Mike Heslin Satirizes Pursuit of Social Media Stardom in New Mockumentary, “The Influencers.” Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mike Heslin.
Dark pop artist Brittan Smith is following up and showing audiences a new look at the alternate world his debut EP Going Rogue will take place in. Through an exclusive music video premiere with PINNACLE Magazine, “Fiend” is “Brittan Smith’s anthem of liberation; it’s a declaration that you don’t need anyone’s permission to be yourself, and a reminder not to pass judgment on anyone else.” The visual, directed by Heather Ballish and Brittan Smith, features Smith performing as different characters in an enclosed room – allowing the audience to dive deeper into the different emotions centered around the track’s underlying message.
“I wanted the cinematic to give us an insight into many different perspectives and the deeper issues each character was facing internally. If we could see and be seen from many perspectives, maybe we wouldn’t judge or be judged by someone’s surface level understanding of us.” – Brittan Smith
Emerging from the prairie lands of Kansas with an avant-garde, rockeresque – pop sound Brittan Smith, now a Los Angeles based musician, is crafting dramatic musical worlds bathed in neon. A vocalist from a young age, Brittan turned to his mother in the car one day while jamming out to Bon Jovi and said “I’m going to be a rockstar.” He has been on that artistic path ever since. With inspiration from artists such as Lady Gaga and Chester Bennington, Brittan Smith began to craft his sound while maintaining a message of embracing all the things that make you unique.
Growing up in the Midwest had its challenges – Brittan being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and someone who deeply struggled with depression and anxiety faced hardships like much of the youth of his generation did. With this, Brittan chose to fuel his art and focus on expressing the different ways music can be used to connect people. His first release “Tension” was in 2018 and since then he has continued to cement his sound while also delivering stunning visuals. His most recent releases – “Eyes On The Road” and “Cyborg” – have garnered over 35k streams collectively.
Brittan Smith is ready to amplify his message and filmmaking background with his forthcoming EP Going Rogue set for release later this year. He intends to introduce his audience to an entire alternate universe with interconnection between videos, song themes and future albums.
Head over to PINNACLE Magazine to watch the exclusive premiere of artist and filmmaker Brittan Smith’s latest video “Fiend.”
Follow Brittan Smith Online:
Given the current state of the world, now more than ever we need powerful voices who uplift and motivate us to be the best versions of ourselves. Zeke Thomas has proven himself to be a strong voice for so many disenfranchised communities. The renowned open-format DJ, MC/Host, and committed Human Rights Advocate has dedicated his time this year to advocating for causes he cares so deeply for while also, creating his upcoming series Amplify Voices.
Zeke Thomas, the son of NBA legend Isiah Thomas, first made his name in music. As an in-demand DJ, he has shared the stage with and performed for celebrities including Michelle Obama, Diana Ross, Jay-Z, and Snoop Dogg. He has also produced his own tracks, including debut single “REGRET”, club banger “#ByeFelicia”, and deeply personal “BLACKNESS.”
Zeke discovered the power in his platform when he bravely appeared on Good Morning America to share his most painful experience, the story of his sexual assault. Since then, he has grown into his role as an activist and advocate for sexual-assault survivors, the LGBTQ+ community, HBCU’s and many more groups. This election year, Zeke used his voice and platform to promote voter initiatives while campaigning for the Biden/Harris ticket.
As a multifaceted human being, Zeke Thomas understands the power in his platform. His latest project, Amplify Voices on Revry, showcases powerful conversations with thought leaders of the Queer and BIPOC communities in hopes that viewers are inspired to use their own voices to insight change. We caught up with Zeke to discuss his latest series, working with his father, and his inspirations.
Zeke Thomas: The most significant new hobby I’ve picked up is taking better care of my body. I am working out, drinking water, and taking care of my mental health more than ever. I have also become an avid podcast listener. Having it on in the background has helped me focus. I have also become more interested in researching astrology and ancient religions and beliefs.
Zeke Thomas: Amplify Voices was a labor of love. It will be the first TV show I’ve created, produced, and am an executive producer on. This is a huge accomplishment for me as I have had success in the entertainment industry, but this is a first!
It features so many great conversations with Queer people and allies. Lauriann Gibson, my father Isiah Thomas, and Donna Brazile, just to name a few. Also, I want to personally thank D Smith, Isis King, and Hope Giselle, for agreeing to participate during a time when we are watching many trans women be murdered.
