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Transgender hairstylist continues to give back

Brandi Ahzionae works as apprentice in Maryland salon

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Brandi Ahzionae, Gay News, Washington Blade
Brandi Ahzionae, Gay News, Washington Blade

Transgender hairstylist apprentice Brandi Ahzionae has been working with Consuella Lopez to pursue her dreams. (Photo courtesy of Brandi Ahzionae)

Brandi Ahzionae of Southeast D.C. was at the official launch of the city’s transgender rights campaign at Mova on 14th Street, N.W., last September when she met Montgomery County hairstylist Consuella Lopez.

Lopez, who appeared in the campaign the D.C. Office of Human Rights created, began speaking with Ahzionae through Facebook and other social media networks.

Consuella Lopez, gay news, Washington Blade

Consuella Lopez at her Bethesda, Md., studio on June 17. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Ahzionae, who had just enrolled in Project Empowerment, a D.C. jobs initiative designed to reduce unemployment and poverty rates among trans Washingtonians, declined Lopez’s invitation to model for a calendar she was producing for Casa Ruby, a multicultural LGBT community center in Northwest Washington. Lopez subsequently invited Ahzionae to become her apprentice at Nivál Salon and Spa in Chevy Chase, Md., where she worked at the time.

She accepted the offer.

“She was like, what do you want to do with your life?” Ahzionae told the Washington Blade during a recent interview. “We talked more about that. She was like, great, I can help you do that. She then pulled me to the salon and then started the apprenticeship thing and it’s been great ever sense.”

Ahzionae now works alongside Lopez in the studio she opened inside an old dance studio near Bethesda Row in Bethesda, Md., in May.

Lopez, who is a licensed senior stylist in Maryland, is able to license Ahzionae as an apprentice for two years. Ahzionae will be able to obtain her own license at the end of her two-year apprenticeship in May 2015 if she passes a test.

In the meantime, Ahzionae is attending classes once a week at Aesthetics Institute of Cosmetology in Gaithersburg, Md., that the school’s director offered to her for free.

“We are working together as a team now,” Ahzionae said, adding she has also begun to build her own clientele. “I am her left hand in the salon.”

Lopez, who transitioned in 1992 when she was 18, began working in hair salons as an assistant when she was a child.

She and a friend in 2006 opened a salon and day spa in Georgetown that closed after 19 months. Lopez subsequently began working at Nivál – formerly the Ted Gibson Salon and Hela Spa – in Chevy Chase in 2008.

Lopez – who has worked with Anna Wintour, Patricia Arquette, Tracy Edmonds, Mila Kunis, Mindy Cohen, the Real Housewives of D.C. and other celebrities – told the Blade during an interview at her studio late last month that she feels it is important to provide trans people opportunities that “most girls don’t have.”

Ahzionae became homeless after her mother died when she was 13. She was also incarcerated for what she described as the “result of lifestyle.”

“I don’t want that to happen to anybody,” Lopez told the Blade. “If I were in that situation I would want someone to help me.”

She further stressed she believes in Ahzionae and “she has shown me.”

“She shows up to work, daily, in and out,” Lopez said. “She is working it right and still having clients in between.”

“I think she’s doing really, really well,” Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado, who has worked with Lopez since 2011, told the Blade on Tuesday. “I’m so glad that she found Consuella who’s mentoring her.”

As for Ahzionae, she hopes she will be able to continue to give back to her community.

She had written for VenusPlusX, a website co-founded by D.C. activists Alison Gardner and Dan Massey that advocates for sexual freedom.

Ahzione now produces a newsletter called the DMV Trans Circulator that seeks to create what its website describes as a “trans community inside and outside the prison walls in D.C., Md., and Va.” that is “free from imprisonment, police violence, racism and poverty.” She recently received a grant from the Diverse City Fund, which supports groups that work among communities of color.

Ahzione also looks to continue to give back at the salon and the clients with whom she works.

“My job is to make everything OK,” she said. “If I drop the ball, everything goes wrong. There’s a lot of work to be done, but I welcome the challenge and I think I’m tackling it pretty well.”

Ahzione also remains thankful to Lopez for inviting her to work with her.

“People don’t care about trans women trying to make a difference,” she said.” They don’t care and she does.”

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Comings & Goings

Conner promoted to manager of Scott Circle Communications

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Robert Conner

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

Congratulations to Robert Conner, promoted to manager of Scott Circle Communications. On his promotion Conner said, “I’m proud to be promoted to manager of Scott Circle Communications. Our clients are all mission-driven. I am fortunate to use my expertise to help clients communicate complex and urgent information to the public in order to help people learn about new research relating to their health, and the society around them. As an activist fighting for equality and LGBTQ causes, my daily work at Scott Circle Communications aligns with my overarching life goal of using communication to benefit the greater good by writing clearly to bridge misunderstandings.” 

Conner previously worked at SKDKnickerbocker in D.C. Prior to that he had been an intern in the office of Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.).  He has had a number of speaking engagements with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and received a bronze Bulldog Award for Best Media Relations Campaign 2022. He served as chair of the volunteer engagement committee of the Human Rights Campaign in Greater Philadelphia.

Conner earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pa.

Congratulations also to Christopher Rudolf who joined Atlantic Shores Sotheby’s International Realty in Ocean City, Md. Rudolph is a licensed Realtor in Maryland and Delaware specializing in the beaches and coastal areas of Worcester County, Md., and Sussex County, Del. He said, “I have been assisting buyers and sellers of real estate in our area since 2015. I thoroughly enjoy helping people achieve their dreams of coastal property ownership. The Maryland/Delaware seashore is a very cool place that I like to call home, and teaching people about the history and attractions of the region is a lifelong passion of mine.”  

