As its website states, “Andrew Christian is not only an iconic company, but it’s also backed by a real designer!” The company is named after its founder, a trailblazing gay Latino man who started his men’s underwear business in 1997.
Christian has truly revolutionized the undies industry as one of the first to create high-tech, comfortable designs for men that also flatter and sensualize the anatomy. From sexy jock-strap styles to booty-lifting briefs to (literal) pearl necklaces, Andrew Christian has become the go-to for many when they want to heat things up — be it in the bedroom or on the dance floor.
“I believe my work as a designer and artist is to smash through ‘walls.’ I like to push beyond and break through every boundary that I can,” Christian says. “Years ago, at age 23, people told me that I would never be able to start my own company, and I proved them wrong.”
“Now artists like Bad Bunny can kiss a guy on stage and no one even blinks an eye,” he adds. “I truly feel that, hopefully in a very small way, I helped to bring about this change being openly gay my whole professional life.”
Christian is also a passionate activist and humanitarian. The company has donated over $100,000 of its proceeds to various LGBTQ+, social justice, and environmental nonprofits, including the Los Angeles LGBT Center, Rainforest Action Networks, the Trevor Project, and Habitat for Humanity.
Of his proudest accomplishments of 2022, Christian says, “I’m super excited about having launched my line of sex toys this year…. I want to help remove the stigma associated with buying and using sex toys the same way I helped remove the stigma about wearing flashy ‘gay’ underwear and being openly gay in your professional life.”
This December, look for “Unleased,” his new sportwear line that “pushes boundaries and allows me to express the more artistic avant-garde side of me.” @theandrewchristian
Wayne Ting