Check out the trailer for Amplify Voices here!
I am excited for people to see the ‘For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics‘ panel as many people have asked how to get involved in government and they can learn from the OGs! I’m also excited for people to watch the Ally panel as I really think Alexander ”Baby Face” James really broke it down from a relatable perspective why classified black lives matter.
My dad is a special man. Having the opportunity for others to hear the work he does in LGBTQ+ activism means a lot to me. As we as a family stand for equality, whenever I get to share the stage with my family, it is an honor and a privilege.
I come from a family of activists. Since we were young, every member of my family knows that if you can help, do it! My voice is loud, but it will get more audible in the years to come because I won’t stop fighting until freedom is no longer earned, but it is given!
Watch our series! Read books! Reach out to me! There are many ways to get involved, and many organizations that need help. You can do anything. Just knock on some doors.
This election was a fight for freedom. John Lewis said, “We don’t want space gradually. We want it now.” As we see, many people in this country do not care about the privileges and protections of others. Getting involved with these GOTV platforms was a duty. I did not want to be on the sidelines, asking “did I do enough?” I am thankful for President-Elect Biden!
I will never stop being loud! We need to end the ban on Queer people not being able to give blood. Fight the anti-gay laws here in the United States and challenge dictators who are killing LGBTQ+ people just for existing across the world. There is a lot of work to be done, but progress will be made, and I’m sure about that!
I am the CMO at Isiah International and working with Cheurlin Champagne, award-winning champagne and only African American owned champagne in the United States. I also will continue our work in cannabis and hemp. My future in business, I hope, remains bright. However, I will always be loud and proud and continue to entertain!
Oversized bows, rainbow button embroidery, rhinestone Eiffel Tower motifs: American designer Patrick Kelly was an iconoclastic visionary in the 1980s fashion scene. Born in Mississippi in 1954, Kelly’s exuberant aesthetic especially shaped Parisian and New York nightlife culture, offering young men and women a novel form of self-expression. Inspired by his own cultural heritage and an exploration of his sexuality, Kelly’s work served as powerful racial statements in his time, albeit conveyed with humor. Though short-lived, Kelly’s decade-long career was prolific; a catalyst for audacious new forms of dress, his legacy is manifested in the wide range of intersectional celebration in the fashion industry today.
Raised by his mom and grandma, who introduced him to the world of fashion magazines, Kelly cultivated an interest in fashion at an early age. By his early 20’s, Kelly had become an independent couturier. His designs paid homage to Parisian culture through humorous references to French fashion and art history. For instance, his silhouettes emulated iconic styles of Parisian namesake labels, such as CoCo Chanel’s slinky black dresses and the gender-bending silhouettes of YSL’s suits. At the same time, many of these ensembles were accessorized with overt references to his dream hometown — such as berets and avant-garde headdresses — and decorated with ironic embellishments, such as rhinestones in the shape of The Eiffel Tower, red lipstick patterns, or a framed Mona Lisa motif placed sporadically across the fabric. This playful approach to celebrating Parisian culture was unprecedented at its time; Kelly articulated to the press at a runway show in the late 80s that his central goal as a designer was for “his clothes to make you smile.”
Kelly moved to Paris in 1979, where his avant-garde aesthetic attracted instant media coverage. The publicity from his widely-admired 1985 spread in Elle France precipitated the establishment of his own commercial business, and, by the end of the 1980s, he was a namesake label in the New York and Parisian nightlife scene. As Dilys Blu, curator of The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s 2014 exhibition Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love wrote, his work was greatly influenced by the “the heady, inventive, and often-subversive urban milieu” of New York and Paris’ subcultures — namely, queer and African American communities. His ensembles featured overt references to queer pride, such as rainbow buttons embroidered in the motif of a large heart, a “I Love Patrick Kelly” pattern swooping across the front of a gown, and rainbow tulle and pinwheels as accessories.
Kelly’s designs grew increasingly adventurous and complex over the course of his career trajectory. Though his work was predominantly recognized for its aesthetic novelty, it also served as a tangible manifestation of his cultural identity. For instance, his most seminal pieces were inspired by African American folklore and his Southern roots. The influence of his heritage and cultural identity were evident in the poofy skirts, voluminous silhouettes, usage of denim, and overalls featured in the collection.
