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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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Melissa Etheridge shares Q&A in advance of April 26 Tysons tour stop

Rock pioneer finds inspiration in the past — from revisiting old demos to reconnecting with celeb pals like Ellen

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Melissa Etheridge brings her ‘One Way Out Tour’ to the D.C. region next week with a show at the new Capital One Hall in Tysons. (Photo by Elizabeth Miranda; courtesy Primary Wave)

Melissa Etheridge
‘One Way Out Tour’
Tuesday, April 26
Capital One Hall
7750 Capital One Tower Rd.
Tysons, VA
7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $55
ticketmaster.com
capitalonehall.com
melissaetheridge.com

We caught up with rock legend Melissa Etheridge on April 8 by phone from Snoqualmie, Wash. — it’s about 26 miles east of Seattle —where she was playing the Snoqualmie Casino on her “One Way Out Tour,” which plays our region on Tuesday, April 26. 

It’s named after her latest album, released last fall, which found Etheridge, who’s been out since ’93, revisiting demos from early in her career.

Her comments have been slightly edited for length.

WASHINGTON BLADE: “One Way Out” sounds like such a cool project. Was it all re-recorded stuff of old songs or were some of those vintage takes on the record as well?

MELISSA ETHERIDGE: The last two songs, the live songs, were from where? From 2002? OK, but the other songs were newly recorded. 

BLADE: And how many of them did you remember?

ETHERIDGE: You know, when I found them again, they all came back very clearly. And I was like, “Oh, this is — why did I throw that away? That’s weird.” And I really enjoyed, you know, hearing them, they were just old demos. I’d never done full-blown recordings. So I thought, “This is great, I want to do these songs.”

BLADE: We have a relatively new venue you’re going to be playing, Capital One Hall. I’ve only been there once. You excited?

ETHERIDGE: Yeah, it’s always fun. I love the D.C.-area crowd. It’s just really, really nice.

BLADE: And how do you decide where you’ll be? Or do you have any say in it? 

ETHERIDGE: Well, it’s not necessarily me. I do have a say in it, in what I want the whole tour to look like. But it is really up to William Morris, my agent, to find the right venue that understands what we need and the kind of atmosphere we’re looking for that and the amount of people and, you know, that sort of thing.

BLADE: Tell me about Etheridge TV. I just wonder, when we were in that acute phase of the pandemic, wasn’t it even remotely tempting to you to just take a break?

ETHERIDGE: No, because since I was 12 years old, I sang all the time for people, like five days a week and it’s just been what I do. And so when it was like, I was looking at a massive, cavernous amount of time that I was going to be home, I still needed a way to pay the bills, so we put our heads together — I’ve got one of the greatest television minds with me, you know, my wife (TV producer Linda Wallem), so I had the space and I had the equipment, and I was like, “Let’s do it.” And it was really fun to learn new things. It was fun to learn about computers and sound and streaming and lights and cameras and all these things that I didn’t know. … I feel a little smarter.

BLADE: When did you start back on the road?

ETHERIDGE: We went out last fall. We went out September, October, right around there. And you know, it was a little different, Now things are things are loosening up … but some places still require masks. But people are starting to get back out and it feels good. It’s not the overwhelming thing that it was a few months ago.

BLADE: And what was it like being on ‘Ellen’ again for her final season?

ETHERIDGE: Oh, I love her. She’s such an old friend. You know, I say that about myself, too. (chuckles) But, you know, she’s just a relationship in my life that I have treasured. We’ve watched each other grow and the changes we’ve made and the successes and what we’ve gone through and I love that she had me on and just it was just a really — she’s a dear friend. And she showed an old photo there, and we both said, “Oh, that was before we were so busy.”

BLADE: Do you talk to her often?

ETHERIDGE: I would say we see each other socially once or twice a year. It just seemed like once we started having children, all my friends from my 20s and 30s when we were not as busy — it just gets harder to stay in touch and life got crazy. 

BLADE: So when you were hanging out back in the day with Ellen and Rosie and everybody, how was it that Brad Pitt was in that group too? 

