By William Van Meter
Photography by David Needleman | Styling by Brent Austin Coover and Neil Rodgers
Photographer Ryan McGinley, screenwriter-director Dustin Lance Black, and fashion designer Alexander Wang have more in common than their sexuality and acquaintance with Chlo' Sevigny.
The three have moved from behind the scenes and become figureheads'McGinley as the art world's romantic daydreamer; Black as an activist filmmaker (or is it a filmmaking activist?); and Wang as fashion's genius/prankster. They've done so without sacrificing their integrity or watering down their art for the masses. Each reached stellar heights of success at young ages and didn't derail. After the initial accolades, the trio upped the ante and continue to produce challenging work.
McGinley met Dustin Lance Black on the set of Milk after being invited by director Gus Van Sant to shoot set photos. "Lance came up, and I didn't know who he was," McGinley remembers. "I asked Gus if he was a production assistant, and he said, 'No, that's the screenwriter.' I was like, Holy shit, that guy's hot. We all went out for drinks, and I wrote a note on a napkin. I have no shame. It said when are we going to make out? and I passed it to him. We made out after we left. I was wasted and vaguely remember it, but it was pretty good."
That face-to-face didn't progress beyond first base, but Black still has the napkin saved, and is an admirer of McGinley's. "He's got a fun job," Black says. "He takes beautiful people into nature, and they take their clothes off."
McGinley used to throw a gay dance party, Main Man, in New York City's Lower East Side, which is where he met Wang. "Have you seen him dance?" McGinley asks. "He could've been a Fly Girl on In Living Color. I never made out with Alex, but we bumped and grinded on the dance floor."
Although all three men have achieved mainstream success, each retains a subversive side. Black filters LGBT themes for Hollywood audiences. McGinley distills his work through the lens of a pure aesthete, creating art that is as in demand as it is an example of the longing gay gaze. Wang balances his uncanny business acumen with designs that are subtly off-kilter'the outsider artist as budding fashion mogul. They're also making the first steps in leaving an indelible mark on queer culture.