiration for drag queens. When it comes to her look – but also her attitude – what should a drag queen keep in mind?

I don’t know. I think she’s a tough gypsy, she knows the score, she’s lived the life, she is rigorous, she’s strong. And I think that appeals to people. It certainly appeals to me. 


How do you explain the fact that, while most kids were scared of you in The Witches, gay boys wanted to be you?

(Laughs) Well, she has fabulous powers and she revels in her ugliness and in her vileness; she’s somebody who takes full advantage of being horrible! (Laughs) And in a way, I think that’s something very attractive, to be able to really enjoy your hideous outer shell; there’s something to be said for fully being who you are. And I think it doesn’t necessarily just belong to the gay community, it belongs to all of us who are searching to find a way or searching to find out who we are and how far we can go. 


What do you think of Anne Hathaway playing the role you originated?

I think, great, good luck to her. And I hope they find a way to not have to encase her in rubber for seven hours at a time (laughs). The makeup was very challenging on that movie. 


CGI has certainly come a long way.

It has, it has. But I think one of the things that’s so beautiful about the Nic Roeg movie is that there was practically no CGI. A little bit around the mice, but overall it was all makeup, it was the Jim Henson workshop, and I enjoyed the reality-based visuals of that film. And actually, it’s rather simply shot. There weren’t a lot of trick shots or anything like that. A few fish-eye lenses, but all of it was sort of based on what the camera could do and not what you could do post. 


Will you star in the remake? 

Oh, I have no idea. They haven’t spoken to me about it at all. I know nothing about the remake or how closely it will adhere to the Roald Dahl story. I have no idea. 


Some gays had problems with your Smash wig. They said it could’ve been softer, that it made you look like a drag queen. Are we to assume a gay man did not pick out that wig for you? 

(Laughs) Yeah, well, I don’t know – it helped me because I felt it was kind of an armor for my character, and she’s dealing with a lot of volatile, crazy stuff and kind of has to be the anchor in the middle of it. Something about that particular wig – although, no, it wasn’t the soft approach – helped me and kind of grounded me. 


What about your role in Transparent spoke to you as an actress and as a longtime supporter of the community?

I think Transparent was just kind of a wonderful show, and I started to watch it for quite some time before they invited me on the show. I thought it was very moving and also very reality-based, and I loved these characters. I found it very involving. For me, to play a member of the LGBTQ community was important and fascinating. I didn’t want to make it a caricature in any way and so I didn’t go to great lengths to kind of change Vicki’s sexuality. I felt like, you know, she’s a sexual person, she’s not someone who has a rule book about who she should be or if she should fall in love, but she’s a person who’s making it on her own – who’s got her cheese shop! (Laughs) A normal woman making a life who happens to be gay, which I think many people in the community are. 

It’s not that you carve yourselves out to be sexually different or to make those choices. A lot of the time the choices make you, and it’s up to you to find your way and negotiate your life. And there’s a lot of resistance out there. People love to criticize. And people really think they know better. I think a lot of the time we’re dictated by our feelings and by who we find ourselves to be. It’s not that we can go out and carve ourselves a personality a lot of the time.  


Your history with the LGBTQ community goes back: In fact, you met your late husband, Robert Graham, at Pride. What brought you there? 

I’m not quite sure. I think probably because – I don’t want to say. I can’t really remember why now that you’ve stirred my memory. (Laughs)


Do you have a memory from being at Pride that day?

I’m trying to put two things together. I can only say that it would’ve been a perfect day for Bob and I to meet, for Bob and I to get together, because I think it was a coming together of individuals – and a very artistic love-match, as far as I was concerned. I fell in love with his work, I fell in love with the man, and I think something about the liberation of gay Pride weekend is always a thrill and it’s always a great day in Los Angeles. And probably here (in NYC), although I haven’t spent many gay Pride weekends here. But I think it’s an ebullient moment, it’s a moment you can get out there and show who you are and not be ashamed. And flaunt it! 


And weren’t you almost run over by a giant latex penis at a gay parade?

Oh, yes! (Laughs) That was in New York, on 10th Street. That was a gay Pride weekend. Yes, I was stuck behind a latex penis for at least 20 minutes trying to get downtown. 


Is there photo evidence of this? 

No! None! None. And also, the skies opened, and it began to rain, so it was a huge latex penis and me struggling through the crowd. But there’s actually very little that’s funnier than gay Pride weekend in New York, now that I think about it. The imagination, the costumes! I remember there was a whole team of cocktails trotting down the street, and another one where the people put their faces inside milk cartons and were dancing down the street (laughs). There’s a great sense of fun and liberation and celebration. 


With Smash and Transparent, both of which represent the underrepresented, how much did their cultural significance factor into your involvement? 

Well, I think, because they’re current and they’re modern they hopefully represent the strengths in the community, and I think in some way those kinds of characters symbolize a certain freedom and a declaration of independence, and I think we all need that. 


Especially now.

Especially now, where things are very safe. In actual fact, they’re not that safe (laughs). I think our normal news every day is – there’s a lot that they worry us with. One of the wonderful things about the LGBTQ community is that they kind of throw caution to the winds and it’s a moment where people get together and celebrate the positive rather than the negative. 


Marina Interview

  • May 20, 2019 - 4:45pm

Even though Marina Diamandis cut herself loose from pop music after 2015’s FROOT to find the version of herself she lost to an industry touting artifice, the truth is she’d been feeling that way for a while. 

During the promotional cycle for her 2012 album Electra Heart, the 33-year-old Welsh artist, who then went by Marina and the Diamonds before recently simplifying her name (and image) to simply Marina, was already shaken by a superficial perception of her that made her “uncomfortable.” Mainstream press interviews at that time were, she said in 2015, “complete shit,” the questioning one-note because journalists didn’t seem to believe a pop artist could be complex and multi-dimensional. 

After FROOT, she continued to demonstrate otherwise. She went back to school, studying psychology at Birkbeck at the University of London. She painted. She traveled. And then influenced by Swiss psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, she recorded her latest album, called Love + Fear, which is conceptually rooted solely in those two emotions. No “look,” no artifice.

There didn’t need to be. At 33, Marina has a better handle on who she is; grappling with her public and personal identity, a common theme in her past work that has resonated with many in the LGBTQ community, is a thing of the past. 


Identity and acceptance have long been thematic mainstays in your music. With these new songs, how might the LGBTQ audience identify?

With Love + Fear, I don’t think I’m really going through that or battling with that anymore, so there’s a real clarity and a simple, direct way of communicating on the record, whereas both subjects on previous records still felt very tumultuous and undecided, like I was trying to get through something and I didn’t know how to feel about myself. Now, a lot of the things that I’m inspired by are not inside me; it’s more looking outside at the world around me. 


Recently, you painted a stunning illustration of Elizabeth Taylor for a t-shirt and sales of the shirt will benefit her AIDS Foundation. It seems you have a lot in common with what that foundation stands for. How did you land on that particular cause for the shirt? 

Well, I watercolor as a hobby and, actually, I’m doing a lot of merch designs with watercolors this year for this tour. But the foundation, they just approached me and said they were really interested in doing anything that they could, and I just suggested that we could start with a limited edition watercolor that I would paint for them and that they can sell for charity. 

I hope it’s a partnership that we can continue because I would like to. I think when you’re doing stuff for charity it’s easy to say yes to a lot of little things, but this time around I’m looking for one or two partners across the next year which I can work with and focus on doing some good things with. 

But yeah, that’s a really important one for me, just because it’s got such a stigma attached to it. It’s bad enough if you have to deal with the illness itself, without having this really silly social stigma. And I really hope that things are still progressing forward in that way. Actually, that’s why I wanted to do it: because I think (we) still have to constantly work on social problems with this, and she did this so much in her life and I don’t think a lot of people know about how much work she did for HIV and AIDS sufferers. 


How would you describe your relationship with your LGBTQ fans at this point in your career?

I often get asked why I think I do have such a solid LGBTQ fanbase and I think it’s because a lot of the things that I’ve sung about in the past are connected to identity and a sense of being able to be yourself. When you grow up with a feeling of discrimination, that’s something that you carry into your adult life, so being my fourth album, it seems that I’m still very lucky in that I have the support of the LGBTQ community. I think that’s the reason, because if you bond with an artist early on with their lyrics, or their lyrics speak to you, that tends to be something you carry with you through your adult life. So, I kind of understand now why that has happened. 


I was listening to Love + Fear when I read something Robyn recently told The New York Times Magazine that I thought might resonate with you: “There’s always a gap between how I see myself and how other people see me.” Can you relate?

Anyone who has a public job, there’s always going to be that. Actually, not even anyone who has a public job, but for anyone in life there is gonna be that gap. But I think it’s bigger for people if you have a public job, and I think being an artist can really affect the way that you feel about yourself, because you know who you are but you may appear to be another thing because that’s a popular thing for pop artists to do. They’re experts at making you think they are a certain person when the reality is they have a lot of other parts that they’re not showing or that they’re trying to hide, and that’s part of being young. But I don’t feel like that at all anymore. 

Even with the name change, the reason I did it was because I knew it’d make me feel comfortable enough to be able to do this job again. It’s totally worked. I feel very comfortable and confident and I don’t feel like there’s any obstruction now between Marina and the Diamonds as an artist as opposed to a person. It’s making that easier for the average person as opposed to putting this construct in front of it all the time. 


Do you think nowadays there’s more of a desire to want or need pop artists that we can relate to?

I think that’s just been a natural direction, because I think with Instagram and Twitter and other social media platforms there was always gonna be a time where people would start to see through the veneer of staged or curated feeds, and now I think it’s gone beyond that a bit, thank god, where you can be more natural and you don’t have to be this epic conceptual thing all the time. Pop artists are fascinating, but at the end of the day, they are just normal people who are able to build a world around them that makes them look quite exciting. But really it’s the ideas that they started out with – it’s not really about how you look – and I think that’s what fans are connecting with, the person themself. 


Does Love + Fear reflect the heaviness you’ve expressed that you feel in other interviews when it comes to what is happening to minority communities in the world right now? 

I think I’ve felt very confused about it because there’s just been, to all of us, such bombardment of awful events in a very short period of time and now, of course, with the internet we have access to all of this information, so for the human brain, on a biological level, it’s like, how many bad events can you truly digest and be able to empathize? So many bad things happened in the last four years that it’s really hard to comprehend and know how to deal with it, so it’s more just trying to express that confusion, which I’ve written about a bit in “To Be Human” and “Life Is Strange.” But it’s a really hard topic to try and verbalize, to even try to condense for any of us. 


Even though you’re still pursuing music, how has pursuing other endeavors like studying psychology and painting broadened your sense of identity? 

I think as adults we get less time to expand other parts of ourselves. But because music was a hobby for me – I started doing it professionally at 22 and then I hit 30, 31 and I was like, “Well, what else is there in life?” – I didn’t have the normal experiences a 20-something would have. I was living quite a different type of life and that doesn’t allow a lot of space for being detached from your music. Music is your whole life. So then you just get stuck in being – you almost become like a brand to yourself, like in your own mind. It’s not even something you build, it’s subconscious, I believe. So I think it was really necessary for me to just have a break in order to focus on other things that are equally important. 


As adults, we do forget to still live as kids sometimes, don’t we?   

Yeah, and also just being able to try different things. Or change careers if you want to. I think adults become more nervous as we get older about change, and maybe we should think about it less seriously. You’re not just a writer or a journalist – you could be a lot of different things you don’t even know. You can experiment in life. 


What do you envision for yourself in the future? 

I hope to be able to integrate other parts of myself, like the fact that I love doing talks and I love psychology and philosophy. I still like painting. I think those are things I can incorporate into whatever role I’ve been able to build outside of music, but music has been a really wonderful platform to start with, because that is my main passion. 