Kelly’s runway shows brought his racial and cultural pride to life, as they celebrated racial diversity and body inclusivity. Some of his models’ walks were also inspired by drag culture; they danced down the stage and performed gender-bending acts such as removing a traditionally-female wig while wearing extravagant makeup during their walk. This could be due in part to Kelly’s involvement in and creative inspiration from the gay nightlife scene in Paris and New York. Additionally, many of the collection’s most striking details — such as the Golliwog logo, Aunt Jemima bandana dresses, and black baby-doll brooches — served as satirical yet playful racial statements. For instance, the Golliwog logo, which became a part of Patrick Kelly’s brand logo, was prevalent throughout many of his designs. In his 1988 runway show, the motif is scattered across one white, body-con gown from 1988. On the black version of the gown, its placement seemed more intentional, as it sat on the bust and backside of the model. Another design, a pair of denim overalls with colorful buttons, was embroidered with a large Golliwogo motif; it was styled with a white t-shirt printed with red hearts and the silhouette of a woman in a crinoline skirt and a baseball hat embroidered with the word “PARIS.” Modeled by an African American male, this multifaceted and dynamic piece opened a dialogue about the intersection of race, sexuality, and cultural identity present in his work.
A young prodigy, Kelly passed away from AIDS on January 1, 1990, but his influence on New York and Parisian culture are long-lasting. He was not only the first African American designer who rose to fame in France but also the first American designer who was invited to join the Chambre Syndicale, an exclusive body of professionals within the French ready-to-wear community. His legacy in the fashion industry is also manifested in the designs of several contemporary designers, such as the whimsical New York-based streetwear label, Gerlan Jeans. Founded by fashion designer and graphic artist Gerlan Marcel, Gerlan Jeans pays homage to Kelly’s unapologetically loud and vibrant aesthetic; featuring reinterpretations of Kelly’s iconic oversized bows, colorful buttons, and quirky embellishments, the label strives to dress those who are fearless in the way they dress. What is perhaps most powerful about Kelly’s impact on the industry was his commitment to diversity and cultural pride. In addition to offering new, avant-garde forms of self expression, his work opened a dialogue about the intersection of identity, sexuality, and fashion, as it challenged racial and cultural boundaries within the fashion industry.
Indie queer-pop artist Jayse Vegas is a rising star! His latest release “Born Again” is an honest representation of stepping into a new phase in life. The song, produced and written by Jayse, is inspired by conversations he has had with himself. “Born Again” blossomed from the introspective journey Jayse experienced in quarantine and the growth he gained from it.
Of his latest drop, Jayse Vegas says, “I believe in order to become who we truly are, we’ve got to experience a thousand deaths spiritually and emotionally. Every time we reach a higher level in our life, we are not the person we were before. With every failure and success, comes an opportunity to be ‘born again’ mentally.”
Watch the video for “Born Again” Here!
Jayse describes the inspiration behind the video by saying, “During the beginning months of the pandemic I spent a good amount of time alone. It was an experience like I’ve never had before. Similar to things I’ve felt in the past, but more optimistic and accepting, this moment in my life is me leaving one phase behind and stepping into a whole new world.
This experience has made me feel empowered, as I’ve discovered new ways to trust and believe in myself. I’m hoping to channel those emotions through the music video. No grand storyline, just lyrics and vulnerability. Oh, and sex appeal.”
Jayse Vegas is a 25 year old independent artist based in New York City. Since his 2015 debut EP, Jayse has been the creative vision behind his musical and visual releases. His nightlife presence is felt all throughout the city and he is a strong advocate and member of the LGBTQIA+ community. After winning multiple awards and hosting countless events across the tri-state area, Jayse Vegas is ready to conquer the world!
When readers flipped through their issues of Women’s Wear Daily on June 3, 1964, they were shocked to find images of model Peggy Moffitt in a topless swimsuit. Austrian-American anti-establishment designer Rudi Gernreich had designed this waist-high bikini bottom with suspenders running between Moffitt’s breasts. Avant-garde and controversial, this “monokini” galvanized public opinion. It received an enormous amount of press coverage, which contributed to the acceptance of his more “modest” designs such as tank dresses, mini skirts, and the bikini. Only three thousand suits were sold, as few dared to wear it. Nonetheless, Gernreich’s design catalyzed the 1960s cultural shift toward new forms of sexual expression.
Born in 1922, Austrian designer Rudi Gernreich immigrated to the United States in 1938 to escape anti-Semitic violence. A talented artist, dancer, and performer, he spent his first few years in Los Angeles as a costume designer and dancer for Lester Horton Modern Dance Troupe, whose performances revolved around racial justice and anti-fascist activism.
