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Towns within a few hours’ drive of D.C. have major Pride events planned

From Shepardstown to Norfolk, festivities abound



regional Pride events, gay news, Washington Blade

Baltimore Pride (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Not Prided out yet? Willing to hop in the car for a road trip? This weekend and the following have major Pride events planned in Shepherdstown, W.Va.,; Baltimore; Norfolk, Va.; and Frederick, Md.

W.Va.’s Panhandle Pride runs this weekend

regional Pride events, gay news, Washington Blade

Under new leadership, Panhandle Pride moves to downtown Shepherdstown. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

MARTINSBURG — West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle Pride is significantly different this year with new leadership and all new events.

Pride here started five years ago organized by the now-dormant Eastern Panhandle LGBTQ Alliance of West Virginia under the leadership of John Mason, a former minister. A Pride day was held in Morgan’s Grove Park in Shepherdstown, W.Va., a small college town about 73 miles from Washington, with live music, drag performances and a small festival. The Panhandle encompasses West Virginia’s Berkeley, Morgan and Jefferson counties.

At last year’s event, Mason said illness prevented him from continuing and asked for others to volunteer to take the reins. Over the winter, a new group formed and is offering four main events this year:

• Vendor Street Fair is Saturday, June 16 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. featuring queer artisans, networking opportunities and live performances. DJ Jerrbear, a staple of Panhandle Pride who’s emceed all four previous years, will host. Luscious Purr, Michael Ratliff and Darrell Russ will perform.

• A Pride Float is planned for Saturday, June 16 from 2-6 p.m. Interested parties can meet at the Shepherdstown Library (100 E. German St.) at 2 p.m. with bathing suit in tow. River Riders will provide inner tubes and bus rides to and from the river. Cost is $36 per rider. Call 304-535-2663 to book a spot. The code is “Pride Float.”

• A Disco Party will be held Saturday night from 9 p.m.-1 a.m. at Domestic (117 E. German St., Shepherdstown). DJ Sidekick will spin. It’s free but a $5 donation is suggested.

• On Sunday, June 17, a Brunch & Art Exhibit will be held from 1-4 p.m. at the Town Run Tap House and Community Pub. Singer Chelsea McBee will perform. The Tap House will feature art from local LGBT youth.

Full details for all events is on Facebook — just search “Eastern Panhandle Pride 2018.”

Alex Orton and his partner Rod Snyder have helped organize the new group along with former state Del. Stephen Skinner (D-W.Va.) and Shepherdstown business owner Mark Harding, who leads the planning committee.

“We’re just a group of people here who really wanted to make sure this event continues in our area,” Orton says. “This is our first year bringing Pride into town and we want to make sure it’s a success.”

Flooding in the region prevented a drag show as has been held in previous years. Orton says they plan to have one later in the summer. A few hundred attended last year’s event. The decision was made to move from the park into town to increase LGBT visibility.

“We thought about bringing them to the brunch, but we didn’t want to do something half-way,” he says. “We want to take time to give that event the respect it deserves.”

DJ Jerrbear (aka Jarvis Jerry Leland Brooks) says he’s honored to continue emceeing.

“Eastern Panhandle Pride has always been one of my favorite events that I would headline and donate my time to each year,” he says. “I’ve seen what an impact showing love, sharing your talent or gifts at these events has over others because I know how it touches and blesses me.”

Mason says there’s no hard feelings.

“Our organization was very happy to turn over responsibility for Pride to the new Panhandle Pride organization,” he says. “We’ve offered them any help they need and we’re very happy with the job that they’ve done.”

Coming up in Shepherdstown, this year’s installment of the Contemporary American Theater Festival (July 6-29) features two plays with LGBT characters/themes — the unusually timely “The Cake” by Bekah Brunstetter and “Thirst” by C.A. Johnson. Details at

— Joey DiGuglielmo

Hampton Roads Pride turns 30

Events near Norfolk, Va., kick off next week. (Photo via Hampton Roads Pride Facebook)

Hampton Roads Pride celebrates 30 years of Pride with a week’s worth of events on the theme “Stand Up Stand Out 30 Years Strong” starting Thursday, June 21. The organization’s first Pride event was organized by the social and political group, Our Own Community Press, who brought a June potluck picnic to the community in 1986. The tradition of a summertime festival began in 1988. 

