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Labor Day weekend in Rehoboth — checking in with Diego’s, Sundance

Gay dance club/bar blossoms in second season with major DJs, capacity crowds

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Joe Ciarlante-Zuber, gay news, Washington Blade
Joe Ciarlante-Zuber (right) with his husband and business partner Darryl Ciarlante-Zuber. (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Vodka. Lots and lots of vodka. Mostly Tito’s.

That’s pretty much what everybody drinks at Diego’s Bar & Nightclub (37298 Rehoboth Ave.) in Rehoboth Beach, Del., which is just about wrapping its second season in business.

“It’s a gay bar, so it’s like vodka all the time,” says bartender Chad States. 

Doesn’t anybody order scotch, bourbon or whiskey? Or the wine on tap Diego’s owners touted upon opening last year?

“Not much scotch, a little bit of bourbon and whiskey, but I would say 80 percent is vodka,” States states. “The wine is not that popular. It’s just not a big wine-drinking place. Beer drinkers? Ehhh, maybe 10 percent. Depends what night it is.”

States worked before at the Double L Bar, the leather bar that occupied Diego’s building before Joe Ciarlante-Zuber and Darryl Ciarlante-Zuber (husbands and business partners) opened Diego’s in May 2018. They owned and ran Dos Locos for 17 of its 26 years in downtown Rehoboth but took some time off and were ready for a new venture. 

States lives in Philadelphia and teaches photography most of the year but spends summers in Rehoboth with his partner. He approached the Ciarlante-Zubers when he heard they were starting a new venture.

“They’re great,” States says of the owners. “It’s nice to work at a gay bar with gay owners who trust you. They know I’ll take care of what needs to be taken care of.”

Diego’s, whose building was vastly renovated prior to opening, is open year-round except for the first two weeks of January. There are enough residents who live at the beach year round to ensure steady business and it continues to grow.

“Things are good, very good,” Joe Ciarlante-Zuber says. “It took a little while to get things going because we went from the Double L, which was a leather bar, to Diego’s, which is an everybody bar, but we gave it a total makeover. So just getting people to try us and see that it’s different from what it used to be, that took some time.”

When he says an “everybody bar,” he means mostly gay men, but not exclusively. There’s no official ladies night, but lesbians have tended to come out to comprise about half the crowd at the weekly Friday yappy hour from 5-7 p.m. Capacity is 337 and it fills up on weekend nights. On holiday weekends, they erect a tent in the parking lot to increase capacity. There are 12 on staff plus three dancers. They’ve started bringing in internationally known DJs as well such as Dawna Montell from Los Angeles, Isis from Guadalajara and DJ Kitty Glitter (this weekend) from Australia. Full details at diegosbarnightclub.com.

They changed the name from Diego’s Hideaway earlier this year because people assumed it was a restaurant.  

States, 44, likes to bartend shirtless.

“I take my shirt off every chance I get,” he says. “I’m vain as fuck. But particularly in the summer, I have time to go to the gym more and ride my bike and I’m much more attuned to that. The beach anyway is kind of a performance stage where everybody is showing off their bodies. I just like to create an atmosphere that’s casual. It’s a beach town, so you should be able to take your shirt off. It kind of sets the mood for how the customers can behave as well.”

Does he tire of getting hit on?

“I just have fun with it,” he says. “It’s fun to be a little flirtatious at a gay bar where you can have some fun with your sexuality. You can flirt with me, I might flirt back with you, that doesn’t mean we’re gonna fuck. I’m interested in the more fraternal aspect of it. It’s OK to be able to look at each other, have a little fun, but without any agenda. I like to be a little playful, a little flirty, a little sexual.”

Dusty Abshire has lived in the Rehoboth area for about four years and is at Diego’s several times per week. He likes the happy hours, tea dances and occasionally the late DJ parties. He says parking at Diego’s is easier than elsewhere downtown and says the prices tend to be a little more reasonable than at some other bars.

And yes, he’s a vodka drinker.

“Joe sometimes gets a cosmo going for me before I even choose,” Abshire, 40, says. “I just go, ‘OK, I guess I’m having cosmos tonight.’ He makes a really great cosmo.” 

