The city of Atlanta is bustling with history, innovation, and community — a perfect place for queer entrepreneurs to flourish. We asked three amazing creatives to share what they love most about the LGBTQ+ Capital of the South, and what they said has us ready to buy our next plane ticket!
This story is part of Out's 2021 Travel Issue. The issue is out on newsstands on April 28, 2021. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe — or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.
Though he grew up on a ranch in Pensacola, Fla., Pose star Dyllón Burnside found his roots in Atlanta, and last year connected to the city even more as he quarantined with his family in the South.
“Atlanta is the place where I found early champions of my talent,” Burnside says of the city he considers a thriving incubator for Black creators. “It’s where I came into awareness of my power through art and began to explore my sexuality. It’s the place where I first fell in love with a boy in the shadows of the hip-hop/R&B world. I have lots of beautiful and some ugly memories there that have shaped me for the better. One day I’ll share more from that time. Probably through my art!”
Till then, we’ll just have to daydream while we watch Burnside steal our hearts on Pose, which began its third season this month on FX.
“My favorite thing about Atlanta is that Black folks and queer folks have so much space to live and thrive openly,” he says. “There is still lots of work to be done to truly liberate the city and state from oppressive politics and culture, but I always feel a sense of hope seeing my siblings thriving in this Black gay mecca.” @dyllonburnside
With nearly 20 years in the hair industry, visionary stylist Derek J knows his stuff. The owner of J Spot Salon in Buckhead, J has proven to be a trendsetter time and time again. Having entered the world of television on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta, he has gone on to be featured in Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair, Oxygen’s Hair Battle Spectacular, and more. It’s no wonder he’s one of Atlanta’s most beloved residents!
“Atlanta is an amazing place for people in the LGBTQ community and especially people of color,” says J. “Atlanta was the first place I was able to see gay Black men during the daytime be themselves. It has been a big part of the cultivation of me; I don’t think I would have had the success that I have had if I wasn’t here.”
“There are so many memories I have from living in Atlanta,” J continues. “I came to college here in 2001 and once I got into the groove around 2004, I would say that was the best time I had. The party scene was insane and the gay Prides were ones you didn’t want to miss.” @derekjhair
With a personality and talent of a star, gender-nonconforming stylist-turned-actor Miss Lawrence was made for a city like Atlanta. A frequent player in Lee Daniels’s projects — including Empire, Star, and more recently, The United States vs. Billie Holiday — Lawrence’s star is reaching new heights in Hollywood, and it's well-deserved.
“The Black culture and the Black gay culture are both very powerful,” says Lawrence, adding that their fondest memory in the city was “opening my first business at the age of 23. Being a Black, gay, genderfluid individual during that time was a very hard thing to accomplish — and I nailed it. Also, standing on the front lines with my city to turn Georgia blue, reclaiming the Senate!”
“I really love dancing, art, music, fashion, and praise and worship,” they continue. “My favorite places in Atlanta to hang out are legendary Black gay clubs the Marquette and Club Mixx. I get a combination of everything in those spaces, especially the spirit of church! Atlanta is known for good restaurants and nightlife. I also recommend travelers check out Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen & Bar, Cirque Daiquiri Bar & Grill, and Busy Bee restaurant for some good ole soul food.” @misslawrence