Since then, the festival has expanded welcoming an estimated 30,000 guests to its celebration in 2017. It’s also the only Pride organization in the United States to host a Pride Boat Parade.

Hampton Roads Pride gets an early start with the Chrysler Kickoff at the Chrysler Museum of Art (1 Memorial Pl., Norfolk, Va.) on Thursday, June 21 from 6-9 p.m. Guests can pose with the LOVE sign outside and then go inside for a cash bar, food and live music by DJ Melody & Co., Ju Ju Drum and more. There will be a Make & Take table where attendees can create their own flags. The event is free for museum members and Hampton Roads Pride members. $5 for non-members.

Croc’s 19th Street Bistro (620 19th St. Virginia Beach, Va.) hosts a Pride Drag Brunch on Sunday, June 24 with showtimes at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The Pride pre-party will have a fundraiser, raffle prizes, food, drinks and more. 

Beach Beats and Brews is at Smartmouth Pilot House (313 32nd St., Virginia Beach, Va.) on Monday, June 25 from 6-9 p.m. Details on this event will be announced closer to the event date.

The Hampton Roads LGBT InterFaith Group hosts its sixth annual Interfaith Celebration at the New Life Metropolitan Community Church (1000 Sunset Dr., Norfolk, Va.) on Tuesday, June 26 at 7 p.m. The service is open to all faith communities, members of the LGBT community and allies. An ASL interpreter will be provided. 

Hampton Road Pride and Pride on the Peninsula present Pride 30, a reflection of the last 30 years of Pride in the Hampton Roads area, at the Virginia Air & Space Museum Library (600 Settlers Landing Rd., Hampton, Va.) on Wednesday, June 27 from 4-6 p.m. Keynote speaker Dr. Charles Ford will lead an open moderated discussion on Pride history. 

The fourth annual Pride Party on the Peninsula is at Carousel Park (602 Settlers Landing Rd., Hampton, Va.) on Wednesday, June 27 from 6-8 p.m. There will be free rides on the historic Hampton Carousel, free food and drinks. Later in the evening, attendees can board the Miss Hampton II for the second annual Drag Down the River Boat Cruise. 

Crafty Queen Weekend Wind-Up is at O’Connor Brewing Company (211 West 24th St., Norfolk, Va.) on Thursday, June 28 from 6-10 p.m. Details will be announced closer to the event. 

The seventh annual Pride Block Party is at Norfolk Scope Arena (201 East Brambleton Ave., Norfolk, Va.) on Friday, June 29 from 7 p.m.-midnight. Advance tickets are $12 before June 25 and tickets at the door are $15. 

The Pride Boat Parade kicks off PrideFest along the Town Point Park (113 Waterside Dr., Norfolk, Va.) waterfront on Saturday, June 30 at noon. Small and large boats will travel along the waterfront with themed decorations. The “Out on the Boat” party on the American Rover (333 Waterside Dr., Norfolk, Va.) follows the festivities. 

PrideFest is on Saturday, June 20 from noon-7 p.m. at Town Point Park (113 Waterside Dr., Norfolk, Va.). “Empire” star Jussie Smollett headlines the music festival. There will also be a performance from the Hampton Roads Pride Mass Choir, a local LGBT history and walking tour, family games, vendors and more. 

For more information on Hampton Roads Pride, visit 

— Mariah Cooper

Baltimore Pride is this weekend

Baltimore Pride (Washington Blade photo by Chris Jennings)

Tonight Baltimore kicks off its 43rd annual Pride weekend. One of the oldest U.S. Prides, Baltimore Pride began in 1975 with a rally of about a dozen activists. It has since grown tremendously over the past four decades, with about 30,000 people at last year’s festivities, and organizers are expecting an even greater turn-out over the weekend. This year’s theme, “United We Shine,” is about celebrating similarities and differences and embracing community as a means of combating injustice. 

