Ariel Nicholson is U.S. Vogue’s first transgender cover model
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Ariel Nicholson walks the runway in New York in 2018

By Cynthia Silva, NBC News

Model Ariel Nicholson has made history as the first transgender person to be featured on the cover of U.S. Vogue.

The LGBTQ rights advocate is one of eight models gracing the cover of the fashion magazine’s “Generation America”-themed September issue, which celebrates models that challenge industry norms. Nicholson, 20, shared the cover alongside models Anok Yai, Bella Hadid, Lola Leon, Sherry Shi, Yumi Nu, Kaia Gerber and Precious Lee.

Nicholson shared her excitement in an Instagram post last week.

“To have the opportunity to participate in the shifting landscape of fashion is a dream come true,” she wrote in the caption.

The New Jersey native has been no stranger to the spotlight. At 13, she was featured in the PBS documentary “Growing Up Trans,” which shared the personal journeys of eight transgender youths. Nicholson then went on to sign with a modeling agency while in high school, and in 2018, she became the first trans woman to walk in a Calvin Klein runway show.

Nicholson told Vogue that when she went into modeling, she took on the role as a “standard-bearer,” as she was and still is passionate about transgender rights and trans visibility. She was also blunt about the limits to “what ‘representation’ can do.”

“Obviously it’s a big deal being the first trans woman on the cover of Vogue,” she told the fashion magazine, “but it’s also hard to say exactly what kind of big deal it is when the effects are so intangible.”

She also shared the double-edged sword of being “a first”: “I’ve been put in this box — trans model. Which is what I am — but that’s not all I am,” she said.

Click here to read the full article on NBC News.

Crisis Text Line to Support Spanish-Speaking Texters Experiencing a Mental Health Crisis
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women hand are using cell phone to text

Crisis Text Line, the not-for-profit providing free crisis counseling via text message, will begin offering its service in Spanish on October 15, 2021. The organization is actively recruiting and training volunteers who are bilingual in English and Spanish to help support the underserved population of LatinX experiencing crisis.

The need for this service is high. Suicide among young Latinas is a major public health concern as they attempt suicide more often than any other group of female teenagers nationwide, according to the CDC.

The fact that LatinX people across the U.S. have a hard time finding mental health care services in their native language fuels this inequity. According to the recent data released by the American Psychological Association, only 5.5% of U.S. psychologists say they’re able to administer mental health care services in Spanish. Research indicates that language is a primary barrier preventing Spanish speakers in the U.S. from accessing mental health services.

“Our goal has always been to support people in crisis with the technology that is comfortable to them. Thanks to the hard work of our team and bilingual volunteer Crisis Counselors, we can also serve texters who feel most comfortable getting mental health support in Spanish,” said Dena Trujillo, Crisis Text Line Interim CEO.

Crisis Text Line is a free service powered by a community of volunteer Crisis Counselors who help individuals in distress, bringing them from a moment of crisis to a cool calm moment through de-escalation, problem-solving, and active listening skills. The organization is actively recruiting and training volunteers who are bilingual in English and Spanish. To apply to become a volunteer, visit https://www.crisistextline.org/palabras.

LatinX texters already make up 17% of Crisis Text Line’s texters, based on voluntary demographic data. English-speaking LatinX texters tend to be younger (56% were 17 or younger) and more likely to be female (79%) than all texters combined.

During the Spanish service pilot, Crisis Text Line had more than 1,000 conversations with texters in Spanish and observed that Spanish-speaking texters were more likely to discuss depression, anxiety, and relationship issues than the Crisis Text Line average during the same time. The majority of texters who used the Spanish service were from Texas, California and Florida.

“I’m incredibly proud of the culturally competent, first of its kind, service we built to help the Spanish-speaking community in the way they deserve,” said Natalia Dayan, Crisis Text Line Localization Director.

Crisis Text Line is known for its innovative use of technology and data, leveraging machine learning to stack-rank incoming messages in order to serve the highest risk texters first. To increase access to the service for Spanish speaking texters, Crisis Text Line also launched a new modality: WhatsApp. Now, anyone in crisis can also reach a volunteer Crisis Counselor on WhatsApp, an app with over 32 million Hispanic and LatinX users.