Even with this record so far, being able to do this talk recently with this organization called The School of Life, which is a philosophy- and psychology-based school, that’s really thrilling to me because I’m able to contribute in a different way that’s not just like, “Look at this pop video.” Those are fun things, but they don’t deepen my heart. They don’t feel life-affirming. Songwriting is. It’s just having a bit of a different perspective now, and I’m really enjoying that. I feel a lot freer. And yeah, anything can happen! It’s exciting. Life is exciting. 

Molly Shannon

Molly Shannon Interview

  • May 20, 2019 - 4:29pm

Consider this: Emily Dickinson was not all grandma curtains and sad, sad, sad. But she was fun! She was funny! And she was – says at least one very convinced filmmaker – a lesbian with a sizzling sex life.

Of course, many have noted the likelihood of the 19th-century poet’s queer bent, but based on research and the reexamination of Emily’s letters that uncovered erasures using spectrographic technology, writer-director Madeleine Olnek is taking a hard, gay stance on the popular poet’s sexuality in her comedic drama, Wild Nights with Emily, which seeks to rectify the totality – she wasn’t some spinster, either – of Dickinson’s identity. “Homoeroticism for the whole family,” Olnek emphasizes, noting the film’s PG-13 rating so that parents can take their kids to the film to experience the Dickinson she says, according to all scholarly evidence, was the lover of her sister-in-law, Susan Gilbert Dickinson (played by Susan Ziegler).

On her side of lesbian history is Saturday Night Live alum Molly Shannon, whose Dickinson is fresh, feminist and heroically queer. Though the 54-year-old actress catapulted to Hollywood fame by taking a good two-handed whiff of her armpit stench as zealous Catholic schoolgirl and “superstar” Mary Katherine Gallagher on SNL, Shannon’s career after 2001, when she left the late-night sketch show after six years, has since drawn upon her NYU education for more serious dramatic fare. 

Shannon and Olnek, who met while studying drama at NYU, recently spoke about Dickinson as an LGBTQ hero, gay censorship and being met with resistance. And the Molly-obsessed gay guys doing their best Mary Katherine impression? You bet she has stories about catching them in the act. 


If only I could’ve learned about gay Emily Dickinson in high school. Why is it important to reexamine who she was in terms of her sexuality?

Molly Shannon: That’s such a great question. And this idea that I grew up with, like you – that Emily Dickinson was a victim, a frightened woman who spoke to people through walls, had no desire to have her voice heard, wanted her poems burned upon her death – it really sabotages people today, women and men. People who are struggling to get their voices heard, who are looking for role models. 

So I think that it’s really important that we tell the truth about her: that she was a trailblazer, she’s an LGBTQ hero. In the mid-1800s, how she was able to eventually rise out of obscurity and become recognized as part of the literary canon is just incredible. And I think it’s important because it examines sexism through the lens of comedy, making the film more approachable. I just feel like the “reclusive spinster” thing just doesn’t really work anymore. It’s now time to tell the truth. And our movie, instead, reveals a woman whose efforts to get published were repeatedly rejected by this sexist, oppressive establishment. It’s important to realize she was a very gifted writer who was experiencing rejection so she can serve as a role model to modern female writers with similar struggles currently.

Madeleine Olnek: Yeah, I think that’s a good point because probably what you remember from school is this idea of, “She hid her poems away.” But the truth is that her work wouldn’t have even been published if after her death her sister hadn’t paid for it to be a vanity publication. Because the story always told was, “She was a good girl and she didn’t want to be published, she didn’t want attention. She just lived simply and modestly, and then after her death the world worked the way it should and recognized her.” But that wasn’t true. She actually put all these efforts into getting published.


Madeleine, before doing this film, were you surprised to find out that Emily Dickinson’s sexuality hadn’t been explored to this extent?

Olnek: It’s depressing that it’s the first time that people have heard about it, because an article (in The New York Times Magazine) did come out in 1998. And I wrote a play, but it was in downtown New York. I got good reviews for the play but the reviews were “Madeleine Olnek decides to imagine, ‘What if Emily Dickinson were a lesbian?’” like it was my imagination. It was treated like something I made up. And the resistance to it is interesting: It’s as much of a resistance to what a rebel she was. 

The scholar Martha Nell Smith, who put together EmilyDickinson.org, which is the reason you can see all of Emily Dickinson’s letters online, said that she found, when she was working and writing about this, there was as much resistance to the idea that Emily Dickinson had an intellectual collaboration/partnership with a woman as a romantic one. Like, people were like, “No, no, no, a woman couldn’t have been Emily’s main influence.” So the story, in terms of its censorship, is really about it being about two women together as much as it is about gay censorship.


Do you think people now are more open to Emily Dickinson being lesbian?

Olnek: There was an exhibit at The Morgan Library (in New York) a couple of years ago and it had a daguerreotype in it that we reference in our movie that was the picture of Emily Dickinson with her arm around Kate (Scott Turner, a fellow poet), and Kate is the other woman. Emily is involved with two women in the movie, and so this woman Kate, after her affair with Emily, ended up living openly gay in Europe. So that story is a little story to find, and I think as the years go on a little harder to hide. With the Emily/Susan thing, people are often like, “Oh, women were friends like that back then!” But I think we are the first people telling this story, so of course we’re gonna be met with resistance because people don’t want to feel like they’ve been lied to.


Molly, what kind of considerations did you have to make when it came to portraying Emily and her sexuality in this film?

Shannon: I really just looked to Madeleine to guide me because Madeleine is a scholar, and then we worked closely with Martha Smith, who is also an Emily Dickinson scholar. So I really just looked to them. I was asking Madeleine questions because I really wanted to get it right. And I just felt passionate about telling this story because I can’t believe this whole woman’s true history was kind of erased and not represented the way she was. 

I feel like this story still sells on the cover of magazines. The heartbroken spinster story still sells! It sells magazines! Cover of Us and Star, and people love this shit. They buy it. What is it that we’re so attached to this brokenhearted woman thing? It’s horrible, I hate it. I don’t like to contribute to that. It’s just ridiculous. Why is this still going on?


How much consideration did you give the ethics of outing someone posthumously before making this film?

Olnek: She herself wrote lesbian poems, so she outed herself on the page. Now, granted, at one point when she sent in some poems for publication, she changed the gender of some poems herself just in hopes to get them printed, but she left so many poems that were love poems to women. And because her work is so complicated, of course, some people couldn’t understand what they were about and would come up with all kinds of funny things. But let me tell you something that’s very important: Very close to her death she wrote a letter to Sue which said, “Remember what Hamlet whispered to Horatio?” And what she was talking about is Hamlet, as he was dying, had said to Horatio, “Tell my story.” And that really was important to her. Martha Smith believes that the book of poems that (Emily’s niece) Mattie brought together – The Single Hound, that came out right after Susan’s death – that Susan probably actually worked on it with Mattie and said, “If I die, you can put this out,” so there’s no doubt we have in our minds that they wanted people to know. 

Also, I mean, Emily Dickinson was a poet. Poets are lovers. They have big emotions. And that becomes poets. It’s not like we’re “outing” someone who was an accountant. Emily also never married, although she had offers; it’s like she clearly wanted to live life on her own terms. She couldn’t, of course, at that time have come out. It was a big deal that her father recused her from coming downstairs for morning prayers; she was allowed to use that as writing time. So she couldn’t have rocked the boat at home. She needed to choose her battles carefully, but she loved two women that we know about. But Susan, she was in love with. And when you write a poem that ends with “Sue forever more,” I mean, can we say we’re outing her? (Laughs) That’s an actual ending line to her poem that’s published! So, she wrote her letter and called her the only woman in the world. Just incredibly romantic letters. 


The Poets light but Lamps —

Themselves — go out —

The Wicks they stimulate

If vital Light


Inhere as do the Suns —

Each Age a Lens

Disseminating their

Circumference —


We’re in a different age now. And the lens of this age is freer to understand the circumference of her poems and what they were about.


Molly, you’ve been committed to making more LGBTQ-themed films. What qualities do you look for in a story that is LGBTQ-themed?

Shannon: Let me think here. I guess passion with the writers/directors. I really identify with that. Like this is so special. Madeleine is so passionate about this movie and it comes from her heart, so to me, it’s like, what an opportunity for me. I remember when Madeleine pitched me the movie she wrote pages and pages about all this information that she had from her scholarly research and working closely with Martha that I was like, “How could I not do this? I’ve never been offered anything like this in my life! This is so cool!” So I really do just kind of see how I feel in my heart: Do I feel passionate? Or eh, this doesn’t seem fun. It’s a meter as simple as that. 

Because I’m a mother and I have children and I’m married and I have a family and a house, I’m very busy with my children, so my considerations are also my family and wanting to be at home and driving the kids to school, but Madeleine is like, “Look, I’ll make it work.” She was like, “What do you want? OK, you wanna be home by dinner? Fine. You don’t wanna start till then? Fine. You wanna shoot in L.A? Fine. I’ll fly out, you can keep close to your neighborhood. Great.” Like, she would not take no for an answer.

Olnek: (Laughs)


As someone whose LGBTQ following has seemingly grown over the years with your work in queer-inclusive films like _Other People_ and _Miles_, when were you first aware you had an LGBTQ following?

Shannon: I was in the West Village when I first started Saturday Night Live and I remember it was the first really warm day. It was suddenly in the 70s and people were wearing sandals and everybody was so excited and I hadn’t been on SNL that long. I remember walking by an outside cafe and I heard a man – the man didn’t see me, but I just heard a guy, a stranger, go (affects SNL “Joyologist” Helen Madden’s voice), “I love it, I love it, I looooove it!”

Olnek: (Laughs)

Shannon: And I was like, “Oh my god,” then he saw me and he was like, “Oh my god!” He got so embarrassed and turned red and I was just like, “What?! Maybe I’m influencing people!” There was another time I was in a cafe in the West Village where I lived, eating breakfast with my then-boyfriend. We were sitting at the glass window and a man just came right up while we were eating right in the window and did “SUUUPERSTAR!” My boyfriend just looked away and ignored him and continued eating, and then that relationship ended soon after. (Both laugh.)


How do you feel about the progress we’ve made in terms of how LGBTQ people are portrayed in modern films and also the kind of LGBTQ films being made?

Olnek: It’s interesting. As an older person who has seen a lot of queer films and has talked to young people, what I think is that every generation thinks they are the first people to complain. (Laughs) “Oh, we’re so mainstream!” But people were saying that in the ’80s! Which is ridiculous, in the late ’80s, ’90s, considering, “Oh, it’s mainstream, it’s sell-out.” People were accusing… like now it’s homogenized. So I’ve heard that story over and over, and I actually think that there’s always been people making experimental queer work and there’s always been people making mainstream queer work and they have always existed side by side. It’s just that it’s new to the younger people watching them.


Wild Nights with Emily made me consider the ways in which we recognize someone posthumously. When that time comes, how do you think the way people will describe you will differ from the way you’d describe yourself?

Shannon: Well, I hope that nobody will say, “She was zany.” I don’t like that. I hope that people know that I can be deadly serious. My friend John C. Reilly talked about me and he was like, “Molly can be deadly serious!” I joke around but I really am more serious in real life than people would think. Serious and thoughtful. And I love asking questions and learning. So I don’t think I’m just some zany comic.


But people are gonna remember you for SNL and Mary Katherine Gallagher, right?

Olnek: I want them to remember her for Emily Dickinson.

Shannon: Awww!

Olnek: And for her birthday I want to give her a cake that has her as Emily Dickinson on it, because this is a huge moment that we’re reclaiming a story and it’s so important. And the fact that Molly is playing this part literally means that people are going to understand who Emily Dickinson really was.

Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch Interview

Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch Interview

  • May 20, 2019 - 4:31am

Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch are as thrilled as I am over Netflix’s meta itinerary for journalists like myself who have landed in Napa Valley, California to cover their new heavy-on-the-imbibing dramedy, Wine Country. Appropriately, the itinerary is: first, wine; second, wine; fifth, wine.