Abshire, who works as a college academic counselor, says he likes the bar because it’s friendly and laid back. He says business has noticeably picked up this summer vs. last.

“Diego’s is just kind of becoming the place, at least for my group of friends and friends I’ve met there. The owners are really good at knowing everybody. There are lots of times in the afternoon, there might just be 10 or 12 of us and we all just kind of sit around and talk together.”

Even so, it hasn’t all been easy. Running a gay dance club/bar in 2019 has challenges, Joe says. 

“It’s taking its time,” he says. “The gay market has changed. With Grindr, Scruff and so forth, you can stay home and meet somebody.”

He says, after conferring with Darryl, the toughest part has been “overcoming the past history.” He says the Double L had gone downhill its last five or so years, so getting people out of that mindset took time.

“It’s nice because it’s not pretentious at all,” Abshire says. “Joe and Daryl are two of the most hardworking, genuine people and they make everyone who comes in feel comfortable and welcomed and that’s the tone of the whole bar.” 

Diego’s isn’t the only popular gay-owned establishment that’s open year-round. The Blue Moon continues its entertainment schedule into the fall with the ever-popular Pamala Stanley’s Sunday tea from 6-8:30 p.m. Newcomer The Pines brings an evolving slate of entertainers to its upstairs space Top of the Pines. The Purple Parrot hosts year-round karaoke. And some of Rehoboth’s most popular events are in the fall, including the fourth annual CAMP Rehoboth Block Party (Sunday, Oct. 20) and the 30th annual Sea Witch Festival (Oct. 25-27).

JOEY DiGUGLIELMO

Sundance goes ‘Ultraviolet’

Sundance 2018, gay news, Washington Blade
The crowded dance floor at last year’s Sundance. (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Annual benefit kicks off new season, new leadership for CAMP Rehoboth

Sundance 2019 Rainbow XXXII: Ultraviolet Disco Day-Glo Sunrise

Rehoboth Beach Convention Center

229 Rehoboth Avenue

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Auction: Saturday, Aug. 31

6-9 p.m. 

Dance: Sunday, Sept. 1

7 p.m.-2 a.m.

camprehoboth.com/events/sundance-2019

Sundance closes out the summer season for the 32nd year over Labor Day weekend with its annual auction and dance party.

Sundance 2019 Rainbow XXXII: Ultraviolet Disco Day-Glo Sunrise will be the first time CAMP Rehoboth’s new Executive Director David Mariner will be introduced. Mariner will leave his 11-year tenure as executive director at the D.C. Center on Sept. 30. 

CAMP Rehoboth’s founding Executive Director Steve Elkins died from lymphoma in 2018. Murray Archibald, CAMP Rehoboth co-founder and Elkins’ husband, served as interim director since Elkins’ death.

Archibald and Elkins started Sundance as an AIDS fundraiser in 1988 on their 10-year anniversary. 

“All of our friends wanted to do something because it was such a terrible time and so many people were dying. That’s how it got started,” Archibald says. 

The first Sundance was only a dance event but an auction was added post-dance the following year. Eventually, CAMP Rehoboth split the auction and dance into separate days turning Labor Day weekend into a two-day Sundance event.

Sundance grew into CAMP Rehoboth’s biggest fundraiser, according to Archibald. CAMP Rehoboth’s current fundraising efforts benefit the organization’s outreach programs, which serve 6,000 people, and advocacy work and health and wellness programs that have aided 10,000 individuals. 

Years later, Sundance is still a popular event marked on people’s calendars because there’s something for everyone.

“We get the early crowd who wants to be in bed by 10 p.m. and then we have the crowd who wants to stay out all night. They sort of blend and its packed. It’s a lot of fun,” Archibald says.

The Sundance Auction is on Saturday, Aug. 31 from 6-9 p.m. There will be food, an open bar, a silent auction with almost 500 items and a live auction. Lorne Crawford will serve as auctioneer and Stephen Strasser will play music for the night. The Sundance is on Sunday, Sept. 1 from 7 p.m.- 2 a.m. There will be an open bar all night. Special guest DJ Robbie Leslie, whose DJing credits include Studio 54 and Saint, will spin tracks for the night. International DJ Joe Gauthreaux will also play music. 