Gernreich’s early designs in the US were already imbued with political undertones, as Gernreich subverted heteronormative expectations of dress through gender non-conforming silhouettes.
Throughout the 1940s, he designed for various swimwear manufacturers and collaborated with LA and New York-based designers on knitwear micro-collections; they featured interchangeable sets, such as a matching tube top and mini skirt. Allowing wearers to mix and match their garments, Gernreich’s sets brought a sense of lighthearted fun, as well as versatility, to women’s wardrobes.
In 1950, he befriended American activist Harry Hay, who was a member of the California communist party and an activist union organizer. Together, they co-founded the Mattachine Society, one of the first organizations dedicated to lobbying for queer rights. His passion for non-heteronormative and iconoclast expression became an increasingly frequent theme in his work.
In 1960, after gaining national notoriety for his avant-garde knitwear, he founded his eponymous LLC., Rudi Gernreich Inc. Gernreich believed fashion could promote sexual equality, and the central goal of his brand was to free women from the bonds of traditional, patriarchal fashion. He sought to challenge binding fashions that concealed women’s natural curves. For instance, he fused sportswear and designer by creating tube dresses out of tech jersey and printing nylon in bold colors and patterns for tights. By utilizing synthetic sportswear materials for Ready-to-Wear designs, he offered women the opportunity to wear form-fitting and often provocative apparel outside of the athletic sphere. As his business grew, his staple designs included transparent tops, mini skirts, nylon tube dresses, invisible undergarments, the thong, and most notoriously, the monokini. Though initially perceived as a joke at women’s expense, the monokini offered women an unprecedented form of sexual empowerment.
In her 1965 report on the monokini, Gloria Steinem named him “the
American designer responsible for the desertion of the feminine.” Especially in the post-war era, Gernreich’s designs were entirely unprecedented in their audacity, sexual appeal, and purpose. Though many of his designs did not become pervasive on the market until the Sexual Revolution in the 1970s, his head-turning work initiated the womenswear industry’s transition from concealing to revealing. His designs were politically charged statements —just as much as they were novel in aesthetic— as he subverted heteronormative double standards of dress and facilitated societal acceptance of sexually-empowering womenswear.
The gaps in representation within film and television can take years to be filled. If you want to see your story on the big screen or on television, you have to create that space. This is something POZ ROZ creator, Carlton Jordan felt compelled to do.
Carlton has made it a priority to unapologetically share stories of marginalized communities. Through comedy, POZ ROZ seeks to have an open conversation about how the Black and Brown LGBTQIAP+ communities are living with HIV & AIDS. While changes are slowly being made in sharing these stories on the big screen and television, there is still so much work to be done. Carlton Jordan wants to be a part of this charge across all platforms—television, film and digital. We caught up with the creative powerhouse to discuss his inspiration behind POZ ROZ, the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement, and much more.
Cliche: What was your initial inspiration behind the creation of POZ ROZ?
Carlton Jordan: POZ ROZ is an idea that came to me back in 2013, but there are a few reasons I decided to finally put the idea into a script in 2018 and shoot the damn thing. One reason was, I was in a situation where I found out someone I was connected with romantically was HIV+. So I took inspiration from the story of how we ultimately did not date but became friends. Secondly, a sign or a confirmation that I need to tell this story happened when I came across an article on blogger xoNecole’s site. It was about a young woman who found out she was HIV positive at a young age and ends up living a wonderful, healthy and happy life with a husband and kids. She is thriving. This is not a story you usually hear around the topic of HIV. Also, as someone who is in the Black LGBTQIAP+ community, the topic of HIV is something that is ever-present but still, scrutinized. I wanted to have a new conversation.
Tell us about POZ ROZ.
POZ ROZ is a 13 episode provocative digital series I created that chronicles the life of Rozzlyn Mayweather, a millennial Black woman who finds out she’s HIV+ and how she tries to navigate love, life and lust, while at the same time fighting the stigma associated with her disease. It is a tramedy that goes beyond Roz and her disease as we also learn about her friends and acquaintances’ sexual health. POZ ROZ, which is on YouTube, opens up the secret door to a front-row seat in how young Black millennials discuss their sexual health. This is NOT a PSA. It is a wild and zany ride with a lot of surprise twists and turns in every episode.