ETHERIDGE: Well, my girlfriend (Julie Cypher) had been married to Lou Diamond Phillips and we were all very good friends with Dermot Mulroney and Catherine Keener and Catherine Keener did a movie with Brad, like a movie nobody saw, like Johnny Dangerously or something (1991’s “Johnny Suede”), some really weird movie. So I met Brad before he was terribly famous. He was a part of that group. There was a whole group of all of us that just hung out, and we were all totally different. We were just like young, hungry Hollywood and we’d talk about, “Oh, I had this audition,” or “I went and did this,” and we were just all trying to make it in that town. So we’d get together and have fun. 

BLADE: I was so terribly sorry to hear about Beckett (Etheridge’s son, who died in 2020 at age 21 after struggling with opioid addiction). How are you and the rest of the family, especially (Beckett’s twin) Bailey, dealing with it now?

ETHERIDGE: There are many, many families like us that deal with a loss like that. It just blows a family sideways. But we have a deep love and connection, all of us. We all knew he had a problem and it’s a problem that starts way before he actually passes, so it was not a surprise. So now we’re just living with the missing aspect. You try not to think about what could have been and you try to think about him in a happier place and that he’s out of pain, so that helps us.

BLADE: Had he and Bailey been as close in recent years?

ETHERIDGE: They were very close, but in the last couple of years as he made worse and worse choices, we couldn’t support that, so they were less close, but of course in her heart, it was her brother, he was very dear to her. 

BLADE: Did you watch the Grammys?  Was there anybody you were particularly rooting for?

ETHERIDGE: I watched bits and pieces of it. I had a show that night, so I didn’t get to see the main thing, but I have seen pieces and I just love the crazy diversity and you know, the TikTok people winning stuff, it’s like, “Wow, this is so not the Grammys I remember from the ’80s,” but that was what, 30 years ago? So it’s all good.

BLADE: You were such a perennial favorite back in the day in the best rock female category. Were you pissed when they eliminated it? 

ETHERIDGE: It’s sad because I felt like the criteria they were using to judge what is female rock, they just really dropped the ball. I still think there are some amazing musicians that could be considered, you know, rock, but it feels like we’re having a hard time even defining what rock and roll is now anyway. There’s a whole bunch of strong women out there playing, rocking, you know, playing guitar, being excellent musicians and songwriters. If you can’t call it best rock female, OK, call it something else. 

BLADE: I remember so vividly when you were on the Grammys in 2005, in the midst of chemo, when you sang “Piece of My Heart.” I remember you saying you were wondering how people would react to seeing you bald. Having been through that, any thoughts on the Will/Jada Oscars situation since her baldness, too, was due to a medical condition? 

ETHERIDGE: You know, it’s funny, I did feel a little remembrance of (thinking), “I just hope people don’t make fun of me.” That was kind of the first thing because to go out there bald, that was so different for me as an artist whose hair had kind of defined her. I was thinking, “How am I gonna rock without my hair?” I thought people might make fun of me, but I got over that. I just thought, “Well, if somebody makes fun of me, that just makes them look bad.” So I just walked through it. And you know, it’s hard to draw the line between what’s funny and what’s painful and how to look at something. I feel for all parties involved. 

BLADE: When you go on these cruises, do fans give you some space or do they swarm around the minute you walk out? Is it even enjoyable for you? 

ETHERIDGE: Yeah, it is. You know, we did our last one, now we’re doing Etheridge Island, we now have a destination in Mexico, outside of Cancun, it’s just this island that we’re going to that is really fantastic. But I do I make myself available, I don’t run away. When I have to be somewhere, I have a great company we work with called Sixthman that knows how to get me from point A to point B without being bogged down. But I do my make myself available. Everyone gets a picture with me. It’s my work, but I love it. I try to make myself available but also have some time just for myself too.

Melissa Etheridge says slowing down wasn’t an option for her when the pandemic hit. She’s glad to be back on the road now, she says. (Photo by Elizabeth Miranda; courtesy Primary Wave)

BLADE: You Tweeted a few nights ago about having a tight curfew of just 90 minutes at a casino but then it worked out and you got to do a full set. Why are the curfews so tight at casinos?  

ETHERIDGE: Why do you think? They want people at the tables. Like for tonight, we we settled on 100 minutes. They’re giving me 10 extra minutes. I don’t like it, but in some areas, the only really good venue is a casino, so if you want to reach your folks there, you kind of have to meet them half way. 