All proceeds benefit CAMP Rehoboth. Tickets are $50 for one event or $90 for both events. 

While raising money to benefit advocacy is important, there is more to Sundance than simply being a fundraiser. 

“It’s more than just raising money. I think they feel the spirit of family and the community coming together to celebrate. It’s the end of the summer. It’s the beginning of a new season. It’s one of the passages of the year,” Archibald says. “I always laugh because even our lighting and sound crews who come in from Jersey or Baltimore always say to me, ‘This feels like family. Like I’m coming to a good place.’ I think being able to celebrate that is the most important thing about it.”

MARIAH COOPER

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Netflix resurrects Dahmer, triggering criticism

Milwaukee gay activist says series re-traumatizes victims’ families

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Jeffrey Dahmer was killed in prison in 1994.

A 10-episode series on gay serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer released by Netflix on Sept. 21 captures in chilling detail Dahmer’s 13-year murder spree that took place mostly in Milwaukee between 1978 and 1991 in which 17 young mostly gay men, 11 of whom were Black, lost their lives.

The dramatized series, with actor Evan Peters playing the lead role of Dahmer, shows how Dahmer met many of his victims in Milwaukee gay bars, lured them to his apartment by promising to pay them to pose for nude photographs, and drugged and strangled them to death before mutilating and sometimes cannibalizing their bodies.

The series, called “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” has set a record for being the most watched first week release of any Netflix streaming series, according to media reports.

But one viewer who said he stopped watching the series after the first two episodes is longtime Milwaukee gay activist Scott Gunkel, who worked as a bartender at one of the gay bars where Dahmer met at least two of the young men he murdered.

Gunkel, 62, told the Blade he and others of his generation who lived through the trauma of the Dahmer murder spree view the Netflix series as yet another movie rehashing a troubling and painful occurrence.

“It really won’t, I don’t think, aid anybody,” he said. “I don’t think the victims’ families and friends will want to watch and hear this. So, this is just re-victimizing the people that went through this personally.”

Added Gunkel, “I knew a couple of the people he killed – patrons of the bar. They weren’t close friends. I just happened to know that they came to my bar, and I served them drinks.”

“There has been a big effort to have people boycott Netflix over this,” Gunkel said. “And I’m like, OK, it is a macabre story. I don’t know if you need to go quite that far with a boycott. Just don’t watch it,” he said.

Netflix has said the series is respectful to the victims and their families and its aim is to tell the story of how and why Dahmer became one of America’s most notorious serial murderers “as authentically as we could,” according to a statement by Peters in a promotional video posted on Twitter.

Gunkel and others familiar with the Dahmer case point out that few if anyone in Milwaukee or elsewhere knew a serial killer was on the loose in their community until the time of Dahmer’s arrest on July 22, 1991, after his 18th potential victim escaped and contacted police.

Police and prosecutors at that time revealed the discovery of body parts and other evidence found in Dahmer’s apartment, including multiple photos that Dahmer had taken of the corpses and body parts of his victims. Dahmer a short time later confessed to having committed 17 murders, the first in Ohio and the others in Wisconsin, with most taking place in Milwaukee where he lived. He provided prosecutors with the full gruesome details of how he carried out those murders.

Media reports show Dahmer pleaded guilty to 15 of the 17 murders on grounds of insanity, which resulted in a two-week trial to determine whether he was legally sane when he committed the murders. In February 1992, the jury found him sane in each of the murders. A judge then sentenced him to 15 consecutive sentences to life in prison.

Two years later, at the age of 34, Dahmer was beaten to death at Wisconsin’s Columbia Correctional Institution by an inmate who told authorities that God told him to kill Dahmer. 

Gunkel said some in the Milwaukee gay community and the African-American community reached out to each other when the list of Dahmer’s victims released by police shortly after his arrest showed most were Black gay men.

Gunkel said he remembers the news reports of several Black women who lived near the apartment building in the mostly Black neighborhood saying they tried to alert police to what they suspected was criminal activity by Dahmer.