The weekend begins tonight with several pride festivities, including a fashion show (7-10 p.m., 2 N. Charles St.), drag show (8:30-10 p.m., 10 W. Franklin St.) and fetish party (9 p.m.-2 a.m., 2022 N. Charles St.) to name a few. And Saturday and Sundayare equally packed from start to finish. 

Saturday begins at 12:30 p.m. at 25 St. and N. Charles St. with a race in which men wear not-made-for-racing heels of at least two inches to mark the official beginning of Pride weekend. To participate, sign up at 

The day continues from there with Saturday’s main event, the Pride Parade, with floats, musicians, civic leaders and more marching South on Charles St. from 33rd to 23rd. This year’s grand marshals are Shawnna Alexander, three-time winner of Best of Baltimore Drag Queen; and Davon Fleming, Baltimore native and semi-finalist on NBC’s reality singing competition “The Voice.” 

Saturday also marks the Pride Block Party (4 p.m., Charles St. and 22 St.), headlined by Miami Tip, Taylor Bennett and TT the Artist and featuring Grand Marshall Devon Fleming. Tailgating will also be available from 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. at the Lez Lot (1915 N. Howard St.) with food trucks on site. Tickets are available at for $20 and include two attendees; each additional person will be $5 (cash-only) at the door. 

Sunday marks the annual Pride Festival (noon-6 p.m., Druid Hill Park), an all-day celebration with music headlined by Tish Hyman — native Bronx rapper best known for her song “Dreams” featuring Ty Dolla $ign — a drag stage, exhibitors and local food trucks. 

Both Family Pride and Elder Pride will also take place beginning at noon on Sunday at Druid Hill Park, offering a chance to celebrate elders of the LGBT community and educate the next generation about its history. For a map with specific locations within the park for each event, visit 

While official Baltimore Pride festivities run just this weekend, there are lots of unofficial parties and events throughout the rest of June in celebration of Pride month. For a comprehensive list of all events, visit or

— Grace Perry

Frederick Pride continues to grow in Maryland

Frederick Center, gay news, Washington Blade

Frederick Pride (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Frederick Pride, now in its seventh year, is Saturday, June 23 from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. at Carroll Creek Linear Park in downtown Frederick, Md. 

Organizers are expecting up to 8,000 attendees and about 100 participating organizations. Admittance is free and families and allies are welcome. All attendees receive a Frederick Pride rainbow bracelet from welcome stations at each major park entry. 

There will be two entertainment areas featuring bands, drag shows, DJs, dancing and more at both the Carroll Street Amphitheater and the Market Street venue. The musical headliner is transgender country singer Brody Ray, who auditioned for both “American Idol” and “The Voice” as well as advanced to the celebrity judge auditions of “America’s Got Talent.” Chi Chi DeVayne, from season eight of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” (and season three “All Stars”) is the drag headliner. 

The keynote speaker is Rebecca King, a community storytelling advocate for the National Center for Transgender Equality. 

Organized group youth activities will be located near East Street. 

food court featuring beer and wine will be next to the amphitheater. Official Pride merchandise from the Frederick Center, the LGBT non-profit that organizes Frederick Pride, will be available. Proceeds will go toward supporting local LGBT community center programs. 

For more information, visit 

— Abby Wargo

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Final season of ‘Pose’ is must-see TV that matters

Groundbreaking FX drama has left its mark



When the COVID pandemic hit in the early months of 2020, there were certainly more pressing and essential worries for us to grapple with than how it would impact the next season of a TV show. Yet it’s a testament to the power of “Pose” that many among its legion of fans were at least as concerned about the show’s disruption as they were about the possibility of running out of toilet paper.

The powerhouse FX drama — which spotlights the legends, icons and ferocious house mothers of New York’s underground ball culture in the late 1980s — had already made history. Not only did it feature the largest cast of transgender actors in regular roles, it boasted the largest recurring cast of LGBTQ actors ever included in a scripted series. In its first two seasons, the show racked up accolades and honors (including a Primetime Emmy for Billy Porter as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series) while breaking new ground for the inclusion and representation of queer people — and especially transgender people of color — in television, both in front of the camera, and behind it. With the end of its second season in August 2019, fans were hungry for a third — but thanks to COVID, its future was suddenly in question.