Check out POZ ROZ on Youtube!
How important was it for you to have a cast and crew of primarily black people?
It was essential for me to give opportunities to people that Hollywood usually ignores and marginalizes. Even when they do hire Black and Brown people they label it as a “diversity hire” for decoration. I also think it is important to work with friends and people in my circle that are hungry and dedicated to the project. It is beyond a great script, but because they support my dreams, and I, in return, support theirs. The best people for the job on POZ ROZ just happened to be majority Black and specifically Black Women. However, it was a very satisfying and rare experience to look around and see everyone from the Investors to the Production Assistants were all mainly Black. It is very rare in Hollywood that there are more than a handful of Black people on a production. I think the cast and crew appreciated the representation. It enhanced the perspective in every department.
This show is very timely and important, now more than ever. How does the current cultural shift and awakening, brought on by the Black Lives Matter movement, inspire you as a writer?
I love that we are in the middle of a cultural shift/reset because of BLM. The circumstances are horrible with Black deaths from police brutality, but unlike before, the extent of the shift in everyone’s thinking is so massive that this feels like this is THE MOMENT rather than A MOMENT. So, with the sadness and trauma also comes inspiration and change. As a writer, this inspires me because now there is renewed interest in Black stories and Black storytelling. I am cautious because there does seem to be a call for Black stories centered around police brutality and social justice. But not ALL Black stories, like a love story, deal with those things. I hope the change in how Hollywood sees the importance of Black content results in telling all types of stories. Not just the ones centered on trauma porn or the topic of the day. There is still a lot of work to do and a lot to be seen in how we move forward with this cultural shift.
The Black LGBTQ+ community is very underrepresented in the media. How important was it for you to unapologetically have open conversations regarding sexuality within the black community?
Sexual health in the Black community is the latest taboo that needs to be tackled. I love the way that creators like Michaela Coel (I May Destroy You) and Numa Perrier (Jezebel) are bringing back these conversations in new, exciting, and interesting ways. I want to be a part of that conversation. We cannot have that conversation without the LGBTQIAP+ Community involved. I do not EVER want to sound like a PSA when writing about these topics. Which is why I feel raw and unapologetic is the only way for people to stop and pay attention. No more kid gloves. You lose an audience as soon as you start preaching to them. I feel like the Black community is ready to embrace conversations about the spectrum of sexuality within our community, because the stories are coming from authentic voices.
POZ ROZ does a great job of dismantling stigmas around HIV & AIDS. What prompted you to create a character that is HIV positive?
I think the concept of navigating life and love with a stigma like HIV is something that needs to be reexamined. While I feel like the conversation has somewhat advanced in the LGBTQIAP+ community (although still taboo and looked down upon in many circles), the conversation has paused in the cishet world. Many people with HIV have been living healthy and thriving lives. Getting full-blown AIDS is not something you hear about often so the conversation has stopped. When I talk to my Black hetero- friends, they find it surprising that it is still an issue. Meanwhile, with a new generation of millennials and Zoomers coming up, they are not as educated on the disease. However, the numbers show HIV is rising in their age groups. While the conversation now is not HIV being a death sentence, it is something that I feel people are still hesitant to discuss openly and honestly with their friends and partners. I wanted POZ ROZ to be that gateway conversation about sexual health, specifically in the Black community across sexualities and genders. Rozzlyn Mayweather, a corky girl next door, seems to be the perfect entry point.
What do you hope for viewers to get out of POZ ROZ?
My main priority is for viewers to be thrust into this world and to engage in each character’s journey. I want to entertain people and show that there is room for all types of stories to be made. When you watch the series, you will see that it is not a sermon on STDs. The tone is very free-spirited and sometimes absurd. I feel every viewer will get something different. I have received so many messages from fans of POZ ROZ explaining how it has helped them reveal their status to their friends and family. They have also expressed how it educated them on discussing the disease, or even how it just made them laugh. My job is to tell the story so hopefully everyone walks away with a different takeaway. I’d like to hear all about them!
What’s next for you?
I have several projects coming down the pipeline for sure. I am writing Season 2 of POZ ROZ, of course. We are in development with a major cable network on a one-hour dramedy that I can hopefully reveal soon. Along with scripted projects, I am also an unscripted producer. Be on the lookout for my new show “Unfiltered: Paris Jackson and Gabriel Glenn” on Facebook Watch. I have several unscripted projects in development. I am excited about the future, and hopefully, y’all can continue to follow my journey. Thank you!