On an outdoor rooftop deck overlooking the idyllic, rolling views of Artesa Vineyards and Winery, one of their first interviews of the day and where they shot part of the film, Dratch, amused, told Poehler she didn’t realize Netflix was actually flying journalists to wine country for the occasion and hooking them up with a private tasting. 

“And then they have to go write the thing,” enthused Dratch, rightfully beloved for her hilariously dry “Debbie Downer” skit on SNL. A laugh. “We’re golden!” 

An impromptu in-the-moment sketch is born, as Poehler whoops a booming laugh herself and looks ahead to a day full of blitzed on-the-job reporters essentially reliving their movie, impersonating a juiced journalist who maybe enjoyed too much of Artesa’s very drinkable Rosado before assessing Wine Country: “I LOVED IT! What’s not to love?! Life is short!”

Dratch cracked up at the thought of Netflix’s wine-soaked vision. Buzzed writers! Buzzed TV reporters! The laughs kept coming and they weren’t even drinking yet (and, oh hey boss, full disclosure: neither was I). 

“It’s genius, it’s genius!” Dratch raved in a conspiratorial tone. 

But it’s no stretch: Wine Country is marinated in wine and women. Based on a girls getaway they took to Napa for Dratch’s 50th birthday with a tight posse of fellow SNL besties, including Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, Ana Gasteyer, Paula Pell and Emily Spivey (who all star in the film), the boozy but heartfelt friends-gone-wild romp is Poehler’s feature-film directorial debut, after already checking multiple career boxes: producer (Difficult People, Russian Doll), Golden Globes host, author (Yes Please) and actress (Parks and Recreation; Mean Girls, as the “cool mom”). 

Like the Pinot being generously poured inside the winery, our gay morning conversation flowed freely. Poehler’s “soft butch” aesthetic (during our sit-down: orange slacks, a white button-up and a textured gray suit coat), living like the Golden Girls and how Wine Country passes the “Jeffdel test” (no two cis straight men converse!) were discussed, and Poehler, all smiles and hearty laughs, was so pleased she extolled, “We have nowhere to go but down after this interview. This is gonna be the interview of the day.” 

Dratch beamed back: “Let’s just go to the wine tasting now.”


Have you been known to enjoy a glass of wine with a gay friend or two? 

Amy Poehler: Are you kidding me?

Rachel Dratch: I have a standing rosé Tuesday with my gay bestie. Ha! We’ve been doing it for a couple of years now ’cause he’s always in the neighborhood on Tuesdays at my apartment. Among many other gay pals who I imbibe with! 


Amy, do you partake in these wine nights? 

Poehler: Sometimes! Rachel and I live in different cities, but when we do see each other we joke, “Shall we head to the Pinot Grigio Islands?” We do that! We sail to the Grigios! Ha! 


Do you party with the gays when you go on your girls trips? 

Poehler: Oh yeah! I mean, we had an amazing dinner in Palm Springs for Ana Gasteyer’s 50th.

Dratch: At Sparrows.

Poehler: We stumbled across an amazing group of middle-aged gentlemen who were big fans of our work and knew one of Ana’s characters, specifically. Remember those guys we met? We had an awesome night with them. It was a really fun night. And you know, I would say Rachel borders on gay icon status. I’m sorry, but... 

Dratch: Ha! Oh, I’ll take it! 


Speaking of gay icons, let’s talk Fran Drescher. 

Poehler: Yes! Fran Drescher!


If she wasn’t already a gay icon, Wine Country makes her one.

Poehler: Emily Spivey and Liz Cackowski, who wrote the script, were so funny because they were like, “We have to do a scene where these millennials are obsessed with Fran Drescher,” and, to be honest, because I’m a Gen-Xer, I didn’t quite get it. I was like, “You know, are they? OK! Oh, sure!”


Did you not watch The Nanny

Poehler: I didn’t watch The Nanny because I was a little older than you. 

Dratch: Me too! Ha! 

Poehler: And so every young female in my office was like, “Oh my god, it’s so true: I love Fran Drescher!” 


The film honors Fran through a queer lens. There’s a real LGBTQ presence at that Fran Drescher art show. 

Poehler: Yes, everybody is dressed very neutral and everyone is very fluid, and we wanted to quickly show the stark representation between the options and fluidity of the younger generation compared to us, ’cause at the time we are out of touch with ourselves, personally, in the movie. Also, we come upon a hip scene that we get very defensive about. And I’m proud to say that this film not only passes the Bechdel test, it passes what we like to call the Jeffdel test, which is that no two straight men talk to each other. Ha!


Wow, it does. 

Poehler: Oh, I combed through. There’s no two cis straight men who talk to each other. 


Is this a standing rule for all future Amy Poehler projects?

Poehler: Hahaha! Well, it’s a fun thing to try to strive for! 


OK, let’s talk Spring Breakdown

(Poehler and Dratch gasp in unison while looking at each other gleefully with wide eyes.)


Memories, right? How would you compare the gayness of that film, which I think is –

Poehler: Quite high!


Ha! Yes! How would you compare its gayness to the gayness of Wine Country

Poehler: I will say that the lovely (openly lesbian) Paula Pell ups our gay quotient pretty high in this film because the only real romantic element of the film is between two gay women, and so we were really excited about (that). I mean, even though – spoiler alert! – Rachel and I’s characters sleep with the same guy, we don’t even really discover it till the end and it’s not even part of the story. Haha! But I would say Spring Breakdown maybe had a higher gay quotient. 

Dratch: Well, ’cause it was written and directed by Ryan Shiraki, who’s quite a gay man. 

Poehler: A professional gay man! 


You have both played gay before, so that’s something. 

Poehler: Yes, that’s right. We were actually talking last night at dinner about our generation. There wasn’t any – there were certainly no LGBTQ organizations at my high school, but there was not one openly gay person at my high school. 

Dratch: Or barely even in college.


How does this current time for the LGBTQ community compare to your high school experience? 

Dratch: We have little kids and I just like that they’re like, “Oh, that person has two dads.” It’s not a big thing at all. It’s not like (teacher voice), “Let me sit you down and explain.” They’re just used to it, so that’s kind of refreshing and cool that they won’t have any prejudices – or whatever they are, they won’t have any fears. I don’t know if that’s because we live in big cities or what. 

Poehler: Yeah, our kids know some kids who are figuring out their gender and if they wanna transition, and there’s all this discussion about that too. The young kids are just way ahead of us in terms of how they accept. So I feel like our generation of women who are now in their late 40s and 50s, we’re kind of the straddle technologically because we didn’t have the internet when we were in college, and from an LGBTQ perspective because we just didn’t have people coming out or living authentically, or feeling like they could. That’s something that’s been a huge change in our lifetime. 


LGBTQ representation also seems to be an important part of what you do as a filmmaker, Amy. Obviously that is reflected in _Wine Country_ as something that was necessary and important to you.

Poehler: Yes! Thank you. It was. 

Dratch: I also like that Paula’s storyline is just so, “Oh yeah. She likes this person.” It’s not like, “Here’s the gay part of the movie!”

Poehler: Maya Erskine (who plays the character Paula Pell’s Val is interested in romantically), who’s also in a great TV show right now called _Pen15_, just says, like, “I’m mad at my girlfriend,” and she walks away and Paula turns to Maya (Rudolph) and she’s like, “Did you hear about her girlfriend?” Maya (Rudolph) just goes, “Jackpot!” Then they high-five and there’s not that real estate taken up with someone being like – 

Dratch: “And I’m gay, first of all.” 

Poehler: “I need to tell you something.” 


Looking back at the beginning of your career, when did you know you had an LGBTQ audience? 

Poehler: Remember when you did “The Girl With No Gaydar” (on SNL)? That was such a good sketch! Such a funny sketch!

Dratch: By the way, that came from a real party I was at! I was at my gay friend’s birthday party and there were literally like 80 gay men there and two women. I mean, it was like, What am I doing in terms of trying to find a date? 

Poehler: Hahahaha!

Dratch: I mean, that wasn’t my goal that night, but uh, I was just joking, like, “I’m gonna get lucky tonight! Look at the ratio!” So that’s how that scene was born. I love those things in life when something happens and you’re like, “Let’s go write this as sketch.” That’s my favorite way to come up with sketch, ’cause when you just sit there and you’re like, “Let me think of a sketch,” it just doesn’t work. You have to have the real-life situation. So that’s why that scene was really fun. 


And was it when that sketch ran that you realized you had a gay following?

Dratch: I feel like the SNL ladies have this. Like, SNL ladies have a built-in gay following. 

Poehler: Yeah – yes! I think so. It felt that way (for me), and because we were a little bit of a gang, like a little pack. I mean, well, let’s first just say that on a daily basis Rachel and I get mistaken for each other. So her success is my success. 

Dratch: Sometimes people just go like, “Amy Poehler!” and I’m just like, “Yep.” Like, why correct them? I’ll be Amy Poehler. 

Poehler: Haha! Absolutely the same people are like, “Rachel Dratch!” Someone will come up to me and go, “Debbie Downer!” Ha! I’m like, “That’s right! That was me!” And so that didn’t really answer your question. 

Dratch and Poehler: Hahahahahaha! 

Poehler: But I’m gonna speak for Rachel because –

Dratch: Because you are me.

Poehler: Ha! But because Rachel has such a cadre of good, good friends and amazing gay men in her life, I have to say.

Dratch: That’s true. 

Poehler: You really do have an army of besties who love and support you, and you right back to them.

Poehler: And I surround myself with young gay women! Ha! Because they’re very good at how they dress. 


This might explain your recent Vanity Fair shoot with Maya Rudolph. 

Poehler: Hahaha! Soft butch? 

Dratch: Soft butch?! 


And Maya, high femme. 

Dratch: Maya is high femme? That is awesome! 

Poehler: That’s right: Maya’s high femme, yeah. 


I’m gonna reference a tweet I read recently about those VF photos. 

Poehler: Oh dear, is it a bad one? I’m not on Twitter. 

Dratch: No, it’s complimentary! 


“What in the gay heaven are these photos?”

Dratch and Poehler: Hahahahahaha! 

Dratch: High compliment! 

Poehler: Well, I would take any of these women as my wife if they allowed me to, and Maya loves dresses and dressing up and I had a revelation a few years ago. You know, it’s nice to get to a point – it doesn’t even have to be in your career, but in your life – where you do start dressing the way you want or having always wanted. But I had a moment recently with Maya: When Maya puts on a gown for an award show, I see her relax. She loves fashion. And when she puts a dress on her body, she loves it. When I put on a dress on, I just stare at everybody else dressed in jeans and t-shirts and I just wanna be back over there. It took me a long time to really come to terms with that because we have a job where we have to dress up a lot and I just thought it was my awkwardness about dressing up, but the older I get the more I realize I feel much more comfortable in menswear. I like the feel of it. I feel much more myself.


Are you conscious of challenging gender norms when dressing in men’s clothes?

Poehler: I don’t know if I would say I’m that conscious of it.

Dratch: You’re sort of letting yourself embrace what you actually like. 

Poehler: I had a moment where I was in heels and a stupid-ass dress walking down the carpet of a premiere with all the women I worked with and I literally couldn’t walk, and I remember thinking, I can’t do this again. It just didn’t feel like what –

Dratch: What a powerful executive!

Poehler: Haha! But I’ll tell you: I’ve met some powerful executives who do heels like nobody’s business. So to answer your question, yes, we were aware we were doing a soft butch/high femme situation. 

Dratch: You were?! I didn’t realize that. 

Poehler: Yeah! I asked for it. 

Dratch: That’s so cool.

Poehler: Because it made me feel really comfortable, and I think Maya really liked it. And whatever my beautiful wife wants, she gets. Haha! 


Has this same group given any consideration to remaking The Golden Girls?

Poehler: Oh my god, it’s funny you say that! 