So, when word came that the show’s third season would have its debut on May 2, it was the best news since finding out the vaccines were finally going to start rolling out. But it was bittersweet: Along with confirmation of the series’ imminent return came the sad revelation that the new season would also be the last. “Pose” would be coming to an end with a final, seven-episode arc.

As any viewer of show can attest, there were a lot of threads left hanging when last we saw its characters. That means there’s a lot of ground to cover in these last chapters in order to give everyone — characters and audience alike — the closure they deserve.

The show’s official synopsis goes like this: It’s now 1994 and ballroom feels like a distant memory for Blanca, who struggles to balance being a mother with being a present partner to her new love, as well as her latest role as a nurse’s aide. Meanwhile, as AIDS becomes the leading cause of death for Americans ages 25 to 44, Pray Tell contends with unexpected health burdens. Meanwhile, a vicious new upstart house is emerging in the ballroom world, and the members of the House of Evangelista are forced to contend their legacy.

Obviously, there are a lot of details left hidden in that broad overview, and fans are undoubtedly full of questions about what they can expect to see.

Fortunately, the bulk of the show’s main cast convened on Zoom last week (along with show co-creator and Executive Producer Steven Canals and Executive Producer Janet Mock) for a press conference to discuss their “Pose” experience, and while they didn’t exactly give away any spoilers, they definitely dropped some tantalizing hints about what’s in store for audiences in the farewell season.

In truth, most of the discussion was dominated by reminiscences and expressions of mutual appreciation, sure signs that the feeling of family we see onscreen is something that has taken hold off screen, as well. But in between the affectionate banter, the cast and creatives addressed several questions that might be most on viewers’ minds.

Perhaps the most pressing of these — why, after only three seasons, is the critic-and-audience-acclaimed show calling it quits? — was taken on by Canals, who explained:

“I always knew what the beginning and what the end of the narrative would be. And when Ryan Murphy and I first met in September of 2016, we felt really strongly that that particular narrative made sense. And so, while we certainly could have continued to create narrative around these characters and in this world, and we certainly had a conversation in the writers’ room about it … I think we all agreed that it just made sense for us to ‘land the plane,’ if you will, comfortably — as opposed to continuing to give an audience story that just simply didn’t have any real core intention or a real thrust towards specificity.”

Also of interest was the obvious subject of how the parallels between the current pandemic and the AIDS crisis that looms over the show’s narrative might be reflected in the new episodes. While he didn’t hint at any direct connections in “Pose,” Porter used the subject to underscore a theme that has always been one of the show’s most important elements:

“I think the parallels are quite profound. I know that as a Black gay man who lived through the AIDS crisis, I have been dealing with a lot of PTSD during this COVID time. It’s very reminiscent of what it was like then. The best news about that is that I survived. We got through it, and there is another side to it. We can get to the other side.

“I feel like that’s what ‘Pose’ really accomplishes this season, reminding the public that it’s when we come together and when we lead with love [that] we get to the other side.”

Mock elaborated on the theme of resilience by discussing the importance of showing the strength of House mothers like Blanca and Electra (Dominique Jackson), who hold together — and lift up — their entire community:

“It’s that matriarchal power and lineage that I think the ballroom is, and what trans women are to one another, that then feeds everyone else and enables them to shine and have all the things that they want in the world. For me, it is [about] that celebration […] of Black trans women — that they’ve created this space, that they brought everyone else in with them, and that, at the end of the day, they are often the ones most often forgotten.

“I think with this season, I want everyone across the industry, the audience, to realize that. I think it’s essential, and it’s important.”

Mock also talked about the way “Pose” focuses on the small, day-to-day lives of its characters as much as it does the larger-than-life splendor of the ballroom culture in which they participate:

“We wanted to ensure that we show the everyday, mundane moments, as well as the great, grand celebrations. The ballroom is are presentation of what it means to congregate and share testimony and to love on each other, and our show is a celebration of the everyday intimacies. So, for us, while we were plotting these big, grand moments […] we wanted to bring in traditions — weddings, matrimony, all this stuff — that our characters get to engage in. We wanted to be a part of the tradition of that, and all the moments that a family shares together. We wanted to make sure that all of those things were celebrated in this.”