BLADE: Yeah, but it seems like in concert halls, the curfews can sometimes be really tight too. Even Madonna got her lights shut off a couple years ago. Of course, she’s notoriously late, but why are they so strict with these things nowadays? 

ETHERIDGE: There are all different situations — concert halls often have union crews that will absolutely shut you down if you go one second over. There are also sound curfews, noise curfews, mostly with outdoor venues, but sometimes indoor as well. They have an agreement with the neighborhood. So you have people in the neighborhood standing by with their phones ready to pounce the minute it goes over one minute, they’re gonna call the police. As a performer, you just realize, “OK, it’s not just about me.” When I don’t have a curfew, I usually land at about two hours and some change. That seems comfortable to everyone. Any longer and I think I’m wearing my audience out. When I’m at a place with a shorter show, I just do my best. 

BLADE: I know you’re a big Chiefs fan. Did you watch that game back in January all the way to the end? 

ETHERIDGE: Well, at the end of it, I was on the floor. My wife was like, “Honey, honey, there’s still 13 seconds,” and I was moaning and sort of getting my feet on the floor and, you know, laying down and throwing a fit. And she’s like, “No, there’s still 13 seconds.” I dragged myself back to the television. And I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Wait a minute. Did we just win?” You know, just really crazy, really crazy stuff. … When you’re a fan like that, it’s a ride you can’t fully explain.

BLADE: Are you in a cordial or good place with your exes? Does it get easier when the kids are starting to grow up?

ETHERIDGE: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And you realize that it’s best for the kids if you can really get along and that any sort of conflict that can’t get resolved, that gets emotional, does no good for anyone. And absolutely, I have, I’ve gotten better at that as the years have gone by.

BLADE: Do you have the slightest inkling yet what the next studio album might be like?

ETHERIDGE: Well, I’ve got some interesting projects that I’m not ready to talk about just yet. But they have to do with my life story. There’s a lot of digging up of my past and really telling the story. So I imagine the next series of music you’ll get from me is going to be very focused on my journey. 

Melissa Etheridge, gay news, Washington Blade
Melissa Etheridge (Photo by Elizabeth Miranda; courtesy Primary Wave)
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New Cranes sommelier brings spirit to wine and sake program

Stewart-Woodruff curates eclectic list for Michelin-starred restaurant

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‘I bring my whole self to work,’ says Eric Stewart-Woodruff. (Photo by Rey Lopez)

Outfitted in a blue damask dinner jacket with satin lapels and an energetic smile, Eric Stewart-Woodruff carves an impressive figure when chatting about his favorite vintages. Stewart-Woodruff, who’s gay, is the new sommelier at Michelin-starred Cranes in Penn Quarter.

Stewart-Woodruff curates an eclectic wine – and sake – program focusing on pairings with celebrated Chef Pepe Moncayo’s innovative, global flavors. Cranes, which explores intersections of Spanish and Japanese cuisine, opened just before the pandemic, and received a coveted Michelin star in 2021.

Stewart-Woodruff did not start off in the wine industry. In fact, he does not have any formal training in wine. Instead, after a career as a professional photographer, he pivoted to the restaurant industry, where he developed his love of wine. While working for a distributor, he connected with D.C.’s own District Winery. This opportunity allowed him to express his truest self, as a lead tour guide, wine ambassador and sommelier. He credits his identity and personality as his reason for thriving.

“I bring my whole self to work,” he says, “offering a level of humanity and approachability.” 

After the pandemic temporarily shuttered District Winery, Stewart-Woodruff found himself interviewing at Cranes, enamored with Moncayo’s “creative vision,” he says – and was sold. He began in late summer of 2021.

Through his work in hospitality, Stewart-Woodruff notes that the industry can be hetero-male dominated. He has been able to break through by not holding back on his identity.

“I tend to play with expectations of what a sommelier may look or act like,” he says. “I move away from what one may stereotypically look like, but still present like one.”

For him, that means talking about wine and wine education “as if it were gossip,” he says. “I like to view wine like we are at brunch. Wine has personality, it’s performative, and it has stereotypes.” He is seeking to break molds of specific likes and dislikes, exploring the depth that wine has to offer, in the context of the Spanish-Japanese Cranes menu. In fact, he says, Moncayo is supportive of his innovative, certification-less angle. “I become more relatable,” he says.