Dratch: We talked about living like that! We talked about later on just having a house Golden Girls-style, and I think we each claimed which character we were gonna be. Someone said they were gonna be the Rue McClanahan; our other friend just said, “I’m gonna get laid all the time!” I don’t know which one I would be, but we talked about living like that. In terms of actually (remaking the show), I’m so old-fashioned. Like, don’t touch the classics.

Poehler: Yeah!

Dratch: Don’t remake them! But then there’s plenty of successful things like that.

Poehler: Also, what is shocking is, if you go back and look at the ages of the Golden Girls, they were in their late 50s, early 60s. They were not that old! 


Let’s really narrow this down: If this were to happen, which Golden Girl would you be? 

Dratch: I feel like we would both be Sophia, the mom, acting-wise. 

Poehler: We would both be cast as her. 

Dratch: Like we play that kind of part.

Poehler: Dratch and I always joke that if there was an upstairs/downstairs kind of film like Downton Abbey we would definitely be downstairs. We would be scrubbing potatoes. We would never make it upstairs. 

Dratch: Because we come from peasant stock. And we have the ankles to prove it.

Poehler: Haha! We do! We have the shtetl ankles to prove it.

Dratch: We have the CANKLES to prove it. She of the Irish potato family. I, of Russian peasant descent.

Poehler: I’m supposed to live in a cave. It is amazing that if you put a babushka over either one of us we immediately look like Russian peasants. There is nothing high society about us. But someone like Ana or even, say, Tina, they have an elegance that makes them, I would say, upstairs. And, you know, we’re fine with that. Ha! 

Dratch: We’re cool with that. 

Michael Bublé

Michael Bublé Interview

  • February 1, 2019 - 6:04pm

“You’re my first. Be gentle with me. Can we start with, like, a foreplay thing where you can just take it easy on me? Some gentle licking perhaps, and then we’ll get into the heavy stuff.” And so my interview with Michael Bublé, who has almost made me forget he has a wife, Argentine actress Luisana Lopilato, begins. 

Returning to music with a new heart-emoji-titled album called love that he will support on a world tour in 2019, Bublé – who introduces himself by that mononym when he rings me directly – spoke openly on a variety of topics, including the difficulties of being a public figure amid familial distress, atoning for his “sexist” Christmas song and doing his part to support the LGBTQ community. 

It’s sweet that this album uses the heart emoji for its title, though the gay community certainly wouldn’t have argued with you naming your album using the eggplant emoji.

Oh god, I wanted to use the eggplant. You have no idea.

You fought for that.

I did. I had long conversations about it. And you think I’m joking. I’ve already said this a million times when talking to my friends: They were like, (in a deeply bro voice) “Why didn’t you use the eggplant?” and I’m like, “Oh, I would have.”

Did you intend for the album to be a Band-Aid for our divisive times? 

Yeah, it’s funny that you just said that: I’ve actually said that in private. You know what, man, obviously everything I’ve gone through has everything to do with this record and what I want to put out to the world. I had different names that I’d come up with, but there was nothing that really explained the record and the concept as well as just one word could. 

The record is about love, but it’s not simply about romantic love. It was really a record that was kind of my theory on this word, this emotion that has so much range. When you hear it you think, “Oh god, romantic and lovey-smovey,” but there’s so many different things that happen with that word. 

“When I Fall in Love” is such a beautiful track and people say, “Oh, it’s so romantic.” It is romantic. But for me, it’s really sad. As I put myself into the character of that song, I thought about a guy sitting at the bar at 4 o’clock in the morning, drunk, looking over at another couple, wishing that he had that because it hasn’t happened for him. It’s very unique in that way. It’s a very sad song about longing. I could go on through the whole tracklist. They all have a story for me. 

Did you personalize any of the songs? 

I wanted to do the best I could to be as personal and honest in the storytelling, in becoming the characters for the song, but at the same time give the audience a way to be able to hear and have their own opinions.

If I want to use this album to get a guy to fall in love with me, which song do you suggest I play to make him swoon?

Honestly, I think “La Vie En Rose” (a duet with jazz vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant) is incredible because when I did this song my concept was to build a mirror of the relationship I had with my wife. It was me going to this foreign land with someone who didn’t speak my language and having this kind of dance of love with them. 

I felt like there were these two characters and one is singing to the other, where I was singing to her in my language and my culture and she was answering in hers. Though we were on this path together, we were still apart; and by the middle of the song we have this beautiful dance together, this incredible night, and by the morning we were walking through the streets of Paris. I have sort of assimilated to her culture and I am singing in her language, and I loved that because that’s exactly what happened in my life. 

I don’t think you thought you’d be recording music again after your 5-year-old son, Noah, was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2016, days after our last conversation. But I’ve heard you say he’s holding up and is in remission. Was creating this album more cathartic than past albums? 

I don’t think I ever fell out of love with making music or being a creative person; I just think I knew it had to be put aside. The part of being a public person, that part I didn’t know if I was ready for. There are always reminders every time you go out and people speak and you’re trying to move on with your life or yourself and your family. At first, there were always these reminders of it and so it was hard to just move on. 

I made a promise to myself that it would be organic and that it would be joy and it would be blissful – and if it ever becomes what I consider work, or egotistically driven, then I would step away. But I never fell out of love with making music. You know, I’m having to leave the family and stuff for little bits, and if I do then it has to be for the right reasons. 

Harder than usual to leave the family right now?

No, it’s not. When I do something, I know that there’s a great reason for it. We can make more money and we can make more music and we can make more this and more that, but it’s time – you can’t make time. I wanna make sure I’m spending time doing what I love and that it’s all worthwhile.

You talked about being an LGBTQ ally in our last interview. Why did you decide to express your compassion and advocacy for the LGBTQ community at that moment in your career? 

I don’t know if it was about that moment. I think I had an opportunity to speak with you, and I felt like it was a really good chance to say how I felt. Now more than ever I think it’s important for me to just be honest, and it’s what I believe. It’s part of who I fundamentally am, how I was raised. And it’s about equality. It’s simple. That’s it. 

I wish it were so simple. When we last spoke, Trump hadn’t been elected, and a lot has changed in the last couple of years politically. How are you feeling about the way this administration has treated the LGBTQ community and other marginalized groups?

I don’t… (pause)... it sounds crazy, but after what I’ve been through, I really promised myself that I would try not to get into – and when I say “get into,” I just didn’t want to be a part of negative things. So I stopped reading things. I stopped reading things about myself. I stopped reading things that made me feel badly. 


I really, truly feel like more than ever in my life actions speak much louder than words do and how you treat people is – it’s funny, a friend heard me talking to my son. My son was going to his first day of kindergarten and he saw me kneel down to my boy and I said to him, “Noah, I just want you to know that” – and it sounds like a cliché, but I said, “You treat people the way you want to be treated, kid.” I said, “If you’re kind to people and you’re good to people, life will always be OK for you.” And I got up and I walked away and my friend said to me, “They may not remember what you did or what you said but they’ll remember how you made them feel.” 

I can’t stop the politicians or stupid, uneducated people from thinking and saying and doing stupid things, but I can make a stand, I can talk to you, and when I’m with groups of friends or I’m in public places or when I’m with people who I think can use that sense of love and education, I can open my mouth and tell them how I feel. And one at a time, you can change the world like that. 

Listen, I’ve gone through too much not to feel this way. I just feel this way really strongly. I also think it’s important – it’s really easy for someone selling something, an artist, to say that they support or love the gay community; I just think it’s a different thing to say it than to do it.

When we spoke in 2016, you told me you had plans to get involved with the Harvey Milk High School in New York City, but then, of course, you had to tend to your family. Do you plan on picking up where you left off? 

As a matter of fact, (my publicist) Liz (Rosenberg) and I have spoken many times and talked about the plan that we have. We have a plan (that involves) the Hetrick-Martin Institute (a NYC-based professional provider of social support and programming for LGBTQ youth and host agency for the Harvey Milk High School). 


To start, I just wanted to go. I wanted to go and just let people know they had my support. Young kids who have been bullied and haven’t felt comfortable have a place to go, which is just disturbing in the first place, that in 2018 they didn’t. There wasn’t an environment where they felt they could be who they are. Listen, I can’t get into the details. I can’t. 

You can’t get into details about the project? 

Not those details, but within my family there are things that I can’t really speak to that have made this even more pressing for me. It’s because it’s not my story to tell. But I’ll just say that within my family these are the same issues that every family has. I wouldn’t and I couldn’t talk about something so personal. Definitely, I just know there needs to be advocates. Being a public person is having a responsibility sometimes to show that kind of love and that kind of support and to step out there and to do that. It’s not an edgy fucking thing to do. It’s not. 

For some public figures it seems so. 

Why? Because what – half of the audience doesn’t buy your records anymore? Well, that’s fucking stupid, isn’t it? Then you gotta ask yourself if you want half of those people buying your records in the first place, and what’s really important to you. Because if you’re gonna tell people that you know what’s important or that you’ve had an epiphany in your life that you know what matters then, again, actions speak louder than words, don’t they?

Knowing what Noah has gone through, has the feeling of loving your kids no matter who they are, which we discussed in 2016, intensified in the last couple of years? 

No, it was always the same. I could tell you the truth: I never had to find that perspective, I always felt that way. And I think I’m very lucky because I really do think that came from the way I was parented. I really do think I was very lucky to be raised in a family that was so open and liberal and loving. I just think they were always so unconditionally loving – not just toward us children, but toward our family. 

Again, clichés, but I just tell both of my boys now that they’re old enough to understand: “You know, boys, the things that make you different are what makes you special.” What’s amazing to me about that school and wanting so badly to go to that school is, I just feel so strongly that the difference between a child and an adult is only life experience. An adult’s life experience is, “It’s gonna get better. This isn’t how it has to be, and this isn’t how it’s going to be.” So for me, it’s really massive to be able to meet kids and to say publicly – really: “It’s not going always going to be like this.”

In light of the holidays, you do realize your gay fans would’ve gone wild for a version of “Santa Baby” by you that was actually called “Santa Baby,” right?

(Laughs) Yeah, exactly. Instead of “Santa Buddy.” I think I used “Santa Baby” in one of the lines.

You did.

I should’ve gone full. 

I mean, a straight man can shop at Tiffany’s. 

(Laughs) Yeah, no, you’re right. It’s funny: When I did that song, I tried to put it into my perspective and modernize it. I changed words; I asked for a Rolex or Mercedes or things I would want. The best part about it is: I get to sing those kinds of songs now in my life, and if I do concerts and I wanna add a Christmas song, then you know what? I can amend it and I can sing “Santa Baby.” 

A straight guy singing “Santa Baby” is the progress we need. 

Fuck yeah. You’re right, you’re absolutely right. It was sexist of me not to. 

I’m looking forward to your live rendition of it. 

I’ll do it for you. That’s a promise. I promise I’ll do it for you even if it’s not fucking Christmas. 

Even if it’s the middle of summer?

You think I’m kidding, but you shout it out and I promise you I’ll get it done. Madison Square Garden, fucking done.

You can see Michael Bublé perform live in Las Vegas on Sat, Mar 30 inside the T-Mobile Arena.

Natasha Rothwell

Natasha Rothwell Is Here to School the World

  • October 15, 2018 - 12:38pm

Oh, sure, actress Natasha Rothwell’s scene-stealing drama teacher in out director Greg Berlanti’s groundbreaking gay teen rom-com Love, Simon is bitter – and therefore, funny as all hell – about overseeing amateur teens in a student production of Cabaret. Hey, she had an oh-so-prestigious part in The Lion King musical! (As, um, an extra.)

But Ms. Albright is a dogged ally for life, demonstrating heartfelt compassion for her LGBTQ students when Simon and his queer schoolmate, Ethan, are bullied in the lunchroom. Enter Ms. Albright, who breaks up the fight in true Ms. Albright fashion: “That's mine now,” she scolds, confiscating the bullies’ speaker. “I'm'ma sell it, get my tubes tied.”