When discussion turned to the unprecedented level of support and collaborative inclusion with which the show’s queer cast were bestowed by Ryan Murphy and the rest of the creative staff — from the presence of trans women like Mock and Co-producer Our Lady J in the writers’ room to the extensive reliance on the insights and talents of real-life members of the ballroom community — Jackson was quick to add that besides giving the show its ferocious authenticity, it gave her an increased recognition of her own worth:

“I will never, ever, ever walk into a space thinking that I need to impress them […] I will never walk into a space being fearful of my identity stopping me from anything. Because of this journey, when I walk into spaces now, my identity is not because I’m an abomination. My identity is a plus. My identity is my value. So, when I walk into spaces now,they need to impress me. You can be the biggest Hollywood director, producer, whatever, but you’re not going to take my story or relay stories that are reflective of my life or my existence and make them into anything you want, because of ‘Pose,’ because of Ryan, because of Steven, because of Janet and Brad [co-creator/executive producer Falchuk), because of Our Lady J, because of my cast members.

“I will never walk into spaces or live a life or an existence thinking that I need to impress anyone.”

Porter concurred, adding:

“There was never, ever a space in my brain to dream what‘Pose’ is, what Pray Tell is. I spent the first 25-plusyears of my career trying to fit into a masculinity construct that society placed on us so I could eat.‘Pose,’ and Pray Tell in particular, really taught me to dream the impossible […] the idea that the little, Black church sissy from Pittsburgh is now in a position of power in Hollywood in a way that never existed before. You can damn sure believe that I will be wielding that power and there will be a difference and a change in how things go from here on out.”

If the cast members themselves have found themselves feeling more empowered thanks to “Pose,” so too have the millions of LGBTQ people — and allies — who have tuned into it since its premiere in 2018. The show is one of those rare entries into the cultural lexicon that simply allows its queer and trans people to live authentic lives, giving long-withheld representation to countless viewers who were able to see themselves reflected back from the screen for perhaps the very first time. It’s that powerful sense of validation provided by “Pose” that keeps it standing tall in an entertainment market now providing so much LGBTQ inclusion that it’s becoming dangerously easy to take it for granted.

Whatever moments of heartbreak, joy, and celebration “Pose” brings us as it plays out its final act — and there are sure to be many — we can all be sure it will leave us with a message expressed through an oft-heard line of dialogue that Mock says she found herself writing “over and over again” during the series’ run:

“You are everything, and you deserve everything this world has to offer.” It’s that nurturing sentiment the “Pose” has been instilling in us from the beginning, like a mother to us all.

And that’s why so many of us can’t wait until the first two episodes of its final season air at 10 p.m. (both Eastern and Pacific), Sunday, May 2, on FX.

The final season of “Pose” will begin to air on FX on Sunday, May 2, at 10 p.m. ET. (Photos courtesy of FX)

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At 75, John Waters has no plans to retire

‘I’d go nuts if I didn’t work’



When writer and filmmaker John Waters turned 70 five years ago, he said he took six friends on a first-class trip to Paris for his birthday and “we had the best time.”

This year, for his 75th birthday on April 22, he was going to take his friends to Rome but the COVID-19 pandemic got in the way and they couldn’t all travel.

Instead, a friend is having a small dinner party for him in New York City, and he’s going with a friend. “Everybody has had their shots, and that’s what I’m going to do…It will be low-key this year.”

The older he gets, he said, the less he cares about making a big fuss out of every birthday anyway.

“What difference does it make? Old means old. It doesn’t matter which one.”

Though he’s taking some time to celebrate his 75th birthday, Waters has no plans to retire.

“No, God no,” he said last weekend while on a Zoom call with fans from London. “I jump out of bed every morning. It hurts to jump out of bed. I have aches and pains. But no, I’d go nuts if I didn’t work.”

