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Where Are They Now: Patrik-Ian Polk

The director made waves by sharing the African-American gay male experience on TV, now he thinks he's discovered the 'black Chris Colfer'

Photography by Anthony Caravan

If you enjoyed watching Darryl Stephens or Jensen Atwood pine for each other on Noah's Arc--which spawned two seasons and a movie--you know you have Patrik-Ian Polk to thank. Last included in the 2005 Out100 portfolio when the show premiered on Logo, few have done as much to promote gay African-American men in popular culture, both in film and television, as he has. His latest film, Blackbird, starring Isaiah Washington and Mo'Nique, is making its rounds on the festival circuit ahead of its March 2015 release date.

Adapted from a book of the same title, Blackbird tells the coming-of-age story of a gay black teen grappling with his sexuality while submerged in one of the most conservative environments imaginable -- a religious family in the Deep South. Though Larry Duplechan's (the original author) telling of the story had it taking place in 1970s California, Polk fast-forwarded the storyline and overlaid it on present-day Hattiesburg, Miss., his own hometown.

"I left Mississippi after high school and went to college in Boston, and there was a big bookstore in Harvard Square. They had a whole shelf that was gay and lesbian. I'd never seen a gay and lesbian section," Polk told Michael Musto earlier this year. "There was one book that had an illustration of an African American on the spine. It was Blackbird. I'd read other gay novels, but this was the first black coming-of-age novel. I don't know if I'd call James Baldwin's work coming-of-age stories. I fell in love with the book and knew it would make a great film someday."

The lead character in the film is named Randy Rousseau, and he is played by newcomer Julian Walker. Polk said he had to trudge through nervous and hesitant actors before the freshman from the University of Southern Mississippi arrived. "He hasn't had the time to develop a lot of the internalized homophobia that those of us who are a bit older grew up with," Polk said, explaining that he's a true example of the "OK to be gay" mindset of the younger generation, and that he's poised to become the black Chris Colfer.

"When I started off as an artist, I wanted to tell stories that were of interest to me," Polk said, "which became a focus in the stories I wanted to see on-screen." Polk remembers that, while growing up, there wasn't very much gay anything on television or in film, and when it started permeating bit by bit, it was still predominantly white. "I've seen counterparts -- white gay filmmakers, who come up exactly at the same time as I have, but there's more acceptance from Hollywood for them." Polk laments that black filmmakers have it hard enough without the gay stamp, but he seems to be making strides in the right direction, but he remains hopeful.

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X (@hoodopulence; @SharSaysSo; @Creat1ve)
@hoodopulence; @SharSaysSo; @Creat1ve
X (@hoodopulence; @SharSaysSo; @Creat1ve)

10 of our fave Black queer content creators that you should be following

If you're not following these Black queer content creators yet, you're definitely missing out!

Go press that follow button!

@hoodopulence; @SharSaysSo; @Creat1ve(L-R) @hoodopulence; @SharSaysSo; @Creat1veX (@hoodopulence; @SharSaysSo; @Creat1ve)

X (formerly known as Twitter) just wouldn't be the same without Black creators and culture shapers, am I right? These Black creators keep our feeds buzzing with their sharp wit, boundless creativity, and infectious energy. Moreover, let's not overlook the impact they're also making beyond the screen.

From activists stirring up change to artists breaking barriers to comedians spreading joy to scholars dropping knowledge bombs, these individuals aren't just crafting X posts — they're shaping movements and pushing boundaries in the quest for equality and representation. Whether they're sharing side-splitting memes or sparking profound conversations, they're rewriting the rulebook for digital discourse.

Drumroll, please! Out has curated a stellar lineup of 10 Black queer mavens that you simply can't afford to miss on X. So, get ready to infuse your timeline with a healthy dose of brilliance, laughter, and inspiration!