About Crisis Text Line
Crisis Text Line has been providing free, 24/7, confidential support for people in crisis via text since 2013. Volunteer Crisis Counselors complete a 30-hour training and have 24/7 supervision by full-time Crisis Text Line mental health professionals. Text HOLA to 741741 or text to 442-AYUDAME in WhatsApp to be connected to a trained Crisis Counselor in Spanish. Text CRISIS to 741741 for English. Crisis Text Line currently offers its service in theUSA, UK, Canada, and Ireland.

Learn more at www.crisistextline.org.

An Afghan refugee girl grew up to be a prize-winning doc — with a little help from dad
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Dr. Saleema Rehman stands outside Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. The Afghan refugee of Turkmen origin has won UNHCR's Nansen Award for her work helping refugee moms and babies in Pakistan.

By Ruchi Kumar, NPR

When Saleema Rehman was a kid growing up in refugee camps in Pakistan, her nickname was “Doctor Saleema.”

Her mom faced severe complications while delivering her – and Rehman’s dad, Abdul, promised that if the baby lived, he would make sure the child became a doctor.

Today, Rehman, 29, is a gynecologist serving displaced Afghan women in the city of Attock, Pakistan. According to the U.N., she is the first female refugee doctor from Afghanistan’s Turkmen ethnic group. And last week, she won UNHCR’s regional Nansen Refugee Award, an annual prize given to individuals doing outstanding work for displaced people.

“She’s a trailblazer. She’s beaten the odds by becoming the first female doctor in her community. By achieving her dream of offering health care to the most vulnerable – refugees and Pakistanis alike – Saleema is a living testament to how women can contribute to the socioeconomic development of their communities,” said Noriko Yoshida, UNHCR’s representative in Pakistan, in a statement.

Rehman says her mom’s harrowing birth story had a profound impact on her work. “My mother needed an urgent surgery to deliver me, but there were no facilities or resources to go to,” she says. “The traditional midwife didn’t know if I would survive.”

While her mother pulled through the traumatic ordeal, it prompted her father to pledge his support to educate his daughter – and encourage her to become a doctor.

Despite that he was a daily wage laborer, Rehman says her dad had an ambitious vision for her future. “He believed in the importance of education and supported me despite criticisms from conservative community members.”

Traditionally, women in Rehman’s community are trained to be carpet weavers at home and married off early. “People would come to him and tell him to not send me to school because it might have a negative influence on the other girls. They were afraid the other girls would also be inspired to study further,” Rehman says.

“But my father listened to no one,” she adds. “He would sell fruits during the day and make carpet designs until late in the night to provide for” the family and pay for her education.

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

‘Girls aren’t firefighters’: How women are making firefighting more inclusive
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firefighters women making industry more inclusive

By Haley Talbot, Julie Tsirkin and Alicia Victoria Lozano, NBC News.

Capt. Karen Bureker didn’t know whether she wanted to have children when she first became a firefighter paramedic nearly 20 years ago.

But after getting married, Bureker and her husband decided to start a family. It was during her first pregnancy, after six years on the job, that Bureker realized just how difficult the transition from firefighter to mother would be while rising through the ranks of her male-dominated profession.

“It’s really a great job to be a mom, but it’s a really hard job,” she said. “My kids, as they get older, are starting to understand some of the risks that we take. But they love having their mom be a firefighter.”

Bureker, 44, is part of a rare sorority. Earlier this month, she became the first female fire captain at Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue near Portland, where she started her career some 19 years ago. Back then, just six women worked as firefighters in the department, she said.

“We were definitely new to the fire scene,” she added. “The world has changed a lot since then, and our jobs have changed a lot. We’ve had a lot of men with a lot of interest in pushes that have helped move us into a more inclusive and diverse fire service.”

Despite the push for more diversity in hiring, less than 5 percent of career firefighters across the country are women, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Like their male counterparts, these women face increasingly dire conditions as drought, climate change and heat waves contribute to longer, hotter and deadlier fire seasons.

These women also face added mental stress from gender discrimination, plus an increased risk of miscarriage and other reproductive problems from repeated exposure to smoke and other toxins.