Rothwell knows the teacher life well: She was a high school teacher in the Bronx for four years. Queer students confided in her, some even came out to her. Now, the 37-year-old actress and former SNL writer returns for a third season of actress-writer Issa Rae’s terrific HBO comedy Insecure, as Issa’s freewheeling, zero-fucks friend Kelli. And no details on her role just yet – she couldn’t reveal any during our recent interview, sorry – but Rothwell is also set to star in director Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman sequel. 

Plenty to chat about until then, though, including the importance of LGBTQ inclusion in her projects and her reaction to the criticism Love, Simon received for not being progressive enough. 


Why do you think the women on Insecure have resonated with the queer community? 

I think what attracts the queer community to Insecure is authenticity and seeing a group of women being celebrated on television for being their authentic selves. The courage that it takes for marginalized groups like the LGBTQIA community to be authentic – it’s so difficult and so brave and so admirable to do so that when you see a group of people doing that on screen I can understand why that resonates with the queer community. I feel that way when I see other marginalized groups of people on TV shown as full-fledged characters. I’m like, “Yes, yes, yes!” 


It should be noted how effortlessly LGBTQIA just rolled off your tongue. You didn’t stumble over a single letter. 

(Laughs) I think having been a part of Love, Simon and doing press for that I was like, “I’m gonna get this! They’re not gonna get me on camera or on tape!” Because I’m an ally through and through, and they better know I know what I’m talking about. (Laughs)


So, Kelli: Surely her unapologetic boldness – I mean, in season two, she got fingered at a diner – resonates with the community. 

(Laughs) She was living her best life. She’s not gonna apologize for it. Until I got into my 30s, I felt like I was apologizing for being a woman, for being black. The beauty of playing Kelli is I get to have a character match how I now feel, and I get to play a woman who’s never known any different. Like, I imagine this is Kelli from the crib; when she was an infant, till now, she’s only ever known this version of herself. I love playing someone who doesn’t experience doubt in the way I do. 


Do you write Kelli?

We all write Kelli. We’ll do internal table reads of the script and I’ll sit down and get to see what the other room was working on, and I’m like, “Oh shit, I’m getting fingered? OK!” It’s a real team effort to develop her and all the characters. 


You’ve cited Lily Tomlin as an influence. How did she influence your comedic voice?

Female comedians that weren’t trapped by femininity is what resonated with me most. She was such a chameleon, subverting expectations. She plays a little girl (Edith Ann) and she’s sitting in this giant, oversized chair and having this monologue, and she’s so playful and inventive and completely embodies the POV of a small child, and using her body to tell a story. I just remember watching that and being obsessed. 


You’re writing a rom-com called Bridal Recall for Paramount Pictures, and you also have a development deal with HBO to write and produce and star in your own project. Will the queer community have a place in those projects? 

If I have a say. To me, I don’t think talking about inclusion and diversity is enough. We have to do it in actuality and in action. One of the brilliant things about Issa’s writers’ room? It’s not all black. We have representation from all over the spectrum. We have different sexualities represented, different ethnicities represented, and we can tell a nuanced story that way. So, I have every intention of making my writers’ room reflect the nuance that I want to tell in those stories, that I feel make worthwhile stories. 


What did it mean to you to be a part of Love, Simon?

It meant everything. When I read the script and the book, I was just honored that I could participate in a project that really felt bigger than myself. The response has been insane and continues to be. People are discovering the movie even still and are responding to it in a really visceral way. I imagine it being that way for young people of color watching Black Panther for the first time. To me, that’s powerful to see your story represented and it’s not – it’s a love story first and a coming out story second. 

It’s one of the things where it’s just, I want more of this. I want more people to see themselves represented in this very specific, common way that straight white people have had the privilege of. So, I want to see more of those stories being told, because I’m a child of the ’80s. John Hughes is my jam, and I loved Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles. So, to see this story get that treatment was a magical thing. I will be forever grateful to Greg Berlanti for thinking that I could play Ms. Albright. He’s such a wonderful man and encouraged me and brought me to tears. He pulled me aside after I finished shooting and he was just like, “I have the same feeling about you I did when I directed Melissa McCarthy.” And I was like, “You just said a lot in that sentence!” And then I burst into tears. (Laughs)


Do gay fans recognize see you as Ms. Albright on the street?

I don’t get “Hey, Ms. Albright!” I live in West Hollywood and the LGBTQIA community is en masse here and I love it. So, I’ll get recognized from Love, Simon and as Kelli, sometimes at the same time. It’s a great community, and I feel so welcomed and thankful for it. 


In an episode during season two of Insecure, you and Issa call out Molly for being revolted by a male suitor because he has sexual history with another man. The episode acknowledges a glaring double-standard between men and women, and also hypermasculinity in black versus white communities. What part did you play in bringing that storyline to light? 

We all talked about our experiences and something that would give us pause before entering into a relationship, or something that we wouldn’t even stop and think twice about. It varied by gender, by sexuality, by age. What boiled up to the top was the hypertoxic masculinity of communities of color, especially the black community. So, we really loved to present that specific part of the show to our audience because it caused conversation around the topic. One of the things that I love about our show is we don’t present answers – we present questions. We want people to have these conversations in a public way. 


Recently, a massive Twitterstorm ignited when GQ featured the straight male cast in a photo spread that some deemed “gay.” One of the featured actors, Sarunas Jackson, called out the homophobic tone of the comments. I’m thinking, we’ve already been here. 

We’ve already been here, we already did this, guys. We’ve already evolved. Let’s just move on. But this just goes to show that continued conversation and continued moments for educating yourself are helpful. One of the more palpable things that I think that photo spread did was spark that conversation again, so people can really, once and for all, understand their own toxic masculinity. I was shocked by the number of women jumping on board. I’m like, you were indoctrinated to think that way, and we have to unlearn some things in order to be the progressive, thoughtful, inclusive people that I know we are capable of being.


You responded to people who don’t feel represented by Insecure by telling them, well, then you tell your story, because no one story can encompass all of our stories. Love, Simon received similar criticism for featuring a white man in its lead role, versus someone of color. Would you respond to that criticism in the same way? 

Absolutely. I think I would be remiss to say, “We did it guys. Let’s pack it up! We fixed it! We fixed inclusion in Hollywood!” I think that would be a gross mistake to be made. I don’t look at Insecure and even see myself represented all the time and I write on the show, because this is a story. This is Issa and her girlfriend in Inglewood, California. But what it requires is more art to be made to reflect those things that aren’t being shown. Let’s tell those stories because, if there’s anything I’ve learned when really resonating with audiences lately, it’s a hunger for diversity. 



Adam Rippon

Adam Rippon Interview

  • July 19, 2018 - 7:24pm

“Yes, this is an interview,” a schoolgirl-giggly Adam Rippon deadpans to fellow figure skater Charlie White who, naturally, is curious about the current topic of conversation: sex and harnesses, and how both come together to inspire his uniquely nontraditional collection of on-ice ensembles. Rippon is chatting while putting on his performance makeup in a locker room inside a Rhode Island arena, about to serve a graceful two-song solo during a Stars on Ice stop, featuring his Olympic peers. 

“(Charlie is) like, ‘I’ve never done an interview like this before,’” Rippon tells me. “He said he’s never been honest and open.” Rippon takes a long, very “Adam Rippon for dramatic effect” pause, the kind you know and love if you’ve been obsessing over every fabulous, filterless turn of phrase our self-proclaimed “glamazon bitch” has turned: “You should try it out!” 

No kidding: The 28-year-old ice champion leads by example, proving with unapologetic defiance – he fiercely came at the vice president of the United States for his anti-gay rhetoric – and iconic Folsom elegance, like the S&M gear he wore during the Oscars this year, that being yourself can take you places. If you’re Rippon, who’s from Scranton, Pennsylvania, it can take you to Pyeongchang, South Korea, where Rippon set fire to the ice during the 2018 Winter Olympics, becoming the first openly gay U.S. male athlete to win a (bronze) medal in a Winter Olympics.

Rippon’s mere existence as a brazenly gay global inspiration with a tongue as sharp as the blades on his skates has been celebrated for his “faggy magic,” as coined by journalist Peter Moskowitz. And at a recent Stars on Ice show in Detroit, Michigan, he elicited the wildest applause, from suburban moms to girl tweens and a squadron of genuinely proud queers. Reese Witherspoon loves him. So does Elmo. And like any good mother, Sally Field tried to set him up with her gay son. 

My roommate was starstruck even before Rippon rang me, so nervous just knowing Adam Rippon would be calling that she left our Airbnb apartment. I share this with Rippon, who’s, again, all giggles: “It’s a really high compliment that your roommate needed to leave.” (Later, during our goodbye, he playfully says, “Tell your roommate I said ‘hi.’”)

Rippon would make his Dancing with the Stars debut weeks after our call, slaying a vogueing cha-cha to RuPaul’s “Sissy That Walk.” But before he competed against Tonya Harding with partner Jenna Johnson during the ABC dance-off, the skater opened up about how booze kills his wit game and what he tells guys on Tinder who want a second chance with him and inspiring suicidal queer youth, all the while, being his irresistible self. That’s all you can really ask for – and in Rippon’s case, want.  

I want to give you a phone hug and say thanks for giving this 35-year-old man a new level of realness to aspire to. 

I’m hugging you back. 

You stood next to Britney Spears at the GLAAD Media Awards recently for a pic. I heard she liked the way you smelled.

Yes, she did. It’s just, like, weird – you’ve seen somebody your whole entire life, and then you walk up to them and you’re like, “Oh, you’re real.” But she was really nice. We just congratulated her on her award and she was like, “You smell really nice,” and I was like, “Thank you so much, ’cause that’s so important to me.” 

Is it weird that now I want to know how you smell?

I smell nice. 

Like primrose?


And that night was special because gay Olympian Gus Kenworthy kissed you on stage. How exactly would you describe your relationship with Gus at this point?

Umm (laughs), so, I mean, we’re just friends, obviously. His boyfriend was backstage laughing at him, and so he was just trying to be funny. Gus is a nut. 

But you’re so close. And both of you being gay Olympians, it seems you’ve really bonded.

Oh, absolutely. We’re just like brothers. I guess brothers who kiss. But no, I love him, he’s so nice, and we’re very good friends. 

You seem like the kind of person who likes a few nice things in his dressing room. What is on your Stars on Ice tour rider?

I try to keep it super simple so I don’t forget a lot of things. So, when I am traveling I literally just have my skates, my costume, and that’s basically it. I try to keep it so super simple or I’m gonna lose all my shit. 

Don’t you have people who can remember this stuff for you? An entourage?

It’s getting there. Slowly. But I still want to, like, be able to be self-sufficient, you know what I mean? 

For a while, at least. 

At least for the rest of the month.

I think that’s a lofty goal. 

You know, dream big. 

So, Dancing with the Stars: Can you even believe that you’re competing against Tonya Harding?

(Sighs) Ah, I cannot. 

What is that like? 

It’s not a super big deal, but I think she’s got a lot going on, so I’m just gonna let her do her own thing, probably. Probably best. 

You’ve met?

I did meet her. She’s very pleasant.

Team Tonya or Team Nancy?

Well, I mean, Tonya tried to kill someone, so I’m Team Nancy, probably. 

Honestly think that’s probably the safe choice to make.

I think it’s probably the right choice. 

What did you think of I, Tonya

I loved it. I thought Margot Robbie (who played Harding) was great. Amazing.

Who would you cast as Adam in I, Adam

Well, Margot did so well, so maybe just Margot Robbie is a safe bet. 

Who inspires your on-ice style?

The skating world inspires it a little bit, and then…  you’re just gonna know that I’m trashy. I look at like, um, sex stuff and stuff people wear – harnesses and stuff – and the design is quite amazing. I will bring them to my costume designer and we will make them more appropriate for a competition. 

For a PG audience?

Yes. But actually, it’s not for that audience. But I make it for them. 

That harness you wore to the Oscars in March: Where is it?

It’s in (fashion designer) Jeremy Scott’s office. The suit was by Moschino, and so it was from Jeremy’s office and he lent it to me. I’m obsessed with Jeremy. He’s amazing.