POZ ROZ highlights a story that is rarely told. AIDS & HIV have disproportionately affected Black Americans for years. Hollywood has only recently begun to pull back the layers of the associated stigmas of LGBTQ communities and individuals living with AIDS & HIV. The story of Rozzlyn Mayweather is not a PSA on AIDS and HIV. Rather, it is about the importance of reclaiming your power in love and in life. It’s clear that Carlton Jordan is using his power to create dynamic and expansive spaces in the world of entertainment.
Her latest work, the BTS song “Euphoria” which she co-wrote, was the lead track on the group’s album Love Yourself: Answer, which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart. Some other notable artists that Melanie has written for are Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, The Chainsmokers, and Aaron Carter. Hear this, Melanie also has a new taste of music – R&B/Hip-Hop. We chatted with her about the creative process working on “Euphoria” and the significance behind her involvement with the LGBTQ+ community.
Cliché: How did you first get involved with songwriting? What drew you to wanting to do it as a career?
Melanie Fontana: I have been writing songs since I was 5 years old. I got involved with songwriting professionally when I came out to Los Angeles to work with a producer. He later signed me to a deal. He told me that I should focus on losing weight and looking hot and to not worry about songwriting. Obviously, that blew up in my face because that is a horrible way to be talked to. While I was working alongside the producer, it paved the way for me to get into songwriting sessions with bigger artists.
I have always known I wanted to do music and kind of got into music where I fit in. I saw a few of my friends doing well writing their own songs for other artists and I thought,‘“I could do totally do that and that’s how I ended up writing songs.’”
What was the creative process like when working on “Euphoria”? What was the most challenging part for you when working on the song?
“Euphoria” was a cool process. Originally the song we were writing we weren’t sure who it was for. We knew we were writing a great male pop song. So one day I went into the studio to finish off an idea for a track that had already been started by one of the others producers of the song. He called me and said, “I really think you can finish this and I have a few ideas but I am not sure if they are good.” I then went into the studio again and we worked on it. After we wrote the song, a few months went by and I didn’t know what happened to it. As it turns out, he had been pitching the song on his end and he called to tell me that he has a BTS’ single coming out in a week. I was like, “OMG, are you kidding me?” It was one of those songs that I had a good feeling about but I wasn’t exactly sure who it was meant for when we were writing it. The process was just trying to get the biggest and most epic chorus possible that can be sung worldwide.
Can you describe your relationship and interactions with BTS while you were working on the song?
A lot of times the artists don’t work on the songs in the beginning. You are very lucky if you get to work with the artists. I did not get to work directly with BTS.
What did you think when you heard the finished version of “Euphoria”?
Once I heard the finished version of “Euphoria” I was speechless because it sounded so incredible and it was such a new interpretation of the song for me. I feel like K-pop is the new Hip-hop. K-pop is coming and it’s going to take over the charts. I especially felt a sense of awe and pride when I saw BTS performance at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
What’s the message of the song and what do you hope listeners take away when listening to the song?
My intention of the song was to be a melody that all people can sing along with whether or not you speak English or Korean. I wanted it to be a come together type of moment and I felt like I achieved that. My co-writer and I did a great job of getting it to be a sing-along.
What has been the most memorable moment in your career so far?
One of the most memorable moments in my career was seeing the music video of “Euphoria” for the first time. Recently, I wrote this Christmas song called Ugly Christmas Sweater for an artist named Wengie and we ended up trending at No. 1 on YouTube for a couple of days. As an artist, I never expect my work to blow up. I am always like, “Let’s see what happens now.” So when my Christmas song went No. 1 on YouTube, I was like, “Oh, shit.”
What advice would you give people who are looking to pursue songwriting?
I would tell people, “Do not say no.” For instance, people should perform at the open mic even if they don’t want to. If you say yes more times than no then you will get results.
Are there any genres you’d like to try and write for that you haven’t yet?
I would like to do some R&B/Hip-Hop. I would love to work with Ty Dolla $ign, Post Malone and Travis Scott. I know that they write their own rap but when it comes to the hooks of the song there tends to be a songwriter so I would like to take a stab at doing that.
You are actively involved in the LGBTQ+ community. Why was it important for you to get involved with this organization?
It is a human right to be able to love. I don’t think a Bible or old laws should determine your right to choose who you should love. It’s important to use your platform to preach about the things that you believe in and I used my platform to spread positivity and acceptance.
