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Most Eligible Singles 2020

Meet LGBTQ locals with interesting stories

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LGBT Singles, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

This is the sixth annual Washington Blade Most Eligible LGBT Singles issue. It began with reader nominations. From that list of about 200, our staff chose the 20 most eligible with an eye for locals with interesting stories, those doing compelling work and yes, those who are easy on the eye! Meet them in person Friday night at Duplex Diner (2004 18th St., N.W.) at 6 p.m. Details can be found HERE.

VOTE FOR WHICH SINGLE SHOULD WIN A FREE DATE NIGHT HERE!

NAME: Fotios Stravoravdis

Fotios Stravoravdis (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 26

OCCUPATION: consultant

IDENTIFY AS: gay

LOOKING FOR: Compassion, kindness, weird sense of humor and ambition. Having a purpose in life, driven by a goal that is bigger than his ego and respect for other people.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: arrogance and bad hygiene

BIGGEST TURN ON: A smile that can reflects someone’s soul. Also taking care of their body. Our body is the temple of our spirit.

HOBBIES: Is napping a hobby? When not napping, I spend my free time working out, reading, traveling or going to the theater. Musicals for the win!

IDEAL FIRST DATE: A date that goes so wrong it is actually so great.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? I am kid myself. What a responsibility this could be! Eventually, I’d like to have a daughter and a son. Imagine all these make up tutorials we could watch or all those sports we could play together. Make up with my son, sports with my daughter!

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? I’m Greek; we invented the essence of politics, democracy and debating. This means I am open to understanding other people’s political views. However, if someone adopts views that are harmful to the well-being of our society, views that pose threats to the future of younger generations and immigrants and views that deny climate change, then it’s a hard no from me.

CELEB CRUSH: Henry Cavill

OBSCURE FACT: If I name an obscure fact about myself, it won’t be obscure anymore. Yet I’ll say that some people think I am unapproachable, while in fact, I am shy.

NAME: Elise Glynn

Elise Glynn (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 28

OCCUPATION: IT and digital media

IDENTIFY AS: queer

LOOKING FOR: What I’m looking for in a partner is someone who knows what they want in life and understands the importance of self love. Someone who is free spirited, confident and shows kindness to all people.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: The biggest turnoff for me is someone who doesn’t have any goals or dreams. Someone who doesn’t strive to better themselves.

BIGGEST TURN ON: openness and maturity

HOBBIES: I’m really into rock climbing, longboarding, teas, spirituality, skateboarding, swimming, script writing and photography. I just moved back to D.C. from L.A. and didn’t get as much surf time as I like over there, so I’m looking forward to getting back into it.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: My ideal first date would be to go to the Maryland bay area and go kayaking. Then we can eat some good food on the water and watch the sunset. If the night is still looking good, I can teach you how to ride my pintail longboard.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? I have two mini dogs. One I had since age 14 and my new addition I had for about a year and a half. I love kids but I’m not planning on having any of my own for now.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? Yes as long if they are loving and kind to themselves, myself and others. That’s all that matters.

CELEB CRUSH: Cate Blanchett, Lucy Liu and Gugu Mbatha-Raw

OBSCURE FACT: I’m a military veteran. These days, most people would never have thought that I was in the military.

NAME: Gerard Burley

Gerard Burley (Photo by Scott Henrichsen)

AGE: 36

OCCUPATION: Fitness coach and studio owner

IDENTIFY AS: gay

LOOKING FOR: Someone fun, understanding, caring, responsible, who can take charge, put up with me and put me in my place.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Mean girls. I hate uppity people who act better than others.

BIGGEST TURN ON: backwards hats

HOBBIES: Love comedy shows and sports, basketball and football are my favs, playing with my dog, eating crab cakes and writing.

IDEAL FIRST DATE:Anywhere I can wear sweatpants. Maybe something basic like a SoulCycle class followed by tacos.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? I have a dog I love I’m open to more. Kids I’m not sure, let’s see who gets pregnant first.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? Yeah, but depends how much.

CELEB CRUSH: Channing Tatum

OBSCURE FACT: I used to speak Italian pretty well. Now it’s broken Italian.