“When you think of a firefighter, you think of a man,” said Jenna Gray, who recently attended a fire camp for young women interested in learning more about the profession. “I think it’s really important for young girls to see that they, too, can do these jobs that only men over the last who knows how many years have been doing. It just gives you a sense of ‘I can do anything.'”

Yet a new generation of female firefighters is confronted with a system that was never built to include them. Few departments offer uniforms tailored specifically to women, forcing them to wear protective gear that fits incorrectly and exposes them to environmental hazards.

Click here to read the full article on NBC News.

Greta Thunberg roasts world leaders for being ‘blah, blah, blah’ on climate action
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Greta Thunberg standing in front of a crowd protesting climate change

By Angela Dewan, CNN

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg mocked world leaders — including US President Joe Biden and the UK’s Boris Johnson — at a youth climate summit in Milan on Tuesday, saying the last 30 years of climate action had amounted to “blah, blah, blah.”

Thunberg imitated the leaders by repeating their commonly used expressions on the climate crisis, shooting them down as empty words and unfulfilled promises.

“When I say climate change, what do you think of? I think jobs. Green jobs. Green jobs,” she said, referencing Biden’s speeches on the climate crisis.

“We must find a smooth transition towards a low carbon economy. There is no Planet B,” she said, in a reference to a speech given by French President Emmanuel Macron. “There is no Planet Blah. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

And in her jibe at UK Prime Minister Johnson, Thunberg derided the leader’s rhetoric around his government’s “green recovery” plans.

“This is not about some expensive, politically correct dream at the bunny hugging or blah, blah, blah. Build back better, blah, blah, blah. Green economy, blah, blah, blah,” Thunberg said.

“Net zero, blah, blah, blah. Climate neutral, blah, blah, blah. This is all we hear from our so-called leaders — words, words that sound great but so far, has led to no action or hopes and dreams. Empty words and promises.”

Thunberg was speaking at the Youth4Climate forum, an event held two days before dozens of ministers convene in Milan for a final high-level meeting before the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow in November. COP26 President Alok Sharma was at the youth event and will be chairing the ministers’ meeting.

The youth attendees will come up with a list of recommendations for ministers to consider later this week. Ministers are expected to try and align their positions on issues on the Glasgow agenda, including putting an end date on the use of coal and who should pay what to assist the Global South in its transition to low-carbon economies.

An activist from Uganda, Vanessa Nakate, said that the developing world was still waiting on the rich world to make good on its climate finance promises.

Leaders from developed nations agreed a decade ago to transfer money to developing countries to help them reduce their carbon emissions but also to adapt to the climate crisis. That promise was reaffirmed in 2015 in Paris, where world leaders again agreed to transfer $100 billion a year to the Global South 2020, at least half of which was to go to adaptation. That deadline was missed last year.

“There is far too little evidence of the $100 billion per year that was promised to help climate vulnerable countries to meet this challenge. But those funds were promised to arrive by 2020 and we are still waiting,” Nakate said, pointing out that Africa pollutes very little but is on the front line of the climate crisis.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Amy Schumer Reveals Tumor Was Found During Uterus Removal Surgery, Says ‘Lifelong Pain’ Has Healed
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Amy Schumer wearing a black top while smiling at the camera

By , US Weekly

She’s a survivor. Amy Schumer shared an update a week after her uterus was surgically removed. “I’m feeling stronger and thrilled about life,” the comedian, 40, shared via Instagram on Sunday, September 26.

Her doctor walked her through everything they found in surgery. Of the 30 specimens that were taken to the lab, 26 tested positive for endometriosis. Her appendix was removed during the hysterectomy because the endometriosis had attacked it, but pathology revealed that there was actually a tumor there. Many “chocolate cysts” — noncancerous, fluid-filled cysts — were also found.

Schumer is over the moon that the surgery removed so much. Not only has the pain stopped, but the surgery confirmed that there were very serious medical factors causing her body to suffer.

“All my lifelong pain explained and lifted out of my body. I am already a changed person,” the Trainwreck star added. “I am busting with joy for the new energy I have to be with my son.”