That’s probably just as well because he has a lot going on. Between shooting episodes of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” getting ready for film festivals in several cities, planning a guided tour in Provincetown, and preparing for an exhibit of his private art collection at the Baltimore Museum of Art, he’s staying busy.

The ultimate multitasker, he didn’t even stop working when he went for a COVID vaccination recently.

“I signed an autograph when I was getting the shot,” he said. “Well, not at the moment, but right before.”

In a Zoom session organized by London’s Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities — an early birthday present of sorts because it drew fans from at least three continents — Waters announced that he just last week finished the book he’s been writing for the past three years, “LIARMOUTH,” a novel about a woman who steals luggage at the airport. It’s due out next year from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

He also expressed optimism that some events that had to be cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic will be back in 2021, including his Camp John Waters “sleepaway” weekend for superfans in Kent, Conn., and a new, renamed iteration of the Burger Boogaloo punk rock music festival that he hosts in Oakland, Calif.

There’s even a chance he’ll make another movie. Waters told his fans there’s still interest in “Fruitcake,” the children’s Christmas film that he’s been trying for years to make. “There is new possibility,” he teased. “That’s all I’ll say. I’m not going to jinx it.”

He’s waiting to hear about the several dozen spoken-word shows he performs around the country every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. “I think a lot of those decisions are going to happen in September.”

Most of all, he said, he’s just eager to make in-person appearances after a year in lockdown. Some of his engagements that were cancelled due to COVID have been rescheduled for the coming year, including appearances in New York, California, and Pennsylvania, and he’s adding others.

“I’m dying to get back on the road,” he said last weekend. “I’m still amazed that 20-something-year-old kids know who I am. I want to see what they look like.”

He’s wondering whether Meet-N-Greets – the sessions where he signs autographs and poses for photos with fans after a performance – will be possible in a post-pandemic world.

“Even before this, when I did the Christmas tour, I had Meet-N-Greets for usually 50 people” after a show, he said. “I’d always get sick because you have to hug everybody and then get on an airplane the next day. So I think Meet-N-Greets might never come back. I don’t know how they’re ever going to do that safely.”

On a personal basis, too, he’s yearning to get out and travel more.

“I want to go to a movie theater. I want to go to a concert,” he said. “I want to be able to have even a dull day out with other people.”

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This year’s Oscars might be historic — but does anyone care?

Diverse nominees lacking LGBTQ representation



Oscar, gay news, Washington Blade

It’s Oscar weekend. Are you excited?

Unless you’re actually one of the nominees, odds are pretty good that you’re not – but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is geared up to present its prestigious annual film awards for the 93rd time on Sunday night, really, really wants you to be. Why else, a week ahead of the Big Night, would they roll out the show’s producers for a press conference to drop hints that the upcoming broadcast would “look like a movie” and incorporate satellite hookups from “multiple locations?” It was a clear bid to drum up excitement.

More details came Monday, when a letter from that same trio – producer Steven Soderbergh (himself an Oscar winner for directing “Traffic” in 2000) and co-producers Jesse Collins and Stacey Sher – went out to the nominees. As it turns out, the ceremony will be held at LA’s historic Union Station (site of Saturday’s press conference), which will be treated “as an active movie set” in terms of COVID-related safety protocols, with “additional elements” of the show being incorporated live from Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre via satellite hook-up.

More interestingly, the letter revealed, “The first—and most obvious—point we want to get across with this year’s show is STORIES MATTER.” In keeping with that theme, nominees are requested to submit to a brief interview to “tell the story of your path to April 25,” as part of an effort to “highlight the connections between all of us who work in the movies and show that the process is uniquely intimate, collaborative, and fun.” The emphasis on “story” was further reflected by instructions about messaging in the speeches (“If you’re thanking someone, say their name, not their title… make it PERSONAL”) and a dress code described as “a fusion of Inspirational and Aspirational.” Whatever Soderbergh and crew have planned for the show, their letter leaves little doubt they intend to tightly manage the narrative it presents.

That’s not surprising, of course; Hollywood is in the business of creating narratives, and the one it takes most seriously is the one it creates about itself. Nevertheless, it’s particularly telling that the story it is working so hard to tell seems designed to brush its problem with inclusion comfortably into the background.

This year, the organization might well feel that when it comes to diversity, the nominations speak for themselves. For a year in which tremendous social upheaval has brought Black experience in America to the forefront of the public conversation, the Oscars have chosen an impressive number of Black-led films and Black artists among an overall slate that offers the most diverse lineup of nominees in its history. Women are also represented, thanks to the inclusion of Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” among the Best Picture contenders and the first-ever two nominations for women – Fennell and Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”) – as Best Director. Additionally, Zhao, who is Chinese, is the first woman of color ever nominated in that category, Steven Yuen (“Minari”) became the first Asian-American to receive a Best Actor nod, and in the same category, Riz Ahmed (“The Sound of Metal”) became the first person of Pakistani descent to be nominated in any acting category.

In the midst of all this inclusion, however, the LGBTQ community – traditionally a stronghold for some of Oscar’s most ardent fans – has this year been largely left empty-handed, once again. Besides two Best Actress nods for women playing bisexual characters (Viola Davis and Andra Day, for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” respectively), there are no major nominations for films with significant LGBTQ content – though it’s worth noting that the aforementioned “Young Woman” features trans actress Laverne Cox in a prominent supporting role. While it’s not a problem for us to stand on the sidelines and cheer for the victories achieved by representatives of other marginalized communities, it’s becoming harder to ignore the nagging feeling that our willingness to forgive an institution that continues to disappoint and diminish us is really something akin to Stockholm Syndrome.

In any case, this year’s Academy Awards have the potential for making history. Nine of the 20 acting nominees are people of color, and at least two of them are considered frontrunners in their categories. Zhao could become the first woman of Asian descent to win the Best Director prize. And while the potential for those wins lends a kind of excitement to the proceedings, an inescapable feeling of “too little, too late” – coupled with a pandemic-induced awareness of the relative unimportance of awards like these in the greater scheme of things – makes it more difficult than ever, perhaps, to care.

With that in mind, here are the currently leading “official” predictions for the winners in the top six categories, based on a combination of Oscar history, industry buzz, review consensus, and plain old-fashioned gut instinct:

BEST PICTURE: “Nomadland” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” are considered the front-runners, thanks to previous wins in the equivalent category at the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards, respectively. “Nomadland” is favored to win.

BEST DIRECTOR: Chloé Zhao, who has taken the directing prize at both the Globes and the BAFTAs, seems a sure bet for “Nomadland.”

BEST ACTOR: Chadwick Boseman, whose death in 2020 after a secret battle with colon cancer devastated fans and co-workers alike, would seem the inevitable winner for his performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” even without his already-racked-up wins at the Globes, Critics’ Choice, and SAG Awards. If he takes it – and it’s almost certain he will – it would make him only the second Best Actor winner to be awarded the prize posthumously (the first was Peter Finch, for 1976’s “Network”).

BEST ACTRESS: There are no clear front-runners here. With one high-profile win each under their belt Davis (SAGs), Day (Globes), Frances McDormand (BAFTAs for “Nomadland”) and Carey Mulligan (Critics’ Choice for “Promising Young Woman”) are all positioned as possible winners. However, with Davis already making history with this performance as Oscar’s most-nominated Black actress, the appeal of also making her the first to win in both Actress categories (her performance in 2016’s “Fences” earned her the Best Supporting prize) might just give her the edge.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Having won for his performance as slain Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah” at all the other major film awards, Daniel Kaluuya is the definition of a “shoo-in.”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: As is often the case, this category might be the most wide-open. Buzz has favored both Yuh-Jung Youn (“Minari”) and Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”), but her win at the BAFTA Awards puts Youn in place as the probable frontrunner. If she wins, she will be only the second Asian actress to win an Oscar, after Miyoshi Umeki (1957’s “Sayonara”).

You can find out the winners when the Oscars air on ABC, Sunday April 25 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET. But don’t worry – if you don’t care enough to watch, you can always Google it afterward.

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