Do you get to keep these costumes? 

I keep my own costumes. Because, like, I bought them, outright. But the Oscars outfit was for the runway – from the carpet back to the office. 

Hard to give that up. So many opportunities to wear something like that.

I know! Like to a wedding. 

Or a funeral. 

Yeah, anything. The grocery store. 

What’s the biggest difference between 12-year-old Adam Rippon and the Adam Rippon I’m talking to right now?

I think the biggest difference is all of the things that I’ve been through. I think now I have a better idea of who I am, and I think I had a lot of self-discovery to go through when I was young. I was just as trash – but now I’m just older. 

More comfortable with the trash?

Yeah, I’m just more comfortable being trashy. 

Were you a sassy kid?

I don’t think I realized how sassy I was till I was at the Olympics and people were like “Ahahaha, you’re so sassy” and then I was “Ahahaha… you think so?” And they’re like, “Oh yeah, you’re, like, SASSY.” And I was like, I just thought I was fresh. Like, “No – you’re sassy.” Oh. OK. 

Who inspires your sassiness? 

The person who inspires me to be sassy is my mom. 

So it’s in the blood. 

(Laughs) Yeah, it’s definitely in the blood. It’s something I can’t control. You know how you’re born – you sometimes have curly hair or blue eyes, and I have curly hair, but I don’t have blue eyes. But I also have my mom’s sassy attitude.

Born this way. 

Born this way, for sure. Genetics. 

Your future: What’s off the table? Where do you draw the line?

Like, I’m not gonna do porn. That’s drawing the line, I guess. 

A reality show?

I don’t think I would do a reality show – I mean, I’m doing Dancing with the Stars. That’s a reality show. I’m not gonna do, like, Big Brother or anything. 

Are you getting a lot of offers? 

Yeah, I’m getting a lot of offers to do stuff. A lot of it’s ghetto. 

What percentage of these offers are you turning down? 

I’m talking a little bit to everybody, and honestly my schedule’s so crazy right now I don’t even know who. I barely even know where I am right now. 

You’ve been asked to do a lot of things you may not have done if it weren’t for the Olympics, such as getting custom-made condoms from Thrillist because you thought the condoms in South Korea were “generic.” The New York Times also basically wrote an entire feature on your abs. What is the most ridiculous request that’s been asked of you?

I don’t know if I’ve had a super ridiculous request, one that I can really think that I took seriously. I think people have asked me to do crazy things and I’m like, “Hahaha.” And then I forgot about it a minute later. 

The media loves getting you drunk.

Here’s the thing: I don’t drink a lot. Barely anything. And so everyone’s like, “Haha, come on the show and just have drinks!” And I’m like, “OK.” So, I’ll have one or a little bit, but I feel like I’m way funnier not drunk. I’m not as sharp, I’m not as witty; I’m not myself when I’m drunk. I mean, I feel like I like to be in the moment, and if I’m in the moment, I can focus and then I can be quick and witty.

This wild ride: If you could relive any part of it, which part would that be?

I don’t know, because I still feel like I’m in the middle of a wild ride. I haven’t had a moment to really be like, “This Olympics experience is over,” ’cause right now I’m still skating a bunch with Stars on Ice, and I think when I finally have a day off, I’ll be like, “Oh, wow, there’s a lot going on.” But I haven’t had a day off, which I actually think is amazing and great, and I’m trying to enjoy every single second. I think one thing that saved me is, I don’t really know what my schedule is. I just kind of plan a few days in advance; I don’t feel overwhelmed. I’m just having a good time with it. 

How will you spend that day off?

Um, probably napping. 

The whole day?

The whole day. 

Anything you haven’t been able to do since you’ve been on this all-consuming ride?

Honestly, the only thing I haven’t been good at doing is sleeping. 

There you go: a 24-hour nap.

A recharge, yup, exactly.

Reese Witherspoon is one of your biggest fans. Which Reese movie do you most identify with?

Legally Blonde. It’s true. It’s the first Reese movie that I ever watched and how I always still think of her, which isn’t fair cause she’s done so much. But yeah, I adore her. 

What is it about the character of Elle Woods you most identify with?

That she just thinks she can get into Harvard and it’s not gonna be a big deal, and she does. And I, in my life, am like, “It’s not a big deal, I can do it, and I can make it happen.”

You have a new man, named Jussi-Pekka Kajaala. He’s very good-looking. 

I do. He’s super cute, but more than that, he’s super nice and funny and everything that everybody should be. 

Before you met, what criteria did you have for a boyfriend? 

So, I’ve known him for a little over half a year, and really wasn’t looking for anybody. I mean, I was on Tinder for just fun. You know how if you’ve ever been on Tinder you swipe left and right and it basically turns into this game? 

Oh yeah, I have Tinder. 

So you know the game.

It’s like the new Hot or Not. 

It’s absolutely that. So we just started chatting and basically I was looking for some – my criteria for a good boyfriend would be somebody who has passion. Passion is super important to me because no matter what you do, if you have passion for it, then that’s kind of what life is all about – that you have passion for something. I think that it’s important to stay motivated, to always want more for yourself – yeah. I’m being serious. Usually when I get asked this question, I’m like, a job, goes to the gym – which is also important. 

When you were on Tinder, how many people actually thought you were really Adam Rippon? 

I think when I was on Tinder nobody really gave a shit that I was Adam Rippon. But I can tell you that everyone I’ve ever matched with who’s ghosted on me has messaged me since the Olympics. My favorite is, “Oh, it’s been a while. How ya doing?” And I’m like, “Bye.” 

You give them more than they deserve, honestly.

Usually I don’t answer. 

What’s a place you wish you could go where you wouldn’t be recognized? 

I don’t mind being recognized at all. I don’t mind it. But if I could go somewhere right now, I would wanna go to Maui. Just a vacation. Get some sun. Doing Dancing with the Stars, it definitely changed my skin tone – due to, like, sprays, not sun. 

Do you expect there will be a day when an openly gay figure skater can just be a figure skater?

Yeah. And I think more than that, I hope there’s a day that an openly gay Olympian will just be an Olympian. But I think that right now it’s important to share your story. It’s important for everybody to share your story, especially in a day and age when an athlete can go to the Olympics and you can be like, oh, let me know a little bit more about that athlete. You go on their social media page, you know what their likes are, you know what they’re doing, you know where they are, you know what their interests are; you can just so easily find out information about everybody that I think it’s important to show the world who you are, what you stand for, and what’s important to you.

For me, it’s not being gay that I share – I share my coming out because it was really liberating for me, and when I came out, when I was able to share that, that’s what I found so much power in. It wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m gay and I’m powerful” – which is, like, so true – but it was my coming out experience of when I started to really own who I was and that’s where I found a lot of power. I was always me, but I didn’t always own it. And when I owned it, that’s when I found that I was my strongest. 

Have you had any particularly moving exchanges with young queer fans?

Yes. There have been many. I’ve run into a few young people who told me that they tried to kill themselves at one point, which is incredibly hard to hear, especially from really young kids. It’s incredibly bizarre to be thanked for just being who you are, and for someone to tell you that you really helped them. It’s incredibly humbling, but I can tell you that I was not expecting that kind of response after the Olympics. 

Is there a responsibility or pressure on you to act or be a certain way because of that?

No more than the way that I’ve been acting. 

Good. To end, which Golden Girl are you?

Probably Blanche. Isn’t everyone Blanche? And I’m a little – OK, I’m mostly Dorothy. 

It’s the snark.

It is the snark.

Dan Reynolds - Imagine Dragons

Dan Reynolds Interview

  • July 19, 2018 - 4:12pm

During the inaugural LoveLoud Festival in August 2017 on the campus of Utah Valley University in Orem, roughly 40 miles outside Salt Lake City, 17,000 people fell into the embrace of Dan Reynolds.

Amid performances of his band’s towering anthems, like “Radioactive,” Reynolds’ message rang loud and clear: love yourself, and love the young queer people who need it most, unconditionally. 

Hugs for LGBTQ youth from the Imagine Dragons frontman, recipient of The Trevor Project’s 2017 Hero Award, don’t get much bigger than they did that day. Except they will, soon. 

Reynolds, 30, takes his ally platform seriously, so this year’s second annual LoveLoud Festival, on July 28, will be held at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.

Capacity: 46,000. Comedian, actor and writer Cameron Esposito, an out lesbian, will perform and emcee, with performances from Imagine Dragons, Zedd, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, Grace VanderWaal, Neon Trees’ Tyler Glenn, and Vagabon and A.Q. 

Proceeds will benefit local and national LGBTQ charities, including Encircle, Trevor Project, Tegan and Sara Foundation, and more.

Reynold’s foundation serving the LGBTQ community, also named LoveLoud, was launched in 2017 to “bring communities and families together to help ignite the vital conversation about what it means to unconditionally love our LGBTQ youth.”

In mid-April, Reynolds called from Zurich while touring to reflect on reconciling his LGBTQ support with Mormonism and reconnecting with young gay friends he couldn’t wholeheartedly support because of his past religious beliefs. He also talked about his doc Believer, which chronicles his journey from deep Mormon faith to passionate LGBTQ activist, and the undercurrent of queerness running through Imagine Dragons’ latest album, Evolve.

LoveLoud started with a phone call between you and Tyler Glenn, right? 

Yeah. We knew each other from a distance before, because we both served the same Mormon mission, in Omaha, Nebraska. When we got home, even before I started Imagine Dragons, I went to a Neon Trees show and they were playing little clubs in Utah. We both came up at the same time, and there’s not a whole lot of Mormons in the music industry, so you just kind of know each other through that. But eventually, I called him, and when he put out his solo record (in 2016), Excommunication, I connected with him in a lot of ways. 

How open to the queer community were you when you first met him? 

We were both trying desperately to be textbook Mormons, but I think both of us were finding we weren’t fitting into that box for different reasons. I got kicked out of BYU, and that really shook me up and threw me down a road of feeling needless shame and guilt. For Tyler, it was a whole other level for him of having to live a compartmentalized life and trying to find happiness within the guidelines of an incorrect teaching. It was just debilitating for him. There was always such a heaviness around him. 

I remember when we played a show, he was on stage wearing a sequined shirt and a very kind of glamorous outfit, and somebody in the crowd heckled him. This was before he came out, and I remember him saying something from the stage to the extent of, “You don’t know me and I’m struggling with things right now and fuck you,” and he flicked off the crowd. 

Watching him, what was going through your mind? 

I felt what I’ve always felt since probably seventh grade when one of my best friends was gay and Mormon and I watched him never want to talk about it because it was so heavy. There were no answers to be had at that young of an age when you’re raised in a really religious family. It’s hard to find any resolution other than leave your home or get kicked out of the house, so I had seen that from a young age in middle school and felt super conflicted as a religious person thinking, I’m supposed to believe all these things, but with it comes this teaching that doesn’t sit right in my heart at all. Even as a 13-year-old, I saw my friends be conflicted with their sexuality and religion and I was thinking, “OK, something’s wrong here.” 

At the time, were you the support system for them you wanted to be?

We just didn’t really talk about it. They were my friends, so I didn’t stop being their friend, but I think we just didn’t talk about it because neither of us had an answer. It was this heavy thing that was lingering over their heads, and I didn’t have any answers as a 14-year-old kid who was going to church every Sunday and being told what to say.

I look back: I’m a strong believer in the whole “You should live life with no regrets.” But you know, I can’t tell you, honestly, that I don’t have regrets in this specific way. I wish as a 14-year-old boy I could’ve had the words to say, “Hey, this is not great, and if there is a God and it’s this loving God that we’re taught about, how could we rationally believe that that God would make you have this sense of love that you don’t get to act upon?” Which is supposedly the most beautiful part of existence and human nature – to love. How could any of that make sense? I wish that I had the mental and spiritual capabilities to see that as a kid, but I didn’t. 