Many women suffer from endometriosis without diagnosis for years, with the 2016 documentary Endo What? reporting that the average time for a diagnosis after the onset of symptoms is about 8 to 10 years.

The leading lady, who also suffers from Lyme disease, opened up about her surgery on September 18 when she shared photos and videos from the hospital. She said she was already feeling her energy return hours after surgery.

Schumer, who married chef Chris Fischer in February 2018, has been open in recent years about her health struggles. She had a difficult pregnancy with her son, Gene, now 2, and a year before having her uterus removed, she said her body can’t handle being pregnant again.

“We did IVF and IVF was really tough on me. I don’t think I could ever do IVF again,” she said during an appearance on Sunday Today With Willie Geist in August 2020.

Click here to read the full article on US Weekly.

The Era of Wonder Women — Letter from the Editor
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Tiffany Haddish featured cover story

By Tawanah Reeves-Ligon, Editor Professional WOMAN’s Magazine

A great philosopher and songwriter once asked the question, “Who runs the world?” Of course, the answer has been, and remains, that we do.

The impact of women on our economy and in our communities is so great. Though last year presented many professional and personal challenges to women, it also produced some of the greatest comeback stories we’ve ever seen.

Starting with our Wonder Woman of the Year, Tiffany Haddish, Professional WOMAN’s Magazine is going to highlight some of the amazing women that are inspiring and motivating us to keep moving forward.

You may recognize Haddish from her work in movies like “Girls Trip.” But the Emmy and Grammy winner is a Wonder Woman in business as well, running her own production company. She said, “It’s not all about me, and I don’t have all the stories.

There are so many stories to be told. I wanted to create a company that is female-run and that is telling our stories and giving opportunities.” You can read more about Haddish’s business and vision on page 102.

Tawanah Reeves-Ligon
Tawanah Reeves-Ligon

All of our Wonder Women in this special issue have brought something unique to the table in their businesses and organizations. Get inspired by their stories starting on page 4.

Learn how you are contributing to the era of women entrepreneurs on page 80.

And, if you find yourself still on the hunt for your next career move, feel free to get some tips on how to “Stay Positive During a Long Job Search” on page 27.

We are so thankful to our readership, as you are all Wonder Women, changing the game in your respective spaces.

Continue to work your magic in the world, and we will continue to support you on your journey.

10 Insensitive Words You Need to Stop Using Right Now
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By May Habib

Language carries with it an unusual power: a single word can heal or hurt. Words can create cultures of belonging or exclusion, and it’s important to know which words or phrases are which, especially if you value diversity (and you should :)).

The way we use language changes as the culture at large changes, and the trend is towards respectful people-first language. It can be hard to keep up — but it’s essential for a healthy, inclusive culture at work.

“Using inclusive language helps build trust and credibility, particularly with groups that have felt historically underrepresented or misrepresented,” says Rachele Kanigel, editor of The Diversity Style Guide.

Here are ten outdated words to cut:

1.  Addict → person with a substance abuse disorder

Addiction is a disease — but we shouldn’t equate a person’s identity with their disease. The word addict perpetuates the negative stereotyping and stigma around those who have an addiction. That’s because it acts as shorthand for those ideas. The more appropriate term, according to the Partnership to End Addiction, is now person with a substance use disorder or person struggling with an addiction.

2.  Non-white → person of color

The primary issue here is that non-white assumes whiteness as the default identity. It creates a sense that those who don’t fit into that particular category don’t belong, or in some way less than those who are white. It’s best to avoid non-white altogether, and to use something that is both more direct and less white-normative, like people of color.

3.  Elderly → senior

Ageism is real, and using the word elderly to describe someone is one of the ways that it can manifest. The word invites the discrimination that older individuals often face, and it’s associated with things that are typically thought of in a negative light, like sickness or inability. So it’s best avoided. A better phrase would be older person or senior adult.

4.  Homeless → people experiencing homelessness

Using this term to describe a group of people means defining them according to one trait they happen to share, and one that, for many, is a temporary state. It perpetuates the stigma associated with homelessness. A better option would be to say, someone who is experiencing homelessness.