Are there any future projects that you are working on or will be working on?
In the near future, I have a song coming out with DJ Topic who is an incredible EDM artist. I have music coming out with artist Hyolyn who is an incredible singer. I also have a lot more songs coming out with Wengie.
Read more Entertainment articles at ClicheMag.com
Multi-Platinum Songwriter Melanie Fontana Dives into BTS’ Single “Euphoria” and Advocates for LGBTQ+ Equality. Image Credits: Melanie Fontana
You’d be hard-pressed to find a human more idiosyncratically delightful than Brian Jordan Alvarez. The Gotham Award Nominated comedian has developed a cult following on YouTube for his tongue-in-cheek sketches and was named one of Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch. He shot to fame with his hit web series The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo, dubbed IndieWire’s Best Web Series of 2016. Alvarez hasn’t looked back since, most recently landing a coveted guest role on Will & Grace, and will be shooting a pilot for his new show, Stupid Idiots, with Comedy Central in the coming months. Alvarez opened up to Cliché about Caleb Gallo and the fun of creating content with friends.
Cliché: Where did the concept for The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo come from? Were you surprised it blew up as quickly as it did? How has that exposure impacted your career trajectory?
Brian Jordan Alvarez: It has been amazing for my career and that of my friends. It has been such a gift to be able to shine a spotlight on friends of mine who I have known were extremely talented for a long time. I wanted it to blow up fast, and it did quite well! But it was actually about a year after release that it had another huge wind, thanks in large part to memes of the brilliant Freckle. The idea for Caleb Gallo came from driving along the PCH drinking Red Bull and trying to think of a show!
Your character, Caleb, grapples with staying faithful to new love interest Benicio – not because he doesn’t care for him, but because he feels open to and connected with many people he meets. Is this reflective of your own dating experiences? Would you advocate for a more nuanced view of healthy relationships that doesn’t center monogamy as an all-or-nothing goal?
Love is love! I say as long as you’re not hurting anyone, you should be able to love however you like. Of course it does become complicated when one person wants monogamy and another doesn’t. Relationships are the essence of life, and they are endlessly fascinating and sometimes frustrating. But they are what we are here for!
The show emphasizes the glory of, as you’ve put it, lived experiences in “the queer utopia.” Rather than focus on a single facet of gay/queer life, the series enthusiastically incorporates many subjects like bisexuality, non-monogamy, gender fluidity, and polyamory. Too often we see these subjects treated with scorn and skepticism, even by other members of the LGBT community. Why was it so important to you to not only create such a textured portrayal of multiple identities, but characters and a universe that embrace them?
Inclusion is everything. We’re all in this together.
Stephanie Koenig is a good friend of yours – she’s in Caleb Gallo as well as your go-to scene partner for many videos. How did you two meet? What was the process of developing your comedic rapport?
We met on a student film when we were 25! It was love at first joke. She has been the greatest friend I have had in my life, and I am looking forward to many, many more years with her. She still makes me laugh so hard I can’t breathe on a daily basis.
Your channel has been pretty quiet in recent months, but you’ve recently become active again in a big way! What motivated the sudden burst in content? How do you come up with so many ideas for short sketches?
I was working on other stuff for a while, then took some time for myself–there was a beautiful trip to Hong Kong in there around Christmas, which I went on alone as a sort of soul journey, I met a great friend named Scotty there. Then, somewhere in the last couple months, I just got the impulse to start making sketches again! And then we did.I’m so glad you like them and watch them! It means the world to me. I don’t really come up with them; they just occur to me when I’m making jokes about life with my friends or notice something funny. Then I or we will say, “That could be a sketch.” And then we shoot it. It’s so fun.
You’ve also been open about your experiences with drug and alcohol abuse. What compelled you to want to stay sober? Would you say you’ve become more focused in your work in the time since?
I would say one of the primary reasons for my sobriety is my drive to make the world a better place with the work I do. And at some point around 22 I realized that if I was really going to focus on this work, and make any real impact in this life, I just HAD to clear out these substances that were getting in my way.
On a lighter note, your recent credits include Jane The Virgin and Will & Grace. What are the differences between working on set and creating your own content? Have you incorporated things you’ve seen on set back into your channel?