He also presents original events. He paired with local guest sommelier Andrew Stover (also a gay man) on Tuesday, March 29 for a springtime showcase of specialty rosé wines paired with Moncayo’s dishes. The duo poured tastes of specialty, small-batch wines from Brazil, Italy, Spain, Uruguay, and Maryland.

Leaning into the innovative spirit, the wine-by-glass list is not split by color. Instead, it is divided into evocative categories. For example, both a chardonnay and a pinot noir fall into the “Elegant, round, and mellow” category.

As a Spanish-Japanese restaurant, Cranes not only possesses an extensive wine cellar, but has consistently expanded its sake program. Sakes by the glass are split into the same exact categories. The very same “Elegant, round, and mellow” list includes Ginjo Nama Genshu and junmai daiginjo.

Stewart-Woodruff explains that wine and sake should be attended to similarly. “Sake is something you can think about like a beer in terms of production but treat like a wine,” he says. Sake is a fermented polished-rice beverage, dating back more than two millennia in Japan.

“Sake has aromatics, texture, body, and finish.” He takes pride in discussing customers’ palate preferences, and turning them onto a specific sake, for their qualities of earthiness, acidity, or others.

“Many people don’t experience sake outside of college or bars. Now, I can be a sommelier for sake, and for the marriage of Eastern and Western cuisine and beverage.” He expresses excitement at being innovative in his sake beverage pairings, occupying a niche space. When discussing both wine and sake, he aims to bring an artistic flair and tour-guide enthusiasm to the table.

Woodruff credits his identity and background for his success. He aims to bring a level of humanity and approachability to what has been a formal, stuffy area. He has high ambitions to portray sake as sophisticated as wine in the customer’s mind, “but it pairs well with Moncayo’s conceptually ambitious menu,” he says.

“Wine and sake are as eclectic as humanity. I want people to accept experiencing wine like the world has accepted me.”

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Legalization trend continues as Nat’l Cannabis Festival kicks off

D.C.’s 420 Week runs April 16-24

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National Cannabis Festival (Photo by Doug Van Sant; courtesy NCF)

The sixth annual National Cannabis Festival kicks off in D.C. on April 16 as the nation continues to see advances in legalizing cannabis, particularly for medical uses. 

Just this week, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed HB 933 and SB 671, to provide numerous operational improvements to the state’s medical cannabis program, including eliminating the requirement that patients register with the Board of Pharmacy after receiving their written certification from a registered practitioner. 

“These legislative improvements will bring great relief to the thousands of Virginians waiting to access the medical cannabis program,” said JM Pedini, NORML’s Development Director and the Executive Director of Virginia NORML. “We hear from dozens of Virginians each week who are struggling with the registration process and frustrated by the 60-day wait to receive their approval from the Board of Pharmacy,” Pedini added.

There are more than 47,000 program registrants, with an estimated 8,000 applicants still awaiting approval. 

The new laws will take effect July 1. Until that time, patients will still be required to register with the Board of Pharmacy in order to shop at one of the state’s ten operational dispensaries. After July 1, patients who would like to receive a physical card will still have the option to request one by registering with the Board of Pharmacy.

The changes in Virginia law reflect growing support nationwide for reforming marijuana laws. Most Americans favor the enactment of a broad array of legal reforms specific to marijuana policy, according to new nationwide polling data provided by YouGov.com.

Specifically, six-in-10 Americans say that “marijuana should be made legal in the United States.” Majorities of Democrats (72 percent) and independents (60 percent) back legalization, while most Republicans (46 percent) do not.

Last week, members of the United States House of Representatives voted 220 to 204 in favor of The MORE Act, which removes marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act thereby allowing states to legalize cannabis markets free from federal interference. Most Democrats (217) voted for the bill while all but three Republicans voted against it.

A majority of Americans also support amending federal law so that banks and other financial institutions can explicitly partner with state-licensed marijuana businesses. Support for the policy change is strongest among Democrats (66 percent) and weakest among Republicans (38 percent).

Under existing federal law, financial institutions are discouraged from partnering with state-licensed cannabis businesses. According to the most recent financial information provided by the US Treasury Department, only about ten percent of all banks and only about four percent of all credit unions provide services to licensed cannabis-related businesses.