5.  Sex change → transition

According to GLAAD, the term sex change places an unnecessary emphasis and focus on the surgical aspect of transitioning. The decision to have surgery or not is a personal one, and someone who has transitioned should not have to reveal whether they’ve had surgery or not. The term sex change  has also been used in the past to out trans people, so it’s both offensive and outdated. The preferred term for the surgery itself is sex reassignment surgery or gender affirmation surgery.

6.  Exotic → just don’t, especially if it refers to a woman

The term is often used to describe women of color. To those who have been described this way, it can foster feelings of being objectified, especially given the term’s racist colonial roots. Because the term is mostly meant to describe non-living things, it’s dehumanizing to use it to describe a person. Finally, it implies the person being described doesn’t fit a certain standard of beauty (remember non-white?), even as it objectifies them.

7.  Whitelist → allow list, permit list

To some, this may seem innocuous, as the term has been used in a number of industries, especially software, for a long time. But the idea of color-coding to mean ‘good’ or ‘bad’ evokes racist ideologies. Even though it’s being used to describe things, rather than people, it’s still pulling from those ideas. So the word is problematic, regardless of the intent of the speaker or the ubiquity of the term. But it’s easily replaced by other terminology, like permit list.

8.  Insane → just don’t

Mental illness has long been fraught with stigma, and this term perpetuates the negative stereotypes associated with those who have mental illnesses. That’s a huge part of the problem when it comes to the treatment of mental illness itself, making it harder for people to seek help. A phrase that isn’t steeped in stigma, like person with a mental illness, is a better option.

9.  Manhours → person hours, engineering hours

It may be easy to overlook this term because it’s use is so widespread. But here are two reasons to cut this from your vocabulary: First, the term assumes that it is men who are doing the work, which excludes anyone who does not identify as a man. Second, it supports the gender binary by setting up a this-or-that classification. So it’s best to use a less exclusionary (and more descriptive!) term like person hours or work hours.

10. Alcoholic → person with a substance abuse disorder

As with the word addict, this word takes a person and makes them synonymous with their disease. This tethers them to all the negative ideas connected to that disease.

May Habib headshot
May Habib, Author

For those who have alcoholism, this can make it harder to feel as though they’re making progress. A better option would be to say, person who has a substance abuse disorder.

Changing the way we use language can be difficult, but inclusive language really can create a more inclusive workplace. As you make changes, the most important part is to remember to ask, rather than assume, when it comes to talking about minority groups.

“If you’re unsure of what terms to use, ask your sources. When you can’t ask sources, seek out guidance from community leaders and respected organizations,” says Kanigel. “It can be difficult to ask about gender and racial identity, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll get asking questions.”

For a comprehensive list of inclusive language, check out Writer’s Inclusive Glossary guide. 

May Habib is co-founder and CEO of Writer, an AI writing assistant for teams. 

5 Ways to Chill Out in a Hectic Life
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According to the American Psychological Association, the country is facing a mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come.

This was brought on by the stress created by the pandemic, leaving many people to feel anxiety and worry more. With that in mind, it’s crucial that people prioritize relaxing and reducing stress in order to protect their mental health. The good news is there are numerous things they can do to help them achieve that goal.

“Being busy became such a trend, as though busy equated success – now freedom and flexibility are the symbols of success,” explains Katie Sandler, personal development and career coach. “It’s hard for people to chill out when their systems are programmed to be going nonstop and working nonstop. It takes a minute to down regulate the system in order to actually reduce stress and chill out.”

In a Pew Research Center survey, at least 60% of the adults reported that they sometimes feel too busy to enjoy life, with 12% of them saying they felt that way all of the time. Living like this is one sure way to increase stress and anxiety levels. Having long term stress can lead to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, obesity, cognitive decline, and depression, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

While many people want to reduce the stress in their lives, they are not always sure how to go about doing so. Here are 5 ways to chill out in a hectic life:

  • Mindfulness. Keeping yourself in the present moment can go a long way toward helping you lower stress, anxiety, and even depression as well as help you get better sleep and establish a better sense of well-being. Mindfulness is something that everyone can learn and practice anywhere at anytime.
  • Connect with people. Getting together with people we enjoy being around helps us laugh, feel connected, and make us happier. Those populations who are the healthiest in the world, such as the Blue Zones, tend to get together for social interaction regularly. Join a group or find some friends you like to be around and meet up on a regular basis. If you don’t feel comfortable being in person – create zoom social events; something is better than nothing.
  • Be in nature. There are many health benefits from spending time in nature. Even a view of nature helps us feel better and can improve our mood. Be sure to get outdoor time, taking walks, biking, gardening, or doing something else you enjoy. Nature-deficit disorder is real. Whatever you choose, just be sure to spend time outside and in nature.
  • Schedule free time. With the busy lives that people live today it may be necessary to put free time on the schedule. This way it will be a part of your plan and you will have to give it your attention. Don’t let other things crowd out your scheduled free time.
  • Set the intention. The first part of making your life less hectic is to set the intention that you are going to chill out. Setting the intention will get you to formulate your thoughts, plans, and goals. Determine what you want, what you will do to make it happen, and what you want the outcome to be.

“You can’t continue to put off reducing your hectic and stressful lifestyle,” added Sandler. “Having a more relaxing life with less stress takes being proactive and making some changes. You have to put work into it, some of it may seem counterintuitive, but what you get back is beyond rewarding.”

Sandler has worked with many people to help them identify a plan for personal achievement, take steps to reach goals, and identify areas that need to be worked on. She provides people with meaningful tools that they can use to help bring calm and insight into their life. In addition to working with individuals, she offers luxury impact retreats.

Sandler has a bachelor’s degree in psychology anda master’s degree in mental health counseling, has a strong foundation in mindfulness-based stress reduction, and has worked in hospitals and private practice. She previously spent time as a research assistant while at Johns Hopkins, focusing on purpose in life. To learn more about Katie Sandler and her services, or to see the retreat schedule, visit the site: https://katiesandler.com/.

About Katie Sandler

Katie Sandler is a popular impact coach and provides health and wealth coaching and personal and professional development. She offers retreats around the world, as well as private coaching and corporate impact coaching opportunities. She focuses on helping people become more successful so they can live with purpose and make an impact in our world. To learn more about Katie or her services, visit the site: https://katiesandler.com/.

Source:

American Psychological Association. Stress in America 2020https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2020/report-october

Pew Research Center. How Americans feel about the satisfactions and stresses of modern life.https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/02/05/how-americans-feel-about-the-satisfactions-and-stresses-of-modern-life/

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Manage Stress. https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/health-conditions/heart-health/manage-stress

Content Maven Media: Building Strong Relationships
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For many of us, the pandemic has provided an opportunity to reflect and reprioritize aspects of our lives.

Some individuals have built up the strength to undertake new initiatives and business prospects – and Kristy Ramsey, founder of Certified LGBTBE® Content Maven Media, is no exception.

“Being a one-woman show, I am most proud of having the courage to even start my own business, and during a pandemic no less!” Ramsey said.

Located in Chicago, Illinois, Content Maven Media is a content solutions group that draws on various forms of media to create custom digital plans for clients. Through her business, Ramsey focuses on podcast and video production services, photography, social media management, and overall content creation for audiences.

“What is unique about my business is my approach to relationships,” explained Ramsey. “I focus a lot on building relationships with my clients, so much so that I strive to know their business, just as well as they do.”

Content Maven Media was certified through the NGLCC in 2020, having joined the organization to explore further networking and partnership opportunities. As a result of the certification, Ramsey’s business has been able to connect with larger and larger suppliers.

“A strong network made even stronger through relationship building is an important part of the success of my business,” said Ramsey.

Ramsey also emphasized the need to share knowledge and resources with clients, striving to go above and beyond what is expected of her and her company.

“Be humble, collaborate, and listen,” she advised.

Content Maven Media owner Kristy Ramsey headshot
Kristy Ramsey, Content Maven Media

In the future, Content Maven Media aims to become a household name as an LGBT and minority-owned media business. Ramsey seeks to grow the business by continuing to place a strong emphasis on relationship building. Several years down the line, she hopes to introduce her own LGBT nonprofit to the world, which will focus on “getting young adults into the media and technology fields as a career.”