NAME: Alex Calambokidis

Alex Calambokidis (Photo courtesy of Calambokidis)

AGE: 26

OCCUPATION: Program officer, non-profit, supporting democracy and inclusive governance in East Africa.

IDENTIFY AS: queer

LOOKING FOR: Someone who is kind, empathetic, open minded and direct. Also flexibility. Still working out the whole work/life balance thing myself. Opposite of asshole.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Bad tipper, self-identifies as “gym rat.”

BIGGEST TURN ON: Witty banter, wholesome memes

HOBBIES: Plants, karaoke, playing with other people’s dogs, junglepussy

IDEAL FIRST DATE: Long walks & mimosas to-go (or “to-gosas”). Let’s see where the day takes us.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? Being a plant mom and dog auntie is enough responsibility for me right now.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? Small differences? Sure. Challenging one another to think differently can be productive. Big differences? No.

CELEB CRUSH: Zoë Kravitz

OBSCURE FACT: The most obscure thing about myself is probably just the sum of weird situations I have found myself in. This probably falls somewhere on that spectrum.

NAME: Jake Abbott

Jake Abbott (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 27

OCCUPATION: Press Secretary on Capitol Hill

IDENTIFY AS: gay

LOOKING FOR: I’m always drawn to confidence, kindness, a good sense of humor, and I’ll admit it — a handsome smile. I want a partner in crime who wants to host dinner parties and go on adventures, who is driven and passionate but also doesn’t see the world in black and white. He should want me to be his best friend but not his only friend.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: insecurity, arrogance, intolerance, negativity

BIGGEST TURN ON: wit, drive, curiosity, compassion, self-awareness, great smiles, big arms, beards

HOBBIES: Going to the gym or on a run, grabbing drinks with friends, playing with my roommate’s dog, traveling to new places, checking co-star each day, anything outdoors.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: Grabbing drinks or coffee at a place you like, taking a walk on a nice day or doing something that we both care about.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? I think I’d like dogs and kids (probably in that order) but it would be a conversation in a few years.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? Only if I can ask who they voted for in 2016.

CELEB CRUSH: Chris Mazdzer, James McCann, Ryan Reynolds, Tom Hardy, Oprah

OBSCURE FACT: I was an all-conference college football player.

NAME: Peyton Smith

Peyton Smith (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 27

OCCUPATION: Full-time non-profit work, part-time graduate student at American University.

IDENTIFY AS: queer

LOOKING FOR: must love dancing

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Bad tippers. Always tip 20 percent.

BIGGEST TURN ON: Commits to a costume 100 percent when the occasion arises. And there is always an occasion for a costume.

HOBBIES: I’m on a competitive karaoke team. Also Saints football, WHO DAT!

IDEAL FIRST DATE: Let’s drink a few combos at Red Derby and see where the night takes us.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? I have a cat named Goose and I’m a slave to her paws.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? Nope

CELEB CRUSH: St. Vincent. Anyone else watch her 2019 Grammy performance with Dua Lipa over and over again? Just me?

OBSCURE FACT: During Mardi Gras in 2012, Mariska Hargitay told me I was her number one fan, and I’ve been chasing that high ever since.

NAME: Jayme Birgy

Jayme Birgy (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 38. Like actually 38, not 38 for the past seven years in a row.

OCCUPATION: I build stuff people use on the internet and run the D.C. office for Lounge Lizard Worldwide.

IDENTIFY AS: gay

LOOKING FOR: Emotional maturity and communication skills are a must. Good looks and nice things can only carry someone so far.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Lack of integrity.

BIGGEST TURN ON: A smile and just the right amount of confidence.

HOBBIES: Learning how things work, reading, road trips, boating/kayaking, and strategy games.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: Location and activity don’t really matter as long as the conversation is natural and he doesn’t run away when my nerd shows.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? Preferably a pack of Golden Retrievers

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? Yes, as long as they don’t have a shrine of Hillary Clinton in their basement.

CELEB CRUSH: Colin Jost (is that weird?) and Michael Strahan

OBSCURE FACT: I can’t read The Onion because I’ll accidentally cite it as fact later on. This is also the reason I don’t lie — it becomes reality.