I was just dealing with my own guilt complex and feeling bad about being a 14-year-old boy dealing with my own sexuality. Even as a heterosexual and a 14-year-old kid in the Mormon church, you’re immediately feeling guilt and shame about masturbation and sex before marriage. Certainly, on my mission I would’ve hoped to be a 19-year-old kid who had, again, the mental capabilities or life experience to get out of an incorrect teaching, but I didn’t. For two years you’re given a white handbook that tells you the answer to everything, so when someone asks you a question, you’re supposed to be this 19-year-old kid who has the answer. 

So yeah, I really do regret that for those two years I turned to a white handbook rather than my heart and my mind, which already knew the answers, ever since I was a little kid. 

My little girl, she’s raised to believe what she believes in her heart, and so as a little kid who’s raised that way, this is such an easy concept for her. She’s 5 years old and I can say, “What does it mean to be gay?” and “How does that feel?” and to her I didn’t even have to teach her that concept. It’s like, of course people should love who they want and you should never bully, and she understands all those concepts that a child would naturally know. But when you have religion on top of that, it gets muddled. 

After becoming this mega-ally rock star, have you been in touch with these gay childhood friends?

Yes, that’s been really one of the most fulfilling, beautiful parts of this process, just connecting with them and them knowing that they have a friend that fully accepts them and loves them and has known them for years through this whole process. Because you have to be Mormon on some level to understand how heavy Mormonism is. 

But yes, we’ve connected, with two in particular, and we’ve talked about how they’ve both left the church because there’s really no safe space for LGBTQ youth within the Mormon church right now. There’s just not. There’s no healthy option for any LGBTQ youth (in the church), and that’s the sad thing. I wish I could be giving some options to any Orthodox religious LGBTQ kids.

And you are, with LoveLoud. How would you describe the feeling of being at last year’s premiere LoveLoud Festival? 

I would say, to date, LoveLoud last year was genuinely my favorite day of my life thus far. So many people would look in on this and say, “Dan, you should be preaching with your platform: ‘Hey, LGBTQ kids who are raised in Orthodox faith, leave. Get out of the religion.’” And that is actually a very uninformed and uneducated and unsafe thing to be saying to these kids because a lot of them don’t have a choice. Basically, you’re saying, “Get kicked out of your house, potentially, and put yourself in a more at-risk situation.” So the only thing that you can do is say, “I love you. I support you 100 percent. And look at all these people who are also religious who also accept and love you.” Let us do everything we can do to make a safe space for you, and that’s what LoveLoud is about.

It was really rad to see a lot of people who came from very conservative backgrounds of faith, mainly Mormonism, come out, because it was in the heartland of Utah. Some of them came to the festival already having their minds made up of what it meant to fully love and accept LGBTQ youth, but I think a lot of them didn’t, which is really rad. There were a lot of people who were on the fence. Uncles and aunts and parents who didn’t know how to deal with the situation of having their child be gay, or their niece or nephew. I know their eyes were opened because I got tons of emails and messages from people saying, “My uncle who had never accepted me at all came to this and walked away and gave me a big hug and said, ‘I understand and I love you and I accept you.’” 

How does it feel to hear a story like that? 

It makes it all worth it, because this is a really difficult line to walk. You’re never gonna be progressive enough for the progressives, and you’re never gonna be conservative enough for the conservatives. I’ve literally had people tell me, “You’ve made so many more kids gay, and this is your judgment day to deal with that.” I read those things, and of course it’s sad. But also I know my path. I know my mission, and I know what I’m doing, so it’s OK, ’cause I know there’s just misunderstanding. But yeah, those letters mean a lot and they fire me up to just say, “OK, let’s go next year to a stadium and let’s make it bigger.” 

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?

That it’s much, much bigger is exciting. It’ll be at least double the size of what it was before. We did 20,000 last year and this year we’re doing a stadium, so it’s like 40,000. The artists are bigger. And just watching how it spread very organically within the religious community, because it sparked so much dialogue within the Mormon church. Mormon after Mormon hit me up and would be like, “I was at church and someone gave a talk about LoveLoud and there was this big argument about whether it’s OK to have your child go to it or not,” and I’m like, “Awesome.” 

That dialogue is way more important even in that one day because the dialogue that’s taking place at home about LoveLoud is what needs to be happening rather than a stagnance that has been going on for years within the Mormon church of, “Let’s keep moving forward and the kids keep taking their lives and the suicide rates keep going up in Utah.” LGBTQ youth are eight times more likely to take their lives when they’re not accepted in their homes or community, and that statistic alone is just devastating. 

Do you write songs with the queer community in mind? 

Definitely on Evolve. At least three of the songs were produced with (gay producer-songwriter) Justin Tranter, who’s just one of the biggest activists in the queer community. Just having him in there around me and the spirit that comes with Justin was certainly inspiring to me, and so there’s no doubt that as we were writing songs, there was a need to make sure that these lyrics were going to reach the underdog, were going to reach these queer youth. That they would know, “Hey, this is for me.” 

I think Evolve has it speckled all through it, whether it’s just the album artwork – the rainbow on the front – or the lyrics. A lot of things are so subconscious in the writing process. But we were talking about politics a lot at the time and how he felt like his future was so unsettled, and it was gonna be less safe for him. And he was scared. So, we had a lot of deep, beautiful conversations that I’m sure impacted Evolve in ways that I couldn’t even know. 

There’s a pretty iconic photo of you holding a rainbow flag at Lollapalooza Brazil Festival in March. Tell me about that moment.

Brazil is an interesting place because it has a lot of people who want change. I believe their pride parade is more populated than anywhere in the world, but it’s still a very unsafe place for LGBTQ youth. So, I committed this tour to do everything I can to bring as much color and pride to the stage that a straight man possibly can. 

Based on some headlines after that gig, the gay community also didn’t seem to mind the shirtlessness. 

(Laughs) Hey, I love it. For me this whole process has also been my process of coming into my own self and embracing sexuality, period. And celebrating life, and celebrating love. So, it’s been a real changing couple of years for me, and all I’ve been trying to do through the process is be true to myself and follow my heart. But that was a really beautiful moment. I’ll always remember that show. It was one of my favorite shows we’ve ever played. 

What do your parents, who declined to be in your documentary, Believer, think of the film? 

I sent the movie to all my family because I just wanted to take that step and not have it be an awkward thing in the family. My mom and dad came to the premiere.

That’s huge.

It was huge. I know that for the most part we all see a little different on this, but with that said, they’ve all been really loving and supportive of what I’m doing. But, yeah, there have been rough moments, definitely, during the beginning of it, when I was just getting into it. Arguments here and there within the family. 

It’s tricky because I love my family and I wanna respect their privacy, but I would be lying to you if I didn’t say … it’s been a little bit of a rub, yeah. Like I said, my mom and dad came to the premiere and that meant a lot. And my uncle, who’s my dad brother, he’s gay and Mormon and moved out of the United States years ago because he just felt like there was no place for him. He had to get that far away to be able to feel like he could be himself. I got to talk to him and I haven’t seen him since I was 8 years old, and that was the only uncle I didn’t ever get to know – my gay uncle – because he felt so unwelcome and like he couldn’t live his true life without moving a country away. My dad went recently and visited him, and that was a really beautiful thing. 

I don’t know. It’s baby steps for me. I know that everybody has their own way of coming around to certain things and it takes time, but the question is, how long will it take? And how many lives will be lost or saved along the way?

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart Interview

You don’t have to tell Martha Stewart that gay men love her like their own mother. 

The influential entrepreneur and domestic diva’s deep-rooted connection to the LGBTQ community goes beyond special appearances on Ugly Betty and Ellen, when she appeared as herself in a 1995 episode of the groundbreaking sitcom. Stewart, throughout her half-century-long career, has long embodied a quality near and dear to the queer community: perfection. After all, before “live your best life” was a meme, it was Stewart’s honed methodology. 

Could that affinity for precision and flawlessness – for the perfect Christmas ham, the perfect vegetable garden, the perfect dating persona – be why Stewart is very clued into the fact that many gay men perceive her as a mother figure? 

It’s a relationship worth exploring, and during my tight 15 minutes with Stewart I dove into the lifestyle maven’s personal affiliations with many LGBTQ people: her nephew, Christopher Herbert, as well as her dearest gay friends, whom she hosts at her various homes. While “in a car, so any confusion, blame the cell service,” Stewart, 76, was reflective and laid-back as she served up a savory platter of gay talk: Her age-appropriate philosophy on equality, gays who host Stewart at their get-togethers (she jokes, though she can’t possibly be kidding, that it “ups their game”), and her memories of transforming, unforgettably and stunningly, into ’40s film icon Veronica Lake for late, gay makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin. 

I’ve really appreciated the inclusivity on VH1’s Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, with guests ranging from LGBTQ icons like Patti LaBelle and Kathy Griffin to gay TV personality Ross Mathews and also Laverne Cox. How aware are you of being LGBTQ inclusive when it comes to this show and also your career as a whole? 

Oh, thank you. Well, we’re kind of in the showbiz world and being inclusive, that just sort of goes with the terrain. I don’t care who the person is; I care about what the person does, and how they do it. 

Martha Stewart Weddings magazine famously introduced same-sex couples into its pages in 2009, with Jeremy Hooper and Andrew Shulman sharing their vows with family and friends in Litchfield, Connecticut. Why was it important to be at the forefront of marriage equality in that way, and what did that moment mean to you? 

I believe in “all men are created equal.” I think I go back to the 1860s, and before! (Laughs) And I don’t think any compromise is necessary. I think it’s absolutely a fact that all men are created equal, and so I just treated people like equals my entire life. Equals in every single way, no matter what their proclivity is or what their sexuality is, or their color or their race. It doesn’t matter to me. 

That wedding issue was a big deal as it was one of the first mainstream wedding magazines to have featured a gay couple’s wedding, and then there was another in 2011. 

I know! And that was my nephew. That was Christopher Herbert marrying a Native American man (Timothy Long). 

Seeing as though gay marriage wasn’t even recognized legally coast to coast then, were Martha-worshipping housewives open to displays of same-sex affection?

It was legal in Massachusetts, where they actually got married. I went to their wedding. They had a pre-wedding in Massachusetts, which was the legal wedding, and then they had the family celebration at my farm, which was another tying of the knot. The ceremony and that Celtic tying of the knot was so beautiful.

Was that the best same-sex wedding you’ve been to?

I’d say it’s one of them – I’ve been to a lot! I mean, I have a lot of gay editors, both male and female. One of our style directors at Weddings got married and he had a fantastic wedding at a nightclub in Brooklyn. That was so fun, and that was also featured in the magazine. And I’ve been to several female weddings. You know, every wedding is special to me. 

Is it intimidating for people to host Martha Stewart at their wedding? 

I don’t know if it’s intimidating, but I think it ups their game a little bit! (Laughs)

What do you look for at a same-sex wedding? 

I like to see what the couple is wearing. I like to see how they handle relatives. But I don’t differentiate a gay wedding from a straight wedding. I just don’t differentiate. I just went to Steven Gambrel’s wedding. That was so beautiful! He’s a very famous, very wealthy interior designer, and he married his longtime partner at their beautiful home in Sag Harbor, Long Island. It was an extraordinary evening. The father of Steven’s partner got up and said, “This is our family’s first gay wedding,” and he said, “It’s a momentous occasion for our family and we embrace it.” It was one of the nicest father speeches I’ve heard at a wedding. Everybody sort of wanted to cry because he was visibly uncomfortable and yet accepting at the same time. It was very moving. 

You also attended out Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld’s A-list tribute party in October.  

Oh my god, that was a fantastic party! Mariah Carey singing! She sang a couple of songs for Karl dressed in a Chanel sequined dress that was, you know, perfectly clinging. It was beautiful, and Karl was so thrilled. 

Growing up in New Jersey in the ’40s and ’50s, what was your introduction to the LGBTQ community?

