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August Getty wears his colors out, loud, and proud

Bold, independent, and wise beyond his 26 years

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August Getty, gay news, Washington Blade
‘As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been fortunate to find a community and friends who love and accept me for who I am,’ said August Getty. (Photo courtesy Getty)

I have a natural distaste for high society and I never got fashion (just look at me), but August Getty has me rethinking both things.

The great grandson of late oil magnate J. Paul Getty and the son of famed Italian-born activist, LGBTQ Ally and business executive/philanthropist Ariadne Getty and her former husband actor Justin Williams, 26-year-old August is far from a spoiled rich kid coasting on his bloodline.

For one thing, he’s an out, proud gay man who’s vocal about rising against oppression and aligning with various groups to build up a rainbow of communities, not just LGBTQ.

He’s also honest about having felt like an outcast and a loner as a child, though elevated by the support of his mom and eventually the community itself.

As for fashion, he doesn’t just throw his work onto a runway and expect it to explode. Having founded his womenswear brand August Getty Atelier at 18, he’s proceeded to show his clothes in highly untraditional ways rather than play by the old guidebooks.

Being confident enough to proceed as a self-taught designer paid off.

At age 18, August became one of the youngest designers to ever debut at Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week.

In 2014, Getty premiered his Spring/Summer ’15 line — inspired by his fantasies of European heiresses — at NYC’s Fashion Week. The next year, he collaborated with photographer David LaChapelle for Thread of Man, an art installation at Universal Studios, which included scenes like an altar, a car accident, and a commentary about Donald Trump. (Yes, he gets political.)

August also presented his couture collections at the last three seasons at Paris Haute Couture Week. These collections include “Confetti” in January 2019, “ΣNIGMA” in July 2019, and most recently his Spring/Summer 2020 collection “The White Hart” in January 2020.

Stars who have worn Getty’s creations range from Lady Gaga and Cher to Jennifer Lopez and Shangela. What’s more, he dressed Bebe Rexha, thereby furthering her conversation about size inclusivity.

And by the way, he’s also done clothes for Gigi Gorgeous, who happens to be his sister-in-law. (Gigi married August’s sister Nats in July 2019).

I talked to Getty about his heady achievements and his place in a wildly changed world where both fashion and society have been radically redefined.

MICHAEL MUSTO: Hello, August. You always seem to favor artistic presentations rather than just straightforward shows. Do you like making your fashion into an event?

AUGUST GETTY: I want to use every aspect of creativity in my brain when expressing myself and my art, so I like turning everything into an experience. Whether it’s a runway show or an artistic presentation incorporating outside elements like scents or creating visual effects, I always want to immerse the audience into my world—the world of the GettyGirl.

MUSTO: Your inspirations have come from designers like Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen. What do you appreciate—their boldness and originality?

GETTY: Their craftsmanship takes no prisoners. They are authentic to who they are. [The late] Gianni and Donatella Versace are also huge inspirations in my life, being raised with Italian culture and working with your family. They’ve taught me to be bold, original, and to never steer away from my artistic vision.

MUSTO: What do you think fashion accomplishes other than making people look good? Can it be life changing—and is it still as relevant in the crises we’re living through?

GETTY: Fashion is cyclical, but finding your own personal style can be life changing because fashion is a form of self-expression, as well as a reflection of our current times. During hard times, people tend to dress less extravagantly so they wear more basics, a lot of times in darker colors, because they are not as creatively inspired when there are so many other things going on in the world. I use my love for fashion as a vehicle for my imagination. It’s an artistic medium to tell stories, so I guess you could say I’m more of a storyteller than a fashion designer. I like to live my life somewhere between fantasy and reality at all times.

MUSTO: Does a Getty worry about money in a recession?

GETTY: Un uomo Italian non discute mai dei suoi affair finanziari.

MUSTO: Bene! Your birthday is in Pride month. How does that feel every year?

GETTY: I’ve been going to Pride since I was 14, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to go at a young age. I look forward to June every year but not just because of my birthday. This month of celebration is a beautiful time, and it unlocks a lot of creativity and positivity in me.b

I see all aspects of life together, not just the pride of the LGBTQ+ community—the intersectionality of gender, race, sexual orientation, class, and other social and political identities is important to keep in mind, so we need to have Pride for all communities, including Black Trans Pride, because Black Lives Matter. Instead of the usual Pride Parade in Los Angeles this year, our community marched in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and in support of Black Trans Pride, and it was one of the most inspiring experiences of my life.

MUSTO: Is being gay part of your creative DNA?

GETTY: Being gay my whole life, I’ve felt ostracized and outcasted by society, especially as a young child, so I spent a lot of time on my own. This alone time in my formative years helped my creativity flourish by pushing me to explore and see the world on my own, which helped feed my imagination. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been fortunate to find a community and friends who love and accept me for who I am, so I’m more social now than when I was a kid, but I still cherish my alone time, as it’s special and sacred to me.

MUSTO: When did you first know you were gay?

GETTY: Inception. [Laughs]

MUSTO: Not in the womb?

GETTY: Yes, in the womb. I had a notepad in there, and I was sketching away!

MUSTO: How did your family react to a 14-year-old at Pride?

GETTY: I was a very colorful 14 year old, and my family was extremely welcoming. My mom is a fierce ally. Our family members are all allies. It was meant to be our path to teach others how to give and receive the same love that my mother showed my sister and I at an early age.

MUSTO: What do you think of how we LGBTQs are doing considering the actions of the Trump administration?

GETTY: It’s truly heart wrenching to witness their actions and to see the new policies they are constantly trying to set in place, attacking the rights and safety of our community. It is disheartening, but something positive that has come from this is that we are showing each other how strong we all are together and that our voice matters. We are survivors, and when we support each other and project love, we are unstoppable.

MUSTO: Your family is involved in the Los Angeles Blade and Washington Blade. Why are they behind these papers?

GETTY: My family is very active in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and the advancement of our community, so we are proud to support these prominent papers. Los Angeles is one of the most populated cities in our country, yet LA Blade is our city’s only LGBT weekly. The Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest LGBT newspaper, is the only LGBT media member of the White House Press Corps. We need more representation like this in the media landscape to actively drive conversations and create positive change.

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Rodriquez scores historic win at otherwise irrelevant Golden Globes

Award represents a major milestone for trans visibility

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Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, on right, and Billy Porter in 'Pose.' (Photo courtesy of FX)

HOLLYWOOD – Despite its continuing status as something of a pariah organization in Hollywood, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has managed to cling to relevance in the wake of last night’s behind-closed-doors presentation of its 79th Annual Golden Globe Awards by sole virtue of having bestowed the prize for “Best Leading Actress in a Television Series – Drama” on Michaela Jaé Rodriguez for her work in the final season of “Pose” – making her the first transgender performer to win a Golden Globe.

The ceremony took place as a private, no-press-or-audience event in which winners were revealed via a series of tweets from the Golden Globes Twitter account. No celebrities were present (not even the nominees or winners), although actress Jamie Lee Curtis participated by appearing in a video in which she pronounced her continuing loyalty to the HFPA – without mention of the  longstanding issues around diversity and ethical practices, revealed early in 2021 by a bombshell Los Angeles Times report, that have led to an nearly industry-wide boycott of the organization and its awards as well as the cancellation of the annual Golden Globes broadcast by NBC for the foreseeable future.

While the Golden Globes may have lost their luster for the time being, the award for Rodriquez represents a major milestone for trans visibility and inclusion in the traditionally transphobic entertainment industry, and for her part, the actress responded to news of her win with characteristic grace and good will.

Posting on her Instagram account, the 31-year old actress said: 

“OMG OMGGG!!!! @goldenglobes Wow! You talking about sickening birthday present! Thank you!

“This is the door that is going to Open the door for many more young talented individuals. They will see that it is more than possible. They will see that a young Black Latina girl from Newark New Jersey who had a dream, to change the minds others would WITH LOVE. LOVE WINS.

“To my young LGBTQAI babies WE ARE HERE the door is now open now reach the stars!!!!!”

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As You Are Bar and the importance of queer gathering spaces

New bar/restaurant poised to open in 2022

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As You Are Bar had a pop-up venue at Capital Pride's "Colorful Fest" block party in October. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than just a watering hole: As You Are Bar is set to be the city’s newest queer gathering place where patrons can spill tea over late-morning cappuccinos as easily as they can over late-night vodka-sodas.

Co-owners and founders Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike built on their extensive experience in the hospitality industry – including stints at several gay bars – to sign a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row, replacing what was previously District Soul Food and Banana Café. In a prime corner spot, they are seeking to bring together the disparate colors of the LGBTQ rainbow – but first must navigate the approval process (more on that later).

The duo decided on this Southeast neighborhood locale to increase accessibility for “the marginalized parts of our community,” they say, “bringing out the intersectionality inherent in the queer space.”

Northwest D.C., they explain, not only already has many gay bar options, but is also more difficult to get to for those who don’t live within walking distance. The Barracks Row location is right by a Metro stop, “reducing pay walls.” Plus, there, “we are able to find a neighborhood to bring in a queer presence that doesn’t exist today.”

McDaniel points out that the area has a deep queer bar history. Western bar Remington’s was once located in the area, and it’s a mere block from the former Phase 1, the longest-running lesbian bar, which was open from 1971-2015.

McDaniel and Pike hope that As You Are Bar will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture. We want people of all ages, gender, sexual identity, as well as drinkers and non-drinkers, to have space.”

McDaniel (she/her) began her career at Apex in 2005 and was most recently the opening manager of ALOHO. Pike (she/they) was behind the bar and worked as security at ALOHO, where the two met.

Since leaving ALOHO earlier this year, they have pursued the As You Are Bar project, first by hosting virtual events during the pandemic, and now in this brick-and-mortar space. They expressed concern that receiving the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) liquor license approval and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, or ANC, approval will be a long and expensive process.

They have already received notice that some neighbors intend to protest As You Are Bar’s application for the “tavern” liquor license that ABRA grants to serve alcohol and allow for live entertainment (e.g. drag shows). They applied for the license on Nov. 12, and have no anticipated opening date, estimating at least six months. If ABRA and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board give final approval, the local ANC 6B and nearby residents can no longer protest the license until the license comes up for renewal.

Until approval is given, they continue physical buildout (including soundproofing) and planning their offerings. If the license is approved, ABRA and the ABC Board can take action against As You Are Bar, like any bar, at any time if they violate the terms of the license or create a neighborhood disturbance that violates city laws such as the local noise ordinance.  In the kitchen, the duo snagged Chef Nina Love to develop the menu. Love will oversee café-style fare; look out for breakfast sandwiches making an appearance all the way until close. They will also have baked goods during the day.

McDaniel and Pike themselves will craft the bar menu. Importantly, they note, the coffee bar will also serve until close. There will be a full bar as well as a list of zero-proof cocktails. As with their sourcing, they hope to work with queer-, minority-, and women-owned businesses for everything not made in-house.

Flexible conceptually, they seek to grow with their customer base, allowing patrons to create the culture that they seek.

Their goal is to move the queer space away from a focus on alcohol consumption. From book clubs, to letter-writing, to shared workspaces, to dance parties, they seek an all-day, morning-to-night rhythm of youth, families, and adults to find a niche. “We want to shift the narrative of a furtive, secretive, dark gay space and hold it up to the light,” they say. “It’s a little like The Planet from the original L Word show,” they joke.

Pike notes that they plan on working closely with SMYAL, for example, to promote programming for youth. Weekend potential activities include lunch-and-learn sessions on Saturdays and festive Sunday brunches.

The café space, to be located on the first floor, will have coffeehouse-style sofas as well as workstations. A slim patio on 8th Street will hold about six tables.

Even as other queer bars have closed, they reinforce that the need is still present. “Yes, we can visit a café or bar, but we always need to have a place where we are 100 percent certain that we are safe, and that our security is paramount. Even as queer acceptance continues to grow, a dedicated queer space will always be necessary,” they say.

To get there, they continue to rally support of friends, neighbors, and leaders in ANC6B district; the ANC6B officials butted heads with District Soul Food, the previous restaurant in the space, over late-night noise and other complaints. McDaniel and Pike hope that once nearby residents and businesses understand the important contribution that As You Are Bar can make to the neighborhood, they will extend their support and allow the bar to open.

AYA, gay news, Washington Blade
Rachel Pike and Jo McDaniel signed a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row. (Photo courtesy Pike and McDaniel)
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Need a list-minute gift idea?

Books, non-profit donations make thoughtful choices

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‘Yes, Daddy’ by Jonathan Parks-Ramage is the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune, who schemes to meet an older man.

You knew this was coming.

You knew that you were going to have to finish your holiday shopping soon but it snuck up on you, didn’t it? And even if you’re close to being done, there are always those three or five people who are impossible to buy for, right? Remember this, though: books are easy to wrap and easy to give, and they last a while, too. So why not head to the bookstore with your Christmas List and look for these gifts.

And if you still have people to shop for, why not make a donation to a local non-profit in their name? A list of D.C.-area suggestions follows.

BOOKS: NONFICTION

If there’s about to be a new addition to your family, wrapping up “Queer Stepfamilies: The path to Social and Legal Recognition” by Katie L. Acosta would be a good thing. In this book, the author followed forty LGBTQ families to understand the joys, pitfalls, and legalities of forming a new union together. It can’t replace a lawyer, but it’s a good overview.

For the parent who wants to ensure that their child grows up with a lack of bias, “Raising LGBTQ Allies” by Chris Tompkins is a great book to give. It’s filled with methods to stop bullying in its tracks, to be proactive in having That Conversation, and how to be sure that the next generation you’re responsible for becomes responsible in turn. Wrap it up with “The Healing Otherness Handbook” by Stacee L. Reicherzer, Ph.D., a book that helps readers to deal with bullying by finding confidence and empowerment.

If there’s someone on your gift list who’s determined to get “fit” in the coming year, then give “The Secret to Superhuman Strength” by Alison Bechdel this holiday. Told in graphic-novel format (comics, basically), it’s the story of searching for self-improvement and finding it in a surprising place.

So why not give a little nostalgia this year by wrapping up “A Night at the Sweet Gum Head” by Martin Padgett? It’s the tale of disco, drag, and drugs in the 1970s (of course!) in Atlanta, with appearances by activists, politics, and people who were there at that fabulous time. Wrap it up with “After Francesco” by Brian Malloy, a novel set a little later – in the mid-1980s in New York City and Minneapolis at the beginning of the AIDS crisis.

The LGBTQ activist on your gift list will want to read “The Case for Gay Reparations” by Omar G. Encarnacion. It’s a book about acknowledgment, obligation on the part of cis citizens, and fixing the pain that homophobia and violence has caused. Wrap it up with “Trans Medicine: The Emergence and Practice of Treating Gender” by Stef M. Shuster, a look at trans history that may also make your giftee growl.

FICTION

Young readers who have recently transitioned will enjoy reading “Both Sides Now” by Peyton Thomas. It’s a novel about a high school boy with gigantic dreams and the means to accomplish them all. Can he overcome the barriers that life gives him? It’s debatable… Pair it with “Can’t Take That Away” by Steven Salvatore, a book about two nonbinary students and the troubles they face as they fall in love.

The thriller fan on your list will be overjoyed to unwrap “Yes, Daddy” by Jonathan Parks-Ramage. It’s the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune, who schemes to meet an older, more accomplished man with the hopes of sparking his failing career. But the older man isn’t who the younger thinks he is, and that’s not good. Wrap it up with “Lies with Man” by Michael Nava, a book about a lawyer who agrees to be counsel for a group of activists. Good so far, right? Until one of them is accused of being involved in a deadly bombing.

For the fan of Southern fiction, you can’t go wrong when you wrap up “The Tender Grave” by Sheri Reynolds. It’s the tale of two sisters, one homophobic, the other lesbian, and how they learn to forgive and re-connect.

NON-PROFIT GIVING

Like nonprofit organizations throughout the country, D.C.-area LGBTQ supportive nonprofit groups have told the Blade they continue to rebuild amid the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted their fundraising efforts while increasing expenses, at least in part by prompting more people to come to them for help.

This holiday season, if you’re looking for a thoughtful gift, consider making a donation to one of our local LGBTQ non-profit organizations in someone else’s name. This list is by no means exhaustive, but a good place to start your research.

Contributions to the LGBTQ supportive nonprofit organizations can be made via the websites of these local organizations:

• Blade Foundation, which funds local scholarships and fellowships for queer student journalists, bladefoundation.org

• DC Center, our local community center that operates a wide range of programming,  thedccenter.org/donate

Food & Friends, which delivers meals to homebound patients, foodandfriends.org

HIPS, which advances the health rights and dignity of those impacted by sex work and drugs, hips.org

• SMYAL, which advocates for queer youth, smyal.org

Wanda Alston Foundation, which offers shelter and support for LGBTQ youth, wandaalstonfoundation.org

• Whitman-Walker Health, the city’s longtime LGBTQ-inclusive health care provider, whitmanwalkerimpact.org

Casa Ruby, which provides shelter and services to youth in need, casaruby.org

• Us Helping Us, which helps improve the health of communities of color and works to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Black community, ushelpingus.org/donate

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