NAME: Rajiv Desai

Rajiv Desai (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 39

OCCUPATION: vice president – diversity, inclusion and corporate social responsibility.

IDENTIFY AS: gay

LOOKING FOR: Independence. Humor. Mindfulness. Respect for people and our planet.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Plastic, smoking and disingenuous behavior.

BIGGEST TURN ON: Creativity, curiosity about the world and empathy.

HOBBIES: Baking from scratch with lots of fruit, volunteering in the community, winning with my Dragon Boat Racing team, art, travel and cooking dishes inspired by my travels.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: Flowing conversation, banter and laughter over a coffee/drink (at a non-pretentious, independent establishment).

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? Not a dad (or a pet dad) yet, but open to both.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? Differing political views are fine. Racist, bigoted, non-inclusive views etc. are not.

CELEB CRUSH: Benedict Cumberbatch and Gael García Bernal

OBSCURE FACT: I’ve met Mother Teresa (while growing up in Calcutta).

NAME: Daniel Muñoz

Daniel Muñoz (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 30

OCCUPATION: Advertising professional during the day, computer science student at night, community advocate and member of the League of United Latin American Citizens’ Lambda Chapter and D.C. State Board whenever I can serve.

IDENTIFY AS: bi

LOOKING FOR: Someone who is a natural optimist and wants to keep growing and bettering themselves and each other. A person who is compassionate and cares about the world around them, having emotional and cultural intelligence. A friend who can laugh at the absurdity in modern living. A partner who is supportive and loving. The ability to be sophisticated and a goofball when appropriate is a big plus.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Rudeness, bigotry, ignorance and bad tipping.

BIGGEST TURN ON: Kindness, humor, intellectual curiosity and good hygiene.

HOBBIES: Hanging out with friends and family, ’90s video games, gardening, hiking, sailing, tinkering with DIY electronics, conversations on nuanced topics, laughing and cracking stupid jokes, improving foreign language skills and fitness, volunteering, etc.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: The extrovert in me is always down for adventure and trying something new, but it’s completely fine to be low-key and chill on the first date. Visiting a Smithsonian or two and chilling at Kramerbooks is always a good start. From there, it’s up in the air.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? Kids would be great someday at the right time, but I’d be equally happy mentoring the community’s kids with him/her/them if that doesn’t happen.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? We could be a good match if your political (translation: personal) values are progressive and rooted in social equity and justice.

CELEB CRUSH: Diane Guerrero and Maluma

OBSCURE FACT: I used to work in television and was part of the larger production team that broadcast golf in the Olympics for the first time in history in 2016.

NAME: Candace Sibley

Candace Sibley (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 35

OCCUPATION: health scientist

IDENTIFY AS: lesbian

LOOKING FOR: Compassion, honesty, kindness, authenticity, ambition, support, emotionally intelligent, diligent, passionate, confident, to be challenged and consistent.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: cruelty, dishonesty, manipulation and lack of grace

BIGGEST TURN ON: Kindness, loyalty, understanding, conscientiousness, emotional stability and someone who with growth beliefs who thinks that relationships take hard work and that a strong relationship is something that you develop over time.

HOBBIES: reading, dancing, studying fashion, shopping and traveling

IDEAL FIRST DATE: A concert followed by dinner and drinks. This way we have fun dancing with each other and get to know each other over dinner and drinks.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? No to kids, I do not have pets, but I am interested in getting a dog in the future.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? No. I need someone who is progressive. My politics are at the core of who I am, so someone with opposite political views wouldn’t work.

CELEB CRUSH: Ava Duvernay and Meg the Stallion

OBSCURE FACT: I’m extremely outgoing when it comes to friendship and fashion, but I’m incredibly shy when it comes to romance. I am a true ambivert, I enjoy being the life of the party at times but I also enjoy a quiet book at home sometimes.