House members have voted on six separate occasions to pass federal legislation (The SAFE Banking Act) to reform this policy, but Senators have never taken any action to advance it in the Upper Chamber. Most recently, House members voted in February to include SAFE Banking provisions in HR 4521: the America COMPETES Act. Senators failed to include similar language in their version of the bill. (Courtesy NORML)

420 Week arrives in D.C.

D.C. is gearing up for a blazing 420 Week, featuring several days of exciting panels, art and community-building events and parties culminating in the National Cannabis Festival on April 23, featuring Wiz Khalifa, Lettuce, Ghostface Killah, Backyard Band, DuPont Brass, Shamans of Sound, Cramer, and more. 

This year, the sixth annual National Cannabis Festival, which celebrates progress on cannabis legalization, is expanding to a full weekend of epic cannabis-related events, including the National Cannabis Policy Summit April 22 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center and the National Cannabis Championship, presented by Gentleman Toker and slated for April 24 at Echostage with Slick Rick. The weekend is the capstone of 420 Week, hosted by the National Cannabis Festival organizers in partnership with the Eaton Hotel and DC Brau. The week kicks off on Saturday, April 16, with movie screenings, evening parties, a beer launch and more. Read on for the week’s highlights, courtesy of Festival organizers:
 

420 Week

Saturday, April 16 – Sunday, April 24 

Eaton Hotel + DC Brau

From the Hemp and Hops Panel and launch of NCF Legalize It! Lager at DC Brau (3178-B Bladensburg Rd. NE) on April 16 to the 4/20 Kickback Party featuring Khalifa Kush and panel with artists discussing cannabis’s role in their practice at the Eaton Hotel (1201 K St, NW), 420 Week promises something for everyone with an interest in cannabis culture. Take a tour with Luckie Chucky tours, participate in a “Plantwave Soundbath” and more. Nearly all events are free; RSVP required. Visit nationalcannabisfestival.com for details. 
 

National Cannabis Policy Summit

Friday, April 22, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center

1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Join a who’s who of activists, industry pioneers, government leaders, journalists and more for an electric and illuminating day looking at the era’s most pressing cannabis policy challenges and opportunities. U.S. Senate candidate and Civil Rights activist Gary Chambers; Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform; Portland Cannabis Program Manager Dasheeda Dawson; Aamra Ahmad, senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union and many others will be on hand to discuss environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation, banking legislation, decriminalization and more. Afterward, stay for a reception sponsored by Weedmaps. All events are free; registration is strongly recommended. Visit nationalcannabisfestival.com/ncf-policy-summit for details. 
      

National Cannabis Festival

Saturday, April 23, 12 p.m. 

RFK Festival Grounds

2400 East Capitol St., NE, Lot 8

 The highlight of 420 Week events is the East Coast’s largest ticketed cannabis gathering, which returns to Washington’s RFK Campus with performances from Wiz Khalifa Lettuce, Ghostface Killah and many others. Also on tap: a wide range of exhibitors, five pavilions on topics from wellness to agriculture to education, and a brand-new culinary pavilion featuring top chefs from Maydan, Maketto, Moon Rabbit, as well as the Munchies Zone, with 75 of the region’s most popular food trucks including Peruvian Brothers, Jerk at Nite, Reba’s Funnel Cakes and more. (Note: No THC infused foods are permitted to be sold or sampled at NCF; festival-goers must be 21 and up.) Tickets range from $75-$375 for one or two-day admission to the festival and National Cannabis Championship. Visit nationalcannabisfestival.com/tickets
 

National Cannabis Championship Presented by Gentleman Toker

Sunday, April 24, 12 p.m.

2135 Queens Chapel Rd., NE

Slick Rick and DJ Footwerk are giving festival-goers a sendoff to remember on the final day of 420 Week and the festival weekend, at the National Cannabis Championship at Echostage, new this year. Presented by Gentleman Toker, this awards show and bash celebrates the incredible cannabis cultivation taking place in the Washington area and across the Mid-Atlantic. Expect exhibitors, comedy, munchies, drinks and a chance to chill with some of the biggest names and brands in cannabis cultivation. Tickets are $55. Visit nationalcannabisfestival.com/tickets.

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