One of the reports that triggered widespread criticism of how the police allegedly mishandled the Dahmer case involved a Black woman who called police when she saw someone she described as an Asian boy standing outside the apartment building where Dahmer lived naked and bleeding with just a towel wrapped around him.  

It later became known that the person the woman saw was Konerak Sinthasomphone, a 14-year-old Laotian immigrant, who Dahmer met on the street, lured to his apartment, and drugged. Reports show the youth escaped from the apartment after Dahmer left to go to a store to replenish his own supply of liquor.

When Dahmer returned, he saw police talking to Konerak and the woman outside the apartment building and quickly told one of the officers that the youth was 19 years old and was in a gay relationship with him and the two had a lover’s quarrel.

To the amazement of members of the LGBTQ and African-American communities, who later learned of this development, the police allowed Dahmer to take the youth back to his apartment. One of the officers reportedly made a homophobic remark about his interaction with Dahmer and the youth in a recorded comment to a police dispatcher. Dahmer later killed Konerak, police reports show.

Community activists, including Gunkel, who at the time was president of the Milwaukee gay rights group Lambda Rights Network, said the police disregard for the concern raised by the Black woman, who believed Konerak was in danger, was an example of how racial bias on the part of at least some in the Milwaukee police department may have enabled Dahmer to continue his killing spree.

In the weeks following sometimes sensational media reports and statements by police about Dahmer’s role as a confessed gay mass murderer, LGBTQ activists in Milwaukee reported a sharp rise in anti-gay harassment and threats, including harassment targeting gay bar patrons.

“Although gay people were among Dahmer’s victims, biased statements on the part of the police and some media have linked his murderous behavior to all gay and lesbian people,” the then National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said in a statement.

An August 1991 story in the Washington Blade reports that Gunkel expressed strong concern that a police investigator used the term “homosexual overkill” to describe Dahmer’s action. Gunkel and other activists also pointed to police statements that Dahmer confessed to having engaged in sex with some of his victims and most of the victims were Black. But the police and media reports at the time did not also report that nearly all the victims were also gay.

Rather than being seen as victims, Gunkel said, gays were being portrayed as predators through a “prism” of longtime stereotypes. “We look at this as a hate crime,” said Gunkel in his 1991 comment reported in the Blade. “His patronizing of gay bars shows he was stalking gays. The bars were his feeding grounds.”

Gunkel told the Blade in a phone interview last week, 31 years after Dahmer’s arrest and the revelations of the scope of his murder spree, gay bar patrons at the time the killings were taking place did not equate the disappearance of bar patrons with anything particularly unusual.

He noted that at the time, the AIDS epidemic was still going strong and he and others at the bars sometimes thought a regular customer who suddenly stopped coming to the bar may have gotten sick.

“So, a lot of people stopped going out when they started getting sick,” he said, “And other people would get into relationships and stop going out,” Gunkel told the Blade. “And when they didn’t show up people just kind of blew it off as somebody who’s not around anymore.”

According to Gunkel, the sensational revelations of Dahmer’s killing spree and the fact that he met many of his victims in Milwaukee gay bars prompted many in the LGBTQ community to stop going to bars and gay meeting places. But he said that didn’t last very long.

Gunkel said that like others who lived through what he calls the macabre time that Dahmer’s actions became known, the Netflix series brought back his own memories of interacting with Dahmer at Club 219, the Milwaukee gay bar where he worked as a bartender.

“The few times that I saw him at the bar I refused to serve him because he was drunk,” Gunkel said. “And I thought, you know, I’m not going to serve this person. He’s already pretty smashed.”

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Tagg turns 10

D.C. magazine thriving post-pandemic with focus on queer women

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‘Tagg is a form of resistance,’ says editor Eboné Bell. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

In a 10-year-old YouTube video, owner and editor of Tagg magazine, Eboné Bell, — clad in a white cotton T-shirt, gray vest and matching gray fedora — smiled with all her pearly whites as a correspondent for the magazine interviewed her outside now-closed Cobalt, a gay club in downtown D.C. that hosted the magazine’s official launch in the fall of 2012. 