NAME:Russell Roberts

Russell Roberts (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 53

OCCUPATION: executive assistant

IDENTIFY AS: gay

LOOKING FOR: I’m looking for passion, purpose and principles.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: dishonesty

BIGGEST TURN ON: humor, honesty and humility

HOBBIES: art, culture and exercise

IDEAL FIRST DATE: Anything creative and outside the box or something ridiculously simple and satisfying.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? yes

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? no

CELEB CRUSH: Jason Mamoa/Idris Elba/Daniel Craig

OBSCURE FACT: I’m a closet karaoke junkie.

NAME: Brittany Rheault

Brittany Rheault (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 35

OCCUPATION: Senior Director of Sports at DC Fray

IDENTIFY AS: Lesbian

LOOKING FOR: I mean who just doesn’t want the perfect mate? Someone who listens but can also dance. I need someone not afraid of the jam but can also get down about their feels on “Love Island UK.” I think it’s important to have a transparent partner that values communication, dogs and family.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Smell of detergent. Keep it simple, keep it clean.

BIGGEST TURN ON: BDE, also blue eyes and a girl who can dance. I’m ready for the DMs: @theofficialb.ro.

HOBBIES: Oh girl, what don’t I like? Boston sports for life so come through if you love the Pats and the Sox. My pups, because how could you not love my doodles? I’m mad for my friends and celebrating all the good things.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: You like the Nats? Well it’s that. Picture this — us in left field behind Soto cheering as he catches an attempted homerun. Nick gives us a brew. Truly if you need bc I make friends with the best and we watch Zimmmmm just nail it! And then we caught on the simba cam. lol

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? PETS!!! My babes are Wally and Kennedy. 

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? I’m open-minded as long as you’re a good person. 

CELEB CRUSH: Demi Lovato or Betty Who, but also we appreciate Katy Perry.

OBSCURE FACT: I’m a fiercely loyal friend who will do anything for the ones I love. 

NAME: Rachel Pike

Rachel Pike (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 34

OCCUPATION: life coach/bartender/security guru/trainer

IDENTIFY AS: queer, she/her/Daddy

LOOKING FOR: I think the list of what I’m not looking for is shorter. I want partnership, friendship, passion, laughter, respect and unconditional love. I want to see and be seen. Basically if it’s not magic, I’m OK on my own.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: I’ve been an athlete my whole life, but haven’t ever really subscribed to a competitive nature, per se. While I love to play and even enjoy the trash talking, a super competitive human doesn’t really do it for me. I love a challenge but don’t get into someone who frequently feels the need to one up people.

BIGGEST TURN ON: This isn’t difficult for me, and it’s highly situational. When someone truly knows and loves herself, I think it shines through. I’m turned on by confidence that doesn’t turn to disrespect, honesty that doesn’t become cruel. Kindness and the ability to be awed, find beauty in the small things. Also, it’s incredibly sexy when someone can flirt with only her eyes.

HOBBIES: I love motion, as often as possible. Any sports (basketball in particular), or sports-related activity is great for me. A true contradiction, I’m also really in to stillness. A good book, journaling opportunity, movie or divey space with a great beer.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: Again, situational. I think it’s unfortunate that as a masculine-presenting person, I’m often expected to plan dates. This isn’t to say I don’t love this. I’m actually great at it! However, I think someone taking me to something/someplace they are really excited about is an excellent way to get to know them.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? I’ve got both. Two perfect mutts and an even more perfect 15-year-old. I’d love to think that more of both are in my future.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? That depends on how they differ. I’m entirely aware of the responsibility that comes along with my privilege and I live that in every aspect of my life. We cannot disagree on fighting oppression.

CELEB CRUSH: I think real crushes happen when you know someone as a person, and I don’t have celebrities who I know that well. That said, I will watch anything starring Viola Davis or made by Shonda Rhimes. I adore the fire on the court of Arielle Powers and how playful/political Natasha Cloud is.

OBSCURE FACT: I’m an open book, so I don’t know that I have obscure facts. I juggle well. There’s rarely a tree I won’t climb. I am incredibly attached to a T-shirt from my childhood team and wore it under all my jerseys; I still wear it when the Mystics play.