Yes, I think I have incorporated some things. On Jane the Virgin I really watched how fast they moved and how much they were able to shoot. They were all so amazing. Gina is so talented. She actually directed an episode of it recently. I felt so proud. I tried to take some of the speed and efficiency with which they made that show onto my own sets. On Will & Grace, it’s this whole amazing MultiCamera beast, and I am just skimming the surface of how that all works. Sean, Eric, Debra and Megan are all so very skilled at it. I watched them in total awe.
The question on everyone’s mind: Will there be a season two of The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo?
No plans of that for now, but I’m glad you like the show enough to ask!
What advice do you have for other queer comedians out there?
Read more Celebrity Interviews on ClicheMag.com
Brian Jordan Alvarez Reflects on Caleb Gallo Success and the Importance of Queer Solidarity. Photo Credit: Scotty So
From his debut and history-making appearance on The Real World in 2004 as reality TV’s first openly gay African-American, Karamo Brown has been making strides ever since to be a voice for not only the LGBTQ community, but for the gay and bisexual African-American men within it. We sat down with Brown as he took us through his journey of becoming a father, dealing with the harsh misconceptions of society, and how being himself has been his greatest tool to his success.
Cliché: What was that experience like for you being the first openly gay African-American in reality TV? Did it help or hinder you in your career now?
Karamo Brown: Being the first openly gay African-American in reality show history was overwhelming. I never expected the response I received. I would get messages from people around the world who would tell me that my image gave them the courage to be themselves or, in some cases, helped them to make the decision to live. Being myself has definitely helped my career because I am comfortable with myself, and others are open to hearing my story and working with me.
Could you tell me a bit about your non-profit? When did you realize this was something that was needed?
My non-profit is called 6in10.org, and we support the self-esteem/mental health of gay and bisexual African-American men who are infected or affected by HIV. Our goal is to create messaging that supports them in understanding they are worthy of being loved, protected, and healthy. As I saw the CDC statistic rising in the south when it came to gay and bisexual black men, I knew I needed to lend my voice and resources to the fight.
Can you explain how that transition was from the youngest brother to father?
Finding out I was a father was extremely emotional. No amount of mentoring could prepare me to raise my own child, but luckily, I had a supportive family. My son’s mother was so giving, and my child is an angel, so it made the transition easy. There is nothing as special as being a father and watching your child grow into an amazing human being.
Being myself has definitely helped my career because I am comfortable with myself, and others are open to hearing my story and working with me.
Everyone has an opinion and they tend to share it on social media. How do you handle negativity online or on a regular basis in person?
To be honest, I ignore negative comments on social media by deleting it or blocking the person. I look at my social media accounts like a house party I am having. If I invite someone in or a guest of mine invites someone, and they start acting crazy, they will get kicked out of my house. The same goes for my socials. I don’t tolerate negativity or craziness in my life. There is no point in engaging in it.
What advice do you have for young adults in the LGBTQ community who struggle with their identity or feeling alone?
I would tell them to find support in your community. Digital support can be fine, but I encourage you to find a center or youth group where you can be yourself and build your self-esteem. Almost every major city has one and if you don’t know where to start, you can go to lgbtcenters.org to find one.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career thus far?
That being myself is the greatest tool in being successful. People relate to what’s real…and by being my authentic self, even when I am scared to be, I always find myself winning because others can connect with me.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about being a gay black man in the entertainment industry?
The biggest misconception is that ‘we’ don’t support each other. Anytime I walk in a room and see another LGBTQ man or woman of color, it’s always love. There is a network of people in front of and behind the camera that want to help you win. Just reach out.
Read more Entertainment Interviews on ClicheMag.com
How Karamo Brown is Making History: Photographed by Odessy Barbu
Step aside, Orange is the New Black. Though we love you, we think we’ve found some new favorite leading ladies representing the LGBTQ community for 2016. These ladies are spunky, clever, intelligent, and let’s just say kick-ass. Sidetrack Series, an accumulation of ten episodes roughly ten minutes each or more, features nine 20-something-year-old lesbians finding their way through life and love in Brooklyn, New York. The web series gives you those laid-back, cool city vibes while incorporating sharp and humorous conversations among the ladies concerning present cultural issues within the LGBTQ community and our generation. The series is a unique one to come by as it has terrific puns, movie references, and of course, characters that make it difficult not to fall in love with thanks to its producers Kayla Upadhyaya, Kirsten Bledsoe, and Celina Vicioso. Here at Cliché, we’re excited to introduce Sidetrack Series and share the inside scoop of this unprecedented series that’s breaking ground.