10. Xavier "Xay" Yarbrough (publicist)

X: @hoodopulence

"On my page, you'll discover a vibrant blend of entertainment, spanning from reality TV to anime, and featuring the hottest shows of the moment. My aim is to ignite inspiration and foster engagement through my commentary, a goal that resonates well in the interactive realm of the internet. Moreover, my platform serves as a nexus, uniting diverse communities. Here, fans of The Real Housewives mingle with fellow enthusiasts of nerd culture, often embodying both identities simultaneously. By showcasing this eclectic mix of interests, I celebrate my uniqueness and invite others to join in the celebration."

— Xavier "Xay" Yarbrough

9. Nate Vinson (social media manager)

X: @TheGreatIsNate

"When you visit my X page, you'll find a smorgasbord of commentary that usually intersects with black culture. Music, television, film, entertainment news, fashion, other aspects of pop culture — whatever it is, I'm posting some kind of reference, meme, or article about it. There isn't a day that I don't tweet about an R&B artist of some kind, whether it's a throwback or the latest record that's bound to be a hit. I've also become a champion of Black television lately, from any Issa Rae production to Bravo's latest black-centric offering Summer House: Martha's Vineyard. I love to laugh, I love to be informed and I enjoy the art of entertainment — all of that is reflected in how I approach my social platforming."

— Nate Vinson

8. Shar Jossell (entertainment journalist & media personality)

X: @SharSaysSo

"When skimming my social media accounts, you'll find a healthy mix of newsworthy pop culture and political commentary. I have a keen eye for authenticity and critical assessment that helps in informing the work I do."

— Shar Jossell

7. Philaye (film producer and content creator)

X: @philayefilms_

On Philaye's X page, you can find comedy videos surrounding Black LGBTQ+ topics, filmmaking content and updates, light-hearted/silly commentary on pop culture and current events, as well as general good vibes.

6. Kyle Price ('Make It A Moment' founder)

X: @kp_official_1

"On my [X page], I strive to cultivate an inclusive environment where fun and meaningful interactions flourish. It's a platform where I engage in vital social commentary, creating a safe haven for individuals to explore the full spectrum of their emotional journey. In a digital landscape that can often feel isolating, my aim is to foster connections and provide a space where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued."

— Kyle Price

5. Nicholas J. Davison (graphic designer, freelance creative director, & social media content creator)

X: @Creat1ve

"On my page, you'll find everything from reality TV to anime, and all the hottest shows of the moment. I love when folks drop by and get inspired to chat about what's going on. It's like a big party where everyone's voice gets heard! Plus, I love how my page brings different groups together. You've got the Real Housewives crew mixing it up with the nerdy crowd, and often, folks are both! It's all about celebrating what makes us unique, right?"

— Nicholas J. Davison

4. Manny (content creator)

X: @cuddapotato

"What [people] can find is a chaotic blend of the times. Music mixes I occasionally post that blend past sounds to current releases. My takes on politics that affect Black and Queer people. The never-ending hyper-fixation on Beyoncé and memes I randomly plague X with."

— Manny

3. Shelton Boyd-Griffith (fashion & culture writer; heavily opinionated butch queen)

X: @flyrebel

"As a fashion and culture writer, my social media accounts are really reflective of that. From fashion deep dives (with a witty twist) and takes on art, design and pop culture and the intersections in between, to lots of RHOA memes/gifs, and all things Black and Queer."

— Shelton Boyd-Griffith

2. Brandivo / Brandan (style curator)

X: @Brandivo

"Opinionated millennial thoughts on fashion updates, daily 'fit' pics, female rap debates, my love for R&B music, reality TV show commentary, and posts about 'my man my man my man' fill my social media feed."

— Brandivo

1. Melayela (award-winning designer)

X: @_melayela_

"On my page, I've got a fun blend of pop culture and music memes that always get a good chuckle. And when I'm not creating those viral videos that catch the eye of celebs, I'm putting my skills to use as a video designer for Sony Music's family of labels."

— Melayela

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Dennis Hinzmann