NAME: JB Bridgeman

JB Bridgeman (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 30

OCCUPATION: non-profit administrator

IDENTIFY AS: gay

LOOKING FOR: Someone who is confident in who they are as their own person and knows that a relationship isn’t about “completing” each other, but complementing one another.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: When someone is impatient, especially with folks in the service industry. Also bad breath.

BIGGEST TURN ON: When someone can make me laugh and isn’t afraid to look silly. Also a strong beard game.

HOBBIES: Playing rugby with the Washington Scandals, traveling, going to Caps games, running a Drag Race fantasy league and going to the movies.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: Grabbing a couple of boots at Dacha and getting to know each other while we split a giant pretzel.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? I have a cat named Marnie. She’s an adorable handful.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? If we’re talking minor differences, yes. Major ideological differences are another conversation.

CELEB CRUSH: Oscar Isaac

OBSCURE FACT: I was my high school’s mascot.

NAME: Olga Martinsone

Olga Martinsone (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 34

OCCUPATION: tennis pro

IDENTIFY AS: gay female

LOOKING FOR: honesty, empathy, sense of humor, team player

BIGGEST TURN OFF: dishonesty

BIGGEST TURN ON: ability to cook

HOBBIES: playing tennis, walking in the city and trading stocks

IDEAL FIRST DATE: dinner then a comedy club

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? have none but wants kids

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? yes

CELEB CRUSH: Blake Lively

OBSCURE FACT: I eat orange peels

NAME:Chris Kuchnicki

Chris Kuchnicki (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 40

OCCUPATION: real estate agent

IDENTIFY AS: gay

LOOKING FOR: Someone who is compassionate, caring, but also has ambition and drive.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Someone who is rude to wait/service staff.

BIGGEST TURN ON: confidence and ambition.

HOBBIES: fitness, travel, an occasional fun night out and design. I’m also member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: A few drinks and then maybe a show/movie/dinner. Hiking in warmer weather!

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? Neither, but I love dogs and am open to kids.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? It depends on where our moral compass lies within those views.

CELEB CRUSH: Channing Tatum

OBSCURE FACT: I’m related to Neal Armstrong.

NAME: Rebecca Kling

Rebecca Kling (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 35

OCCUPATION: educator, community organizer, storyteller, advocate for change

IDENTIFY AS: Queer, a woman, trans, storyteller, culturally Jewish, progressive, troublemaker and much more.

LOOKING FOR: Someone who will laugh at my stupid jokes, make me laugh and call me on my bullshit. Someone who is passionate about SOMETHING — could be immigration policy, or marine biology, or 15th century literature, but my mate needs to be excited and passionate about something in the world that moves them.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Inability to admit they’re wrong.

BIGGEST TURN ON: confidence

HOBBIES: Playing piano (mostly show tunes and folk music), reading sci fi, biking, Instagramming pictures of my cats.

IDEAL FIRST DATE:My ideal first date is going to a museum or gallery and coming up with arbitrary rules or a silly game for how we go through. Maybe we need to make up a rhyme for our favorite exhibit. Maybe we analyze each painting as if it we secretly hate it, but it was drawn by our best friend’s kid and they’re super proud. Maybe we’re on a scavenger hunt for whatever has the most red. Anything, as long as it’s fun.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? Definitely yes to pets, pretty sure yes to kids, too.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? Depends on how much they differ. I’d be open to dating someone who, y’know, doesn’t think we should put tax money toward space exploration. (They’d be wrong, but we’d make it work somehow.) On the other hand, I could never date someone who wants to defund public schools or supports ICE breaking up families at the border.

CELEB CRUSH: Samira Wiley

OBSCURE FACT: I once worked at a circus camp and still know how to juggle.

NAME: Charlotte Clymer

Charlotte Clymer (Photo courtesy of Clymer)

AGE: 33

OCCUPATION: press secretary, Human Rights Campaign

IDENTIFY AS: Proud trans woman and lesbian.

LOOKING FOR: I’m looking for someone who can make me laugh a lot and knows how to mix a French 75.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Ironic detachment. Not feeling it. Put a stake in the ground and be vulnerable enough to care about things.

