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A New, Queer Hollywood Vanguard Is Here — Now, the System Must Change

david artavia

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since the global pandemic altered our lives; shutting down stores, restaurants, gyms; readjusting our personal and professional priorities; and forcing us to update our office space as work-at-home culture became the new normal.

It’s been one year since Zoom meetings became a household phrase, one year since our travel plans were postponed, and one year since my favorite gay bars in West Hollywood started closing down.

But, like you, as the world changed around us — with many LGBTQ+ people suffering disproportionally — some of my only escapes from the growing work hours and endless uncertainty were through television and social media.

Over the last few years, LGBTQ+ creators have forged new kinds of storytelling and built a global mainstream audience unlike at any point prior. In part that has been because streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO Max are able to offer more diversity than networks. Now, queer creators are positioned to deliver content that streaming subscribers demand: stories that are relatable, honest, and unsanitized.

There is a new wave of LGBTQ+ superstars on the horizon. New systems and guidelines across the entertainment industry are birthing new business models, new leadership, and new voices — and mainstream audiences are coming along for the ride. Stepping into the future, as our stories evolve and continue to educate and empower viewers, it’s important that queer people aren’t just the subjects and actors, but also the people at the helm. Our cover stars perfectly embody that mission.

Ryan O’Connell, for example, is redefining the role of executive producer as the only disabled gay person at the helm of his own show, Netflix’s Special, in which he also stars. Jake Borelli broke ground last Valentine’s Day in Freeform’s first gay rom-com, The Thing About Harry, which helped jumpstart an array of successful queer holiday rom-coms last season. Alexandra Grey won our hearts on Empire and Equal (as Lucy Hicks Anderson), and this year she’s sure to make an even larger impact as she redefines Hollywood’s perceptions of the kind of roles Black trans actresses should play.

None of this happened overnight, of course. We stand on the shoulders of giants, including Queer as Folk creator Russell T. Davies, who is back with his new series, It's A Sin, which isabout the AIDS crisis in London. From Ellen, Will & Grace (the reboot which O’Connell wrote for), The L Word, Queer Eye, Noah’s Arc, and True Blood, to Modern Family, Orange is the New Black, and Pose, television often invites us to explore our own biases and creates a channel toward empathy. That’s the beauty of art.

While Hollywood’s depictions of LGBTQ+ people haven’t always been perfect, they are getting better because the audience is demanding it and more queer people are involved in crafting those depictions. Art both shapes and reflects our culture, and as we enter a new world free of fear and terror at the White House, I’m encouraged by the queer renaissance we’re undoubtedly going to witness in the coming years across all industries.

We're entering a new year at Out magazine, and with that comes a direct shift in not only the way we conduct our business but also the manner in which we tell stories. Our print issue's bold new look is a reflection of our mission to create a network for LGBTQ+ people to ascend. It's certainly a year of course-correction, but it's also an opportunity to course create. 

We would be nothing without the leverage of our community. It is our hope to create spaces where connoisseurs, tastemakers, artists, industry professionals, and creatives alike can join forces, build each other up, and set ourselves higher so that we can all climb together. What a year this will be. Fasten your seatbelts. 

Yours in the fight, David Artavia, editor in chief

David Artavia

On Jake & Ryan: full look and accessories by Louis Vuitton, shoes by Giuseppe. On Alexandra: dress by Annakiki, jewelry by David Yurman.

This editor's letter first appeared in Out's 2021 Hollywood Issue. Jake Borelli is featured on the cover alongside Ryan O'Connell and Alexandra Grey. It is the first print issue under the editorial direction of editor-in-chief David Artavia. The issue is out on newsstands on March 3, 2021. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe — or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News +. 

Photography by Easton Schirra, assisted by Danya Morrison. 

Styled by Aisha Rae with assistants Angel Cross and Tashie Pollard. Makeup by Dillan Peña. Alexandra’s hair by Lisa-Marie Powell. Jake and Ryan’s grooming by Sonia Lee.  

Art Direction by Ben Ward. Shot on location in Boyle Heights. Special thank you to Jake Noonan. 

Tags: Print, Commentary

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