In my class, I knew that several of the boys were gay. It wasn’t talked about, and nobody made fun of them. Nutley High School was a pretty liberal but also quiet school, so there were some gay boys that we knew, and I think one or two girls. But they hadn’t come out, and the boys really were not out, if you want to use that word. But they were definitely gay. 

And then in our own family, I had one cousin who was gay who lives in Buffalo and then my nephew is gay, and I think even though he didn’t come out until college, we all sort of knew he was gay. My daughter who has radar like crazy, Alexis, who I’m sure you know, she knows. And my mother didn’t have a clue. It wasn’t part of her lifestyle. She just didn’t have those friends. 

Snoop Dogg has said that you love to get him drunk. Do you have a gay friend who’s especially good at getting you drunk? 

I don’t like getting drunk, so not necessarily, no. 


If I get tipsy, it’s probably because I haven’t eaten anything. I don’t get up saying, “Oh, I’m gonna get drunk today.” I just don’t do that. 

Is entertaining a group of sophisticated gay men the ultimate challenge? 

No. Again, I don’t differentiate if I have a group of gay men (over). I just don’t ever think that way. I don’t differentiate. (Artbag business owner) Christopher Moore came to my house recently with four gay friends just to look at the gardens and I gave them cappuccinos and they were happy. I actually didn’t have any food in the house, so I couldn’t give them anything to eat, but they were perfectly happy. I just don’t ever think that way. I don’t differentiate.

Wait, let’s back up, Martha. You didn’t have any food in your house?

Well, nothing except eggs. I could’ve made them scrambled eggs. I thought after, “I probably should have fed them something”... but I didn’t. (Laughs) 

Is it true that Cher was the one who convinced you to work with famous late, gay makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin when he photographed you as Veronica Lake for his 2000 book Face Forward?

No, I knew who Kevyn Aucoin was, and he was such an amazing makeup artist. And I like doing things like that. I have a face that can become other people. And I just thought, “Oh, god, what an opportunity.” He did such an amazing job. 

In the gay community and beauty world, those photos are quite legendary.

Oh, I know who it was! It was the guy who worked for me (Alex Peruzzi). He’s Linda Evangelista in the book – he was head of merchandising in my craft department. A very handsome boy. 

How do you reflect on that shoot? 

I didn’t know that Kevyn was suffering from a pretty hideous disease, but I did remark on the size of his hands. He had that disease that enlarged appendages. His hands, his feet, everything was oversized. And I couldn’t believe that someone with such monster hands – these big hands – could do such delicate makeup work, but he did. He did amazing, amazing work. It was an art form of his to see a structure of a face and turn it into another face. 

Looking back, have any gay people influenced your fondness for decadence or even your path to becoming a lifestyle icon? 

No, not really. Although when I was catering (Stewart launched a catering business in the ’70s) many of the young men who were my waiters were gay, and they still are. The gay community works a lot in the catering business in New York; they are either actors or artists and they need to make money, so they make money in catering. But they were all chosen on skill and aptitude for the kind of job they were doing, and they were all great. But my daughter and I both have lots of gay friends. My closest friend is Kevin Sharkey and he’s also like the surrogate uncle to Alexis (and her family) and he lives in their same building, and he’s Tio Kevin to them. I even introduce him playfully to friends as my gay son. 

I want to be Martha Stewart’s gay son.

Lots of his friends would like to be Martha’s gay son!  

How does one achieve Martha Stewart “gay son” status?

He’s worked for (me for) 18 years, that’s how! He worked his way up!

Allison Janney

Allison Janney Interview

  • December 25, 2017 - 12:43pm

Allison Janney shares many of your concerns, like, what’s up with the president’s wild contradictions and flat-out lies? And what will happen to the LGBTQ community under his administration? And, of course, something we’ve all wondered from time to time, and an issue she definitely plans on addressing with her agent soon, because it’s high time: “Where are all my lesbian roles?” 

Though her latest turn in I, Tonya is not queer by definition – but, as infamous figure-skating icon Tonya Harding’s mother (Harding is played by actress Margot Robbie), one of her very best and most Oscar-buzzy roles, so all is obviously forgiven – the chameleonic 58-year-old actress has delightedly dipped into some impressive gay fare both onstage and in film. 

Here, the beloved and soon-to-be-lesbian-somewhere Emmy winner discusses Harding as a queer icon, identifying with the LGBTQ community as an outsider herself and kissing “a lot of cool women.” 


LGBTQ people – we are all Tonya. 

Right? Everyone identifies with her. Everyone can identify with Tonya because she’s struggling to have a voice, and the powers that be deemed that she was not worthy of having a voice in the figure skating world, didn’t think she fit in. It’s so classic. And then the press vilified her and we were all told what to believe about her, and we kind of believed it, because it was the advent of the 24-hour news cycle. Just spoon-fed to us every day: Tonya, bad; Nancy – princess, good. 

So, to do this movie and to see all the different things that were at play in her life makes you have so much more empathy for her. And I was so excited to meet her at the premiere. She was there! I just wanted to hug her and hold her. Sometimes I’m not great with words, and I just wanted to hug her. 


You play her disapproving monster of a mother, LaVona Golden, which will strike a chord with many people in the LGBTQ community who have experienced parental disapproval because of their sexuality. 

Oh, sure!


Tonya has been called a gay icon. Do you see her as a gay icon?

I never have thought about it before, but now that you’re saying it, I understand the reasons why she would be.


She wanted to be loved for who she was. 

Wanting to be loved for who she was! Absolutely, I can see why it would resonate with the gay community – with women too. With anyone who has felt like an underdog or not felt like they had a voice. 

As I talk about this movie more and more to people like yourself, I’m learning more about it and why it’s resonating right now. It’s also the concept of truth and what that is, and you know, the media told us what to believe was true and we did, and now in this time that we’re living in with the president (being) wildly contradictory – it’s phenomenal to me what’s going on in the country and in our discourse, and (sighs) I just feel it’s one of the most divisive, scary times I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime, certainly. 


You mentioned Tonya as the “underdog,” a word you have also used to describe yourself. 



Do you think that has anything to do with why you’ve attracted a doting LGBTQ following? 

Maybe that’s it! I was always just told I was too tall to act and told I wasn’t pretty enough, that I didn’t have enough edge. Didn’t have this, that. Everyone in the business told me that, and it was heartbreaking to me; and yet I tried to find other things to do, but this was really the only thing I was really meant to be, this time ’round (laughs). 

I think it might also just be the characters that I get to play. Some of them speak to the community because they are that underdog character – now I’m trying to make up a theory out of something I haven’t thought about (laughs). But I also think it’s that I love to bring the humanity to every character I play. 


I’m sure that your gay fans also appreciate that you seem to enjoy randomly kissing women. 

I do! (Laughs) Oh my gosh, I don’t know if you’ve seen my kiss with Cloris Leachman but that is, like, the best kiss. 


Better than Kate Winslet even?

How about that moment?! That floored me. And I just thought, “Did she just say my name?” (Winslet gushed about Janney at the Hollywood Film Awards in November.) It was one of the funniest moments for me, and I thought, “How can I not just go up and kiss her?” I mean, Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet – I’ve kissed a lot of cool women, and men! 


In our 2016 interview, Meryl Streep told me kissing you was a real “perk.” 

She said “perk”? I love her! 


Is that what all the women say about kissing you?

I don’t know! Meryl is the only one I’ve gotten feedback on. Actually, no, Rosie! I got to kiss Rosie. Rosie said I was a good kisser. And Rosie O’Donnell is a great kisser, I have to say. She’s a very good kisser. On (the CBS sitcom) Mom, she plays a woman that I used to have a relationship with and there’s one episode where I kiss her a couple of times and it was really – she’s a good kisser! (Laughs) 


What was the moment in your career you knew you had an LGBTQ following?

I feel like (1999’s) Drop Dead Gorgeous was the start of that for me. And it was a slow dawning, awakening, realization that was happening, and I thought that was the highest show of honor to be embraced by the gay community. It was like, “OK, you guys know.” 

To me, it’s a high honor to be recognized and embraced by the gay community. I don’t want to say something stereotypical, but a lot of the men that I know who are my dear friends have a real appreciation for women who are strong and powerful and kickass. They really, really love strong women. They’re not afraid of women the way that some heterosexual men are. But they love a strong dame. They love a dame! So, that’s high praise. It’s high praise coming from the gays. So I am thrilled that I am in that club. 


Of the lesbian characters you’ve played, from Sally in The Hours to your lesbian roles in stage productions like Eve Ensler’s Ladies and Alan Ball’s Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, which do you wish you could’ve gotten to know more?

Probably my character in The Hours with Meryl. I would’ve liked to have gotten to know Sally and really explored that relationship. You know, my famous story with her with that kiss is that she gave me a facelift. She didn’t like the way we were lit in the scene and she said, “I’m gonna do you a favor, honey.” So she placed her hands on the side of my face and lifted it ever so gently. When you watch it next, look at that – it’s pretty great. A little Meryl lift. I got a little lift from Meryl. It was fantastic. 


If you were to play another lesbian role, who would be your ideal co-star?

Whoa. Well, I kind of have a girl crush on Margot Robbie right now! (Laughs) She is so talented and so friggin’ beautiful – it’s kind of remarkable. I just find myself staring at her, like, how can anything be that beautiful? And she’s a really good actress, and you know, why not? Margot is on my mind right now, so I’m saying Margot. 


There have been Tonya Harding impersonators, and after this film, I fully expect a few LaVona Golden queens. 

Oh my god, do you really?


Her name alone is made for the stage at some gay bar, don’t you think?

It is a great name: LaVona! There was already someone on Halloween who dressed as LaVona. It was on Twitter and it made me laugh. It was a guy who dressed as LaVona, with the bowl haircut and the bird and the fur coat. It’s a real unique look. 


Does looking the part help you get into character?

Oh god, yes. With that, especially. It was three hours of hair and makeup getting that look with the bird, and it was really liberating too. I thought I was gonna be horrified and not be able to look at myself in the mirror, and it was fascinating – I wanted to look at myself all the time! I was like, “God, this is so cool!” It felt just so different, and I didn’t see myself. I felt really confident in doing what I had to do. The look was so perfect and so great, and it made me excited to do my scenes. 


I hope you got to keep a piece of LaVona. 

I didn’t! But I was thinking about seeing if that bird could be adopted because I kind of fell in love with him. He lives in southern Georgia and he’s so lovely. But I do have three dogs and I don’t want there to be an unfortunate situation there.


Yeah, maybe give it to somebody who doesn’t have an animal that will eat it.

Yes! That’s always something to think about before you get a bird. (Laughs) 


You’ve said you like to use your platform and acting to support important causes, which you’ve done in projects like 2009’s Funny or Die’s Prop 8 – The Musical. Do you recall the point in your life or career when you became passionate about queer issues?

I have so many gay friends in my world, and having such close friends in the gay community made me more aware of different issues. So, I’d naturally get involved through my friends. It happened when I came out to L.A. and I was doing West Wing. Once you start becoming someone – you know, a celebrity person – you realize, “Actually, I could help just by showing up there and by doing this.” It was a wonderful thing to realize, that I could use my name for something good other than the acting. 


Does it feel even more important right now to take on projects that can make a difference?

Yes, yes! It really does. And I don’t know what I’m gonna be asked to do next, but I hope that I will be able to contribute. 


I think now is the right time for another lesbian role, just sayin’.

OK, alright. I’m gonna start looking for one. Will you start looking for one for me? Should I do a biopic of – I’m trying to think, what lesbian should I play? I think it’s gotta be a character that’s not written yet. 


Considering your trove of lesbian parts, I’m surprised lesbian roles aren’t just rolling in for you. 

I don’t know – I don’t think so! I’m gonna have to call my agent: “Where are all my lesbian roles?” Oh, a pioneering lesbian! Amelia Earhart. I don’t know if she was. I’m gonna get on that though. I’m gonna start looking. That’s a good thing to put in my head.