Mike Ciriaco & Stephan Horbelt
It’s no secret that the LGBT community of Southern California is responsible for making our home—and thereby the world—such a vibrant, unique and progressive place to live. Our 2012 Hot List profiles 14 individuals who do just that—these LGBTs are smart and sexy, and their contributions to our community are unparalleled. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals can be found in every industry and every facet of life, truly making a difference while making strides in what was once thought impossible, and this list is a testament to that fact.
Reggie Cameron has handled branding and marketing for X Games, Playboy Online and a number of Fortune 500 companies. But his most significant accomplishment began while working in the publicity and marketing department of the Brooklyn Museum of Art. "I fought Rudolph Giuliani when we had an infamous dispute over a Chris Ofili painting of the Virgin Mary that featured elephant dung. There was a Supreme Court case over censorship (that we won), and through that work I began a relationship with the Clinton administration." Cameron's adult success can be attributed to his humble roots. "It's not hyperbole—I was born a poor orphan," explains Cameron. "I was taken from my mother’s custody at a few days old. So I actually spent my first 14 years in L.A. County foster homes. Currently, I advise a foster care organization and have taken up getting these kids loving homes and mentors. I was just chatting with Barney Frank and Michele Obama this month about LGBTQ foster youth and how they make up roughly 20 percent of the children in foster care."
Producer/Film Commissioner for Rio de Janeiro in Los Angeles
Daniel Dreifuss's ability to blend disparate elements is in his blood. Born in Scotland, the L.A.-based filmmaker was raised in Brazil but descends from Romanian, Jewish-German, Ukrainian and Uruguayan forefathers. His heterogenous genealogy parallels his tempered career. "I worked in strategic planning for international markets for a major studio," says Dreifuss, "but then one day realized that while entering the studio and its Hollywood history made me smile, my desk did not. I had forgotten why I wanted to be in entertainment in the first place. I went to grad school in producing at AFI. I wanted to merge the business background I had with the creative side I was developing to tell stories." One story of the Cannes Award-winning No deals with social rights, a theme familiar with LGBT audiences. “It’s a story about civil rights and freedom, and it discusses the power of media in promoting social change. The semantic meaning of ‘rights’ differs—it can be to marry a same-sex partner in L.A. or the right of a woman to vote or drive in Saudi Arabia—but the feeling and desire for freedom is the same."
Anti-Violence Project Manager for the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
Jake Finney credits his inspiration in battling transphobia with the story of Victoria Arellano. According to Finney, "Victoria was a Latina transgender woman and an immigrant. She died from complications of AIDS while in the custody of the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Pedro. Before she was taken into custody, she was asymptomatic. ICE officials denied her medication and medical attention, and her condition deteriorated. Finally, ICE transported Victoria to the hospital and she died while handcuffed to her bunk, and her door was guarded by immigration agents." Finney met Victoria's family at an ICE protest shortly after and has been blaring the clarion call for transgender rights ever since. His greatest accomplishment is producing Trans Pride L.A. "With all the challenges transgender and genderqueer people have to face on a daily basis, it was time to hold an event that unites community and provides space to simply celebrate our identities. Trans Pride L.A. is an event that accomplishes this goal, and it is organized and produced by transgender and genderqueer individuals, with support from allies."
Spacecraft Engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA
While most of our Hot Listers are rooted in the realms of the arts, nightlife or activism, Joel Krajewski works with rocket scientists. Some sing about flying over the rainbow, but Krajewski makes it possible. "About 10 years ago I worked on the ‘Spirit’ and ‘Opportunity’ Mars Rovers," says Krajewski. "My job was to lead the design, test and operations of the rovers between the time of touchdown to rolling off the landers. That was the most obsessive, exhausting, consuming endeavor I'd ever attempted. It’s a risky business, but they worked, exceeding all expectations." While Krajewski's aspirations are towards the heavens, he finds solace in earthbound comforts. "The strongest, most satisfying part of my life is my relationship with my partner—15 years and going strong. He is an architect that owns his own business, yet we find time to hike, laugh, garden and cook. The summer harvest included enough apricots for several tarts from a tree we planted years ago. The mulberries are ripening now; the pomegranates will be next. These trees age, the fruit ever more abundant, as we build and craft a life together. He is my source of courage and constancy."
Veteran Drag Queen
SoCal native Chad Micheals is best defined by his breakout turn on this past season of RuPaul's Drag Race, which garnered the professional performer first runner-up in the competition. "I think at this point in my career, competing on RPDR4 has really changed my life the most out of any experience I've had as a queen," says Michaels. "RuPaul gave me a chance, a platform and a voice. I went into Drag Race with my own agenda, and there were specific things I wanted people to know about me. This opportunity not only changed my life but gave me the chance to relate my experiences to others and maybe help or change someone else's life." What’s next for Chad Michaels? Hopefully more air time. "My biggest goal is to land a show on Logo with Latrice Royale. A gay The View of sorts featuring LGBT and celebrity guests, SNL-type comedy skits and all things and topics current and fabulous! A kiki!"
Owner of Melt-LA
Yvonne Mock-Robertson deals in comfort. Her enterprise, Melt-LA, provides sports massage and relaxation massage on TV sets, movie sets, in the office or at home. Her clients range from big-name stars to world-class athletes like Michael Jordan, Sugar Ray Leonard and the Lakers. The business is a natural evolution of her loves. "I first fell in love with massage about 17 years ago when I realized I could incorporate my love for anatomy and healing work all into one," says Robertson. "I went to school in Seattle for sports and injury treatment massage, and I have built an incredible practice over the last 15 years." Robertson's skills are complemented by her strong sense of empathy. "I am inspired by progress. If clients are feeling better and performing better, you can see it in all parts of their lives, and that is what truly keeps us going as professional massage therapists. Whether it’s to fix that frozen shoulder from the computer, open up the elbow and wrists so you can hold your kids or to sculpt the legs and remove knee problems so that you can increase that time goal you have been working on, feeling better makes us act better and helps us achieve the lives we deserve."