BIGGEST TURN ON: Oxford commas

HOBBIES: Road trips. Karaoke. Late stage capitalism.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: I’m a simple girl. Ice cream followed by a great show and then drinks and conversation.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? Any and all welcome.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? If you’re conservative, we’re not gonna be right for each other. If you’re some flavor of progressive, let’s talk!

CELEB CRUSH: Kermit the Frog

OBSCURE FACT: I’m a world-renowned expert in underwater basket weaving.

NAME:Faith Mitchell

Faith Mitchell (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 24

OCCUPATION: HIV/STI Prevention Program Coordinator

IDENTIFY AS: gay

LOOKING FOR: Essentially someone who is fun/funny, shows love through actions and is honest and supportive. I love to go out and am very active in community, so I would need someone willing to do things with me. My top love languages are quality time and acts of service so I appreciate when someone can show me love in those ways and am willing to give the same energy I ask for in return.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Constant rudeness or negativity and inconsistency

BIGGEST TURN ON: Pretty eyes and ambition

HOBBIES: Cooking new recipes, trying different restaurants and listening to new music

IDEAL FIRST DATE: After work going to a low-key bar with a relaxed ambiance, delicious food and good music (neo-soul, R&B and hip-hop) playing to get to know each other and see their taste in music.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? Neither, but open to both

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? It depends. As long as their views weren’t aligned with racism, oppression, sexism, inequality, etc., we could talk about it.

CELEB CRUSH: Ari Lennox and Iman Shumpert

OBSCURE FACT: I love acting and dancing and was in plays and musicals when I was younger. Eventually I want to get back into it.

NAME: Blessitt Shawn

Blessitt Shawn (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: Excuse me?

OCCUPATION:Digital & Cultural Strategist

IDENTIFY AS: 79 percent queer, 85 percent high femme, 100 percent Gemini

LOOKING FOR: I’m looking for a seasonal bae who wouldn’t mind being my official taste tester, flex-time cuddle slut and full-time furniture assembler; someone confident enough to hold my purse as I’m getting out of the car and make it look just as good as I do.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Anyone who uses, or embodies, the term “dude” or “bro.” Speed walkers. I have a physical disability that impacts my balance and mobility. Allow me to set the pace and I’ll let you take the lead. Also, people who don’t vet their sources before posting an article online really bother me. Why are we posting a 2013 conspiracy piece from diduknothis.net/freecheetos, beloved? Deal breaker: people who measure butter or garlic. What’s wrong with you?

BIGGEST TURN ON: Nothing beats full brows, strong hands and chivalry. I am drawn to non-toxic masculinity. “What should we order for dessert?,” will almost certainly secure a second date.

HOBBIES: I enjoy hosting the perfect weekend brunch, becoming a mistress of interior design, perfecting my late-night grilled cheese and pretending to be an astrology expert when random drunk people ask me for dating advice at happy hour. “He’s a Pisces?! Girl …”

IDEAL FIRST DATE: Anything that involves tacos or dessert is a pretty great start. Did you know 7/11 donuts are made by Krispy Kreme? You’re welcome. My best dates also included the following: a cuisine neither of us have ever tried, laughing until our cheeks hurt and a “did you make it home?” text.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? Pets are lovely, but I’m not waking up early to walk your fluff-muffin. Kids are cute in small doses but terribly expensive. How about we support our friends with kids by being engaged in their lives and out-gifting the couples that annoy us? (True confession: I love doing this.)

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? No thanks. If you think our current political climate has made America great, we’re not a match.

CELEB CRUSH: Ricky Martin would be my +1 to the Victory Fund Gala, while Jeff Goldbum would accompany me to the White House Easter Egg Roll. Deontay Wilder would be my insta-bae Friday-Sunday afternoon. (Sunday nights are for skincare.) I’d let Leo take me out for lunch and shopping when I’m bored.

OBSCURE FACT: I am from the first city of Kansas, Leavenworth, a trained opera singer and a preacher’s kid. Also, the last Grandma to try my pound cake gave it a 8.5/10 rating. Not too bad for a millennial, huh?

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

Groundbreaking FX drama has left its mark

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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’

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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

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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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