“I want to make sure that people know that this is a community publication,” Bell said in the video. “It’s about the women in this community and we wanted to make sure that they knew that ‘This is your magazine.’”

As one of just two queer womxn’s magazines in the country, Tagg has established itself as one of the nation’s leading and forthright LGBTQ publications that focuses on lesbian and queer culture, news, and events. The magazine is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month.

Among the many beats Tagg covers, it has recently produced work on wide-ranging political issues such as the introduction of the LGBTQ+ History Education Act in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Supreme Court’s assault on reproductive rights through a reversal of its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling; and also attracted the attention of international queer celebrities, including Emmy-nominated actress Dominique Jackson through fundraisers.

“Tagg is a form of resistance,” Bell said in a Zoom interview with the Washington Blade. “I always say the best form of activism is visibility and we’re out there authentically us.”

Although the magazine was created to focus on lifestyle, pressing political issues that affect LGBTQ individuals pushed it to dive deeper into political coverage in efforts to bring visibility to LGBTQ issues that specifically affect queer femme individuals. 

“We know the majority of our readers are queer women,’ said Bell. “[So] we always ask ourselves, ‘How does this affect our community?’ We are intentional and deliberate about it.”

Rebecca Damante, a contributing writer to the magazine echoed Bell’s sentiments. 

“The movement can sometimes err toward gay white men and it’s good that we get to represent other groups,” said Damante. “I feel really lucky that a magazine like Tagg exists because it’s given me the chance to polish my writing skills and talk about queer representation in media and politics.”

Tagg’s coverage has attracted younger readers who visit the magazine’s website in search of community and belonging. Most readers range between the ages of 25 and 30, Bell said. 

“[The magazine] honestly just took on a life of its own,” said Bell. “It’s like they came to us [and] it makes perfect sense.”

Prior to the magazine becoming subscription-based and completely online, it was a free publication that readers could pick up in coffee shops and distribution boxes around D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. 

Battling the pandemic 

Eboné Bell (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, newsrooms across the world were forced to function virtually. Additionally, economic strife forced many publications to downsize staffs and — in some cases — cancel entire beats as ad revenue decreased, forcing them to find alternative ways to self-sustain financially. Tagg was no exception. 

“We didn’t fly unscathed,” said Bell. “[The pandemic] took a huge emotional toll on me because I thought we were going to close. I thought we were going to fail.”

However, the magazine was able to stand firm after a fundraiser titled “Save Tagg Magazine” yielded about $30,000 in donations from the community. 

The fundraiser involved a storefront on Tagg’s website where donations of LGBTQ merchandise were sold, including a book donated by soccer superstar Megan Rapinoe. 

There was also a virtual “Queerantine Con” — an event that was the brainchild of Dana Piccoli, editor of News Is Out— where prominent LGBTQ celebrities such as Rosie O’Donnell, Lea DeLaria and Kate Burrell, gave appearances to help raise money that eventually sustained the publication. 

“There was a time where I was ready to be like ‘I have to be OK that [Tagg] might not happen anymore,” said Bell. “But because of love and support, I’m here.” 

While the outpouring of love from community members who donated to the magazine helped keep the magazine alive, it was also a stark reminder that smaller publications, led by women of color, have access to fewer resources than mainstream outlets. 

“It’s statistically known that Black women-owned businesses get significantly less support, venture capital investments, things like that,” said Bell. “I saw similar outlets such as Tagg with white people making $100,000 a month.”

Bell added that Tagg had to work “10 times harder” to survive, and although the magazine didn’t cut back on the people who worked for it, it ended free access to the magazine in the DMV especially as the places that housed the magazine were no longer in business. The publication also moved to a subscription-based model that allowed it to ameliorate printing costs. 

Despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic, Tagg remains steadfast in its service to the LGBTQ community. The magazine hired an assistant editor in 2021 and has maintained a team of graphic designers, photographers, writers and an ad sales team who work to ensure fresh content is delivered to readers on a regular basis. 

For Bell, Tagg mirrors an important life experience — the moment she discovered Ladders, a lesbian magazine published throughout the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. 

“To that young person coming up, I want you to see all the things that happened before them, all the people that came before them, all the stories that were being told” she said.