Initially associated with her ‘90s band 4 Non Blondes and their single “What's Up?” Linda Perry has since made her name as a musical impresario—one of the most sought after names in the music industry. Over the last two decades, she has carved a solid niche in the music industry by writing and producing songs for pop music’s hottest female singers, including Pink, Christina Aguilera, Courtney Love and Gwen Stefani. Last July, Perry began to publish a set of acoustic cover songs that she recorded with her iPhone. In the press as of late for her relationship with out actress Sara Gilbert, Perry is responsible for one of L.A.’s most important charitable events, An Evening with Women. Always an elegant evening featuring the most influential women in music and entertainment, the event celebrates lesbians, bisexual women and allies, all while supporting the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s vital programs and services for women and girls. A rocker at heart, Perry’s heart is truly golden.
Fans of Pride 2012's SummerTramp waterpark party are already familiar with Andrés Rigal's work. This nightlife upstart has had a hand in some of L.A.'s hottest gay parties, including Mr. Black L.A., Rasputin and Simon Says. Rejecting his family’s legacy within the entertainment industry, Rigal dove head-first into the deep end of nightlife by tackling the then nascent Bardot. "I decided to focus on live music since everyone else was focusing on DJs. The idea was simple—leverage all the press and celebrity of a brand-new high-profile club against artists and bands traveling through Los Angeles—essentially creating an intimate, unique stage with an unrivaled audience of Los Angeles’ top influencers. Thankfully it was a winning combination, and I quickly established a reputation as a nightlife entrepreneur featuring, introducing and discovering influential artists such as Bruno Mars, Cee Lo, Far East Movement and other amazing local L.A. artists." To Rigal, his motivation can best be described in the words of Jean-Luc Godard—”It’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them to.”
Denizens of West Hollywood may best know Tony Ross via his connections to Here Lounge, which during his five-year tenure as owner he transformed into one of the hottest clubs in the gayborhood. What many may not know is that succeeding in Los Angeles nightlife is only a fraction of his professional accomplishments. Ross received undergraduate degrees in economics and psychology from Rutgers University. Then he earned his J.D. from New York Law School while simultaneously acting as general manager for Chelsea's G-Lounge. After selling his partnership of Here Lounge in 2006, Ross relocated to Berkeley, passed the bar exam and established his legal career. Now back in his beloved SoCal, Ross lends his expertise to the community. Organizations he contributes to include L.A. Homeless Court, INROADS (a national training organization that helps prepare minority college students for employment positions in business and technology) and the Beverly Hills Bar Association.
Kevin Stea wears many hats. The multifaceted performer—whose lengthy résumé mentions everyone from Gaga and Madonna to Elton and Michael—credits his myriad endeavors to a need for expression. For Stea, his work is inspired by "A compulsion to express myself, a yearning to impact others and vice versa. Somehow speaking is not expression enough, and as I discover more and more ways to translate impulses, experiences and internal life, the more addicting it becomes. I can’t put the genie back in the bottle. The more I share of myself and listen to and experience others, the more connected to others I feel and the more of myself is revealed to me, which I can then share. In a loop like that, there's no limit on inspiration, except in my own willingness to be seen or connect with humanity. That's all very abstract. The short answer [on what inspires me]: instinct, fashion, design, art, the subconscious." Clearly, Stea's art is his life. In fact, he's most proud of "having an entire career that's been constantly new and unknown, challenging, filled with inspiring friends and all without a 'day job' since those two days at Taco Bell in 1989. My heart wilts at the thought of having an occupation that isn't somehow connected to my creativity."
Premiering at Outfest on July 21, Wu Tsang's documentary Wildness chronicles The Silver Platter, a historic MacArthur Park bar that has served as an oasis to Latino/LGBT immigrants since 1963. The film specifically captures a group of young artists creating a weekly performance art/dance party at the pre-Stonewall establishment and the conflicts that naturally surface. The doc itself developed unintentionally. "I think of myself first as a performer, because I can only really understand things through doing," says Tsang. "Wildness the film grew organically out of a party I did with my friends at The Silver Platter. Our process was primarily about our relationships and the way we fell in love with the place. It wasn't until way later that I realized I was making a film." As accidental as the film may have been, it has already influenced Tsang's future projects. "Finishing Wildness was the hardest thing I've ever done and what I’m most proud of so far. When I watch it now, I see a million other movies I want to make! I try to balance being a maniacal perfectionist with learning to let go."
Executive Director and CEO of Point Foundation
Point Foundation, of which Jorge Valencia has been the executive director since 2007, has in 12 years evolved into a respectable organization that supplies "financial support, professional guidance and a network of contacts for undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate students who are underprivileged and/or have been socially marginalized—principally by reason of sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity." The need to educate the next generation is paramount, but what motivates Valencia most is "knowing that we have the power (individually and/or collectively) to inspire a young person in middle America with no familial or community support to keep his/her chin up, be resilient and know that there is a very full life worth living and sharing with the world." The concept of support is crucial to Valencia. "What I would consider to be my most significant personal accomplishment is finally having the support of my family in all that I do—including my work in the LGBT community. Growing up as a gay Latino Mormon in Texas, I never would have imagined receiving the kind of love and support I receive from my family today."