“My company will be known for quality, service, integrity and communication, and producing content that makes a difference in the business of our clients,” she explained.

Ramsey had stellar advice to offer to future LGBT entrepreneurs.

“To any LGBT+ person starting a new business, I would say join your local chamber, join the NGLCC, and keep going no matter what,” she said.

Source: NGLCC

Pose star Sandra Bernhard: ‘I never tried to be revolutionary. That’s just who I was’
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‘I’ve been fighting about the same things since I was a teenager’ ... Sandra Bernhard. Photograph: Brian Ziegler

By The Guardian

During nearly five decades in showbiz, Sandra Bernhard has racked up title after title – comedian, actor, singer, author, radio host – and a reputation for controversy. She has worked with a long list of superstars, from Richard Pryor and Robin Williams to Robert De Niro and Cyndi Lauper. But she has never been overshadowed; her force of personality has guaranteed that. Even 30 years ago, the Los Angeles Times was paying homage to her “acid-tongued, antagonistic persona”.

But there are no cutting remarks today. On this sunny morning in LA, she appears relaxed, in a pink-striped shirt and trousers, reminiscent of the early 80s outfits she wore for her many appearances on Late Night With David Letterman.

It is almost a year since she finished filming the final series of Pose, the much-praised TV drama exploring the ball scene in 80s New York and the gay and transgender artists who built it. Bernhard plays Judy Kubrak, a nurse caring for people dying with Aids. Judy has an activist streak, bringing other characters into the fight against neglectful politicians and cruel pharmaceutical companies.

It feels like the perfect role for Bernhard, who has always laced her shows with political commentary, has been open about her own bisexuality and was embedded in New York’s cultural underground during the ball era. She remembers that time fondly: “There were events and art openings, fashion shows and parties. For sure, there was a gay scene, but everything sort of melded together.”

It was there she met her longtime musical director, Mitch Kaplan, and the conceptual artist John Boskovich. Together, they developed her breakthrough one-woman show, Without You I’m Nothing, With You, I’m Not Much Better, which she performed off-Broadway in 1988. “Almost every night, we went out afterwards, dancing, or hung out on Second Avenue. There were a lot more people on the street. It was just a more accessible, affordable situation back then.”

Yet the era was tinged with tragedy as Aids took hold. “I lost many, many good friends. We were all terrified and sad,” Bernhard says. It was particularly tough for trans people. “Back then, if you were trans, chances are you lived on the street, you hustled and you probably contracted Aids,” she says. “Nobody took trans people seriously. The underlying theme of Pose was to really honour that community’s work and artistry.

“When I got the role on Pose, it was kind of full circle. I had been part of it, seen my friends in hospital and known what people went through: the degradation, loneliness and alienation. There was a lot to inform my performance.”

One relationship from this time still trails Bernhard from interview to interview: her friendship with Madonna. “We’d met many times, but she didn’t seem that interested in being friends until she came to see my show in New York,” she says. “We kind of clicked then.”

The pair began hanging out, going to parties and plays. In July 1988, Bernhard was on Letterman again and brought a surprise: Madonna. The pair, dressed in matching denim shorts, white T-shirts and ankle socks, wrested control from the helpless host.

Rumours of an affair followed them. “Two women hanging out? Of course it’s going to be sexual,” Bernhard says with perfect sarcasm. “I mean, we kind of flirted with that purposefully. We left it ambiguous and crazy; it was almost like an ongoing performance piece.”

Bernhard, 66, has never made a secret of her bisexuality. She has been with her partner, Sara Switzer, formerly an editor at Harper’s Bazaar, for more than two decades. They met in the late 90s, not long after Bernhard gave birth to her daughter Cicely, whom they raised in New York. She has never named Cicely’s father.

Click here to read the full article on the Guardian.

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    November 12, 2021 - November 13, 2021
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    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022
  3. WiCyS 2022 Conference
    March 17, 2022 - March 19, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. LULAC 2021 National Women’s Conference
    November 12, 2021 - November 13, 2021
  2. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022
  3. WiCyS 2022 Conference
    March 17, 2022 - March 19, 2022