In addition to real estate in the warm months, Rudolf works part-time as a manager at The Kite Loft of Ocean City. He was appointed to the Ocean City Board of Zoning Appeals in 2013 by Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, and recently was elected chair of the board.  

He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Salisbury University in Maryland.  

Christopher Rudolf
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Maryland

Lesbian candidate trails by just 17 votes in Hyattsville Council race

Election board mum on whether all ballots are counted

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Lisbeth Melendez Rivera (Photo courtesy of the Melendez Rivera Campaign)

Lesbian activist and diversity consultant Lisbeth Melendez Rivera was behind her closet rival by just 17 votes on Tuesday night in a three-candidate special election to fill a vacant seat on the Hyattsville, Md., City Council.

In what it said were the unofficial results of the special election, the Hyattsville Board of Supervisors of Elections posted on its website that candidate Emily Strab had 280 votes, Melendez Rivera had 263 votes, and candidate Kelly Burello had 152 votes. Three votes were cast for write-in candidates, the election night posting said.

“Results are unofficial until certified by the Board of Supervisors of Election,” the posting said. The certification was scheduled to take place at 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6.

The online posting of the results did not say whether there were any outstanding votes from absentee or mail-in ballots. A spokesperson for the election board couldn’t immediately be reached Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

The Ward 2 seat on the 10-member Hyattsville Council in the Prince George’s County suburban city became vacant when the incumbent Council member, Robert Croslin, won election as mayor.

Melendez Rivera currently operates BQN Consulting, a firm she created to provide support services related to organizing, training and capacity building, according to the firm’s website. The website says that from 2014 to 2017 she served as Director of Latinx & Catholic Initiatives for the Human Rights Campaign, the D.C.-based national LGBTQ advocacy organization.

“I congratulated Emily,” Melendez Rivera told the Washington Blade Wednesday morning.

 “Have I said this is the end? No, because I want to wait until tomorrow at 1 to see the outcome,” she said.

“What I know is everything that was available to them was counted as of 9:30 last night,” she said, referring to the election board. “There is a process today. They will do a last check of the mail to see if anything was postmarked before 8 p.m. last night,” Melendez Rivera said in referring to possible additional mail-in ballots.

Melendez Rivera said she portrayed herself as the most progressive of the three candidates running for the nonpartisan City Council seat in a city that many consider to be one of the most progressive jurisdictions in the Washington metro area. Residents starting at age 16 and non-citizen immigrants are allowed to vote in local elections.

Like Melendez Rivera, Strab, a former teacher and school administrator, and Burello, who has worked as a workplace diversity trainer, each expressed support for Hyattsville’s diverse population, including racial minorities and immigrants.

The 698 total votes cast in the special election as of Tuesday night is considered a low turnout in the Ward 2 election district, which has a little over 2,000 registered voters.

This story will be updated when new information becomes available.

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District of Columbia

Gay ANC commissioner nominated for director of D.C. Office of ANCs

Confirmation hearing set for Oct. 12

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Ward 1 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kent Boese (Photo courtesy of Boese)

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) on Sept. 19 introduced a resolution nominating gay law librarian and Ward 1 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kent Boese to become executive director of the D.C. Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.

The ANC Office director, who is nominated and confirmed by the Council, oversees the operations of the city’s 40 ANCs, which consist of nearly 300 commissioners representing single member ANC districts located in neighborhoods throughout each of the city’s eight wards.

Boese currently represents ANC Single Member District 1A08 in Ward 1.

Shawn Hilgendorf, staff director of the D.C. Council Committee on Government Operations and Facilities, which has jurisdiction over the Office of ANCs, said Mendelson nominated Boese for the Executive Director’s position after the committee earlier this year accepted applications for the position and “interviewed a number of candidates.”

The Council’s Committee of the Whole, which is chaired by Mendelson, is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for Boese on Oct. 12, Hilgendorf said. The committee consists of all 13 members of the Council. If it approves Boese’s nomination, as expected, the full Council is expected to then take a final vote on the resolution calling for Boese’s appointment.

Boese is a former president of the D.C. Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest local LGBTQ political group, which has since changed its name to the Capital Stonewall Democrats. In 2018, Boese ran unsuccessfully as a candidate for the Ward 1 D.C. Council seat in the Democratic primary.

A resumé for Boese submitted to the Council at the time of his nomination says he has worked since August 2008 as a law librarian, manager of technical services, and manager of library services for the D.C. law firm Wiley Rein.

“I’m honored & humbled by the confidence & support I’ve received from Chairman Mendelson during the selection process for a new Director of OANC,” Boese wrote in a Twitter posting. “I’m excited to leverage my ANC experience & relationships to build stronger supports & new services for ANCs across DC.”

Created under the city’s Home Rule Charter in the 1970s, ANCs serve as non-partisan, unpaid bodies that advise city government agencies on a variety of issues impacting neighborhoods, including zoning, trash collection, liquor license approval, and public safety. Although D.C. government agencies make the final decisions on these issues, they are required to give “great weight” to the recommendations of the ANCs.   

ANC commissioners are elected to two-year terms by the approximately 2,000 people who live in their Single Member Districts.

The director of the ANC Office oversees the administrative affairs, including the budgets, for all of the ANCs. The position became vacant last year when its longtime director Gottlieb Simon resigned. The Council appointed Schannette Grant as interim executive director while it conducted its search for a permanent director.

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