Eboné Bell (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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Daisy Edgar-Jones knows why ‘the Crawdads sing’

Actress on process, perfecting a southern accent, and her queer following

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Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya Clark. (Photo courtesy Sony/Columbia)

Daisy Edgar-Jones is an actor whose career is blossoming like her namesake. In recent years, she seems to be everywhere. LGBTQ viewers may recognize Edgar-Jones from her role as Delia Rawson in the recently canceled queer HBO series “Gentleman Jack.” She also played memorable parts in a pair of popular Hulu series, “Normal People” and “Under the Banner of Heaven.” Earlier this year, Edgar-Jones was seen as Noa in the black comedy/horror flick “Fresh” alongside Sebastian Stan. 

With her new movie, “Where the Crawdads Sing” (Sony/Columbia), she officially becomes a lead actress. Based on Delia Owens’ popular book club title of the same name, the movie spans a considerable period of time, part murder mystery, part courtroom drama. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for the Blade.

BLADE: Daisy, had you read Delia Owens’s novel “Where the Crawdads Sing” before signing on to play Kya?

DAISY EDGAR-JONES: I read it during my audition process, as I was auditioning for the part. So, the two went hand in hand.

BLADE: What was it about the character of Kya that appealed to you as an actress?

EDGAR-JONES: There was so much about her that appealed to me. I think the fact that she is a very complicated woman. She’s a mixture of things. She’s gentle and she’s curious. She’s strong and she’s resilient. She felt like a real person. I love real character studies and it felt like a character I haven’t had a chance to delve into. It felt different from anyone I’ve played before. Her resilience was one that I really admired. So, I really wanted to spend some time with her.

BLADE: While Kya is in jail, accused of killing the character Chase, she is visited by a cat in her cell. Are you a cat person or do you prefer dogs?

EDGAR-JONES: I like both! I think I like the fact that dogs unconditionally love you. While a cat’s love can feel a bit conditional. I do think both are very cute. Probably, if I had to choose, it would be dogs.

BLADE: I’m a dog person, so I’m glad you said that.

EDGAR-JONES: [Laughs]

BLADE: Kya lives on the marsh and spends a lot of time on and in the water. Are you a swimmer or do you prefer to be on dry land?

EDGAR-JONES: I like swimming, I do. I grew up swimming a lot. If I’m ever on holidays, I like it to be by the sea or by a nice pool.

BLADE: Kya is also a gifted artist, and it is the thing that brings her great joy. Do you draw or paint?

EDGAR-JONES: I always doodle. I’m an avid doodler. I do love to draw and paint. I loved it at school. I wouldn’t say I was anywhere near as skilled as Kya. But I do love drawing if I get the chance to do it.

BLADE: Kya was born and raised in North Carolina. What can you tell me about your process when it comes to doing a southern accent or an American accent in general?

EDGAR-JONES: It’s obviously quite different from mine. I’ve been lucky that I’ve spent a lot of time working on various accents for different parts for a few years now, so I feel like I’m developed an ear for, I guess, the difference in tone and vowel sounds [laughs]. When it came to this, it was really important to get it right, of course. Kya has a very lyrical, gentle voice, which I think that North Carolina kind of sound really helped me to access. I worked with a brilliant accent coach who helped me out and I just listened and listened.

BLADE: While I was watching “Where the Crawdads Sing” I thought about how Kya could easily be a character from the LGBTQ community because she is considered an outsider, is shunned and ridiculed, and experiences physical and emotional harm. Do you also see the parallels?

EDGAR-JONES: I certainly do. I think that aspect of being an outsider is there, and this film does a really good job of showing how important it is to be kind to everyone. I think this film celebrates the goodness you can give to each other if you choose to be kind. Yes, I definitely see the parallels.

BLADE: Do you have an awareness of an LGBTQ following for your acting career?

EDGAR-JONES: I tend to stay off social media and am honestly not really aware of who follows me, but I do really hope the projects I’ve worked on resonate with everyone.

BLADE: Are there any upcoming acting projects that you’d like to mention?

EDGAR-JONES: None that I can talk of quite yet. But there are a few things that are coming up next year, so I’m really excited.

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