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2021 Queer Women of Washington

Celebrating voices of change in D.C.

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The Washington Blade, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs and the Office of Women’s Policies and Initiatives, is proud to present our annual Queer Women of Washington.

Here we celebrate some of the city’s many inspiring queer women who are the voices of change from a diverse group of industries. Nominations came from our readers; that list was then trimmed to the queer women profiled here.

Rewatch the Queer Women of Washington Awards presented by DC Department of Health HERE.

Meg Metcalf

Meg Metcalf (Photo courtesy of Metcalf)

Occupation: Library of Congress (Librarian & Collection Specialist, Women’s, Gender, & LGBTQIA+ Studies)

Where do you live? Ward 5

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

Being a non-binary queer femme in Washington, D.C. has given me an unparalleled opportunity to influence the way cultural memory institutions document and remember LGBTQIA+ life, history, and cultures in our nation’s capital and beyond. What happens in D.C. resonates nationally and globally, so it’s a wonderful place to live and work as a librarian, activist and advocate.

Michele Zavos

Michelle Zavos (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Occupation: Zavos Law

Where do you live? Ward 5

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

I identify as a lesbian, as I have my entire adult life. That identification to me means a certain way of looking at the world, as a woman who loves and prioritizes women.

D Magrini

D Magrini (Photo courtesy of Magrini)

Occupation: Whitman-Walker Health

Where do you live? Ward 3

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

A native Washingtonian proudly being myself.

Yvette Scorse

Yvette Scorse (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Occupation: Communications Director, ByteBack

Where do you live? Ward 6

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

Being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. is about more than embracing and enjoying my own identity and love openly. It’s about celebrating other LGBTQ+ people, about nurturing a safe and welcoming environment for my colleagues, and it’s about putting equity and inclusion first in our community. I’m proud to be among a group of diverse, strong, creative, inspiring queer women in D.C.

Tiera Craig

Tiera Craig (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Occupation: The DC Center

Where do you live? Ward 3

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

I am a proud Black combat service disabled veteran lesbian professional committed to the LGBTQ community and passionate about All Things Lesbian. I strive to represent, educate, encourage, and empower members of the community in any way necessary. Being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. means that I have a greater opportunity to affect change on a micro and a macro level. It means that I am in a position to have my finger on the pulse of transformation in policy. It also means that I am a part of the dopest community in the country!

Sunu P. Chandy

Sunu P. Chandy (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Occupation: Legal Director, National Women’s Law Center

Where do you live? Ward 3

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

While we are lucky to be queer women in D.C. given all of our local legal protections for LGBTQ individuals, we also need to push the U.S. Senate to pass the Equality Act so that our rights in this country don’t depend on our zip code. We also need to keep organizing and advocating for social justice across the areas of our lives here in D.C. too. I am excited to keep building, alongside so many terrific comrades, toward gender justice, racial justice, disability justice, immigration justice and more.

Cee Smith

Cee Smith (Photo courtesy of Smith)

Occupation: Color Wheel Capital

Where do you live? Ward 5

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

Being a queer woman in D.C. means that I’m a part of a small but mighty percentage of the population that’s known to overcome despite the disparities. It means working daily to advance a community I believe in.

Heidi Ellis

Heidi Ellis (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Occupation: Founder, HME Consulting & Advocacy

Where do you live? Ward 6

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

My identity has always been my compass as I’ve navigated different spaces throughout my upbringing, education, and career. For me, it’s not about only being a woman, or queer, or Black, or Latinx. I am all of those things. The experiences I have occupying space as a woman with an intersectional lens dictate my priorities when allocating some of my most precious resources, including time, money, and my mental capacity. I am dedicated to building coalitions and improving systems that will ultimately lead to liberation for the most marginalized members of our community. I feel inspired living in Washington, D.C., as we are uniquely able to see the progress, and sadly the failures, of our government and the power structure. Local culture and history also inspire me. D.C. is a treasure trove of historical events and stories that influence our community, and I hope to continue learning while adding to the rich history.

Charlotte Cleveland

Charlotte Cleveland (Photo courtesy of Cleveland)

Occupation: American College of Surgeons

Where do you live? DMV Area

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

Being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. means being a part of a profoundly embracive, proud, diverse, and welcoming community. By nature, it means I get to be both national and local. We live at the epicenter of American politics, which can be an ugly and treacherous space to exist as a queer person and we see the progress, and failures, of our government in real-time. This allows me to use my voice and uplift the voices of others to advocate for change. On the local level, D.C. is one of the queerest cities in America and I can unabashedly be my queer self every day.

Morgan Butler

Morgan Butler (Photo courtesy of Butler)

Occupation: Public Allies DC

Where do you live? Ward 4

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

So much of my gender identity, sexuality and spirit has been nurtured and influenced by D.C. As a gender fluid femme queer, it’s been important for me to acknowledge all my selves, to care for them, to inspire them, to reparent them and heal them from childhood wounds. D.C. has been the safest place for me to reparent myself — this city has provided me and (with extreme reverence) allowed me to provide platforms and opportunities for others to experience the beautiful, whimsical, magical, intense heat that quite honestly, no other city has. The way D.C. is continuously birthing renaissance astounds me every moment of every day. The way this city breeds and nurtures talent is something I intentionally try to emulate in every space I’m welcomed in outside of the city. My work is so intrinsically connected to this city, in the same ways that my person and my spirit is.

Aditi Dussault

Aditi Dussault (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Occupation: Co-Founder & Director, GovContractPros, LLC

Where do you live? Ward 1

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

I first moved to D.C. to attend college – a somewhat typical story of “finding myself” in a new place. My favorite part of being queer in D.C. is not only have I found myself, but also I have found so many amazing people who are so different from me. In finding and exploring differences, I have found incredible threads of commonality and I think D.C. is particularly unique city for bringing it all together.

Melissa DeShields

Melissa DeShields (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Occupation: CEO, Frontline Solutions

Where do you live? Ward 4

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

Being a Black queer woman in Washington, D.C. means that I live in the intersection of race and identity. My work, my politics, my life is about justice and dismantling systems of oppression.

Ashley Carothers

Ashley Carothers (Photo courtesy of Carothers)

Occupation: Minority Veterans of America

Where do you live? Ward 5

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

Being a queer woman in D.C., our nation’s capital gives me the opportunity to mentor folks not just within our LGBTQ+ community but those outside of our community. I’m able to have conversations with people from all spectrums, change hearts and minds. I’m also able to open the door for the voiceless so that they can be seen and heard in the room. I’m able to cross lines and push boundaries so those coming behind me are able to live more as their true selves.

Olivia O’Neal

Olivia O’Neal (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Occupation: IONA, WWH, Mary’s House for Older Adults, DACL, Seabury Resources for Aging

Where do you live? Ward 6

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

Being a queer woman in D.C. means that I can advocate for all women’s rights no matter what their sexual orientation may be.

Jade Flower

Jade Flower (Photo courtesy of Flower)

Where do you live? Ward 7

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

Being a queer woman in D.C. means being a part of rich legacy — generations of Black lesbians in Washington have made this city a safe, inclusive and celebratory place. I grew up here, had my first kiss on a front porch off Nannie Helen. My first Pride (before I was out), I wore a different rainbow color every day of the week. My first party experiences were at the Edge and the Delta. My first time on a board was with Women in the Life Association. I screened my first film at HRC headquarters. I hope to continue to honor a tradition of so much self-love that it effortlessly pours into the LGBT community and allies alike.

Adalphie Johnson Wilhite

Adalphie Johnson Wilhite (Photo courtesy of Wilhite)

Occupation: SMYAL – Programs Director, The Community Church of Washington DC UCC – Assist. Pastor, Mx. Boss Lady Enterprises – Founder/Consultant

Where do you live? Ward 8

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

Being a Queer Womxn in the DMV to me means, having the knowledge, courage, and ability to be and create agents of change in the community in all of my queerness. As a Black, queer woman, mother, wife, leader, and pastor I recognize many spaces are not affirming of my identities. In knowing that, it is my responsibility to be unapologetic about my identities while speaking truth to power and empowering others to live in their authentic truth. Being a queer womxn means penetrating spaces, and holding leadership positions that historically have been held by male-identified persons while also carving spaces of our own. It is our responsibility to be visible in responding to the injustices that plague our communities in an effort to build a better present and future. Being a Queer Womxn in the DMV means to be proud, passionate, caring, unapologetic, fierce, and in the words of the beloved Audrey Lorde, deliberate and afraid of nothing.

Alexis Grady

Alexis Grady (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Occupation: Law Student

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

Being a queer non-binary person in Washington, D.C. has been an incredible and enlightening experience. The protections and opportunities afforded to me as a queer person in this city have allowed me to live more openly than I ever anticipated, and to be a fierce advocate for people in the LGBTQ community. From interning with the Victory Institute to serving as the president of Howard University’s CASCADE, my interactions with our community here have been overwhelmingly meaningful and positive. The protections and support for queer people, particularly women and non-binary people of color, are a large part of the reason I have chosen to make Washington, D.C. my permanent home. I am so grateful to be considered among the women and queer people who have made it possible for me to survive and thrive. Being a queer non-binary person in Washington, D.C. means being a step closer to freedom and being wrapped in the support of my community at all times.

Elizabeth Birch

Elizabeth Birch (Photo courtesy of Birch)

Occupation: VP CBRE and CEO Elizabeth Birch Company

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

Being a lesbian or anyone on the LGBTQ spectrum in Washington, D.C. is a gift. It gives you a perspective on humanity that might elude you in a purely straight world.

Yvonne Z. Smith

Yvonne Z. Smith (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Occupation: Disability and Mental Health Advocate

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

Being an out queer woman in D.C. allows me a amount of personal and emotional freedom. Although it’s been decades since I opened those closet doors it’s still refreshing not to be anything other than who I am. The Washington region is best place to work or play for any age of queer women. Although it still has some significant challenges that I work on through many LGBT organizations as well as disability organizations in the city I have never had to hide who I am or not advocate for all segments of the community I am a part of, including the Queer community.

Kisha Allure

Kisha Allure (Photo courtesy of Allure)

Occupation: Director of Victim Services/Resilient Development, Casa Ruby

What does being a queer woman in Washington, D.C. mean to you?

As a Queer woman, I have been classified as the unexplained subject of a marginalized population. However, As Queer Woman I will continue to stand in my truth. Living the way I feel, from the inside out. I will walk, work, and experience equal opportunity as every human being. I will continue to bridge the gaps and create systems of tangible resources, for all genders to access, which is the biggest barrier in the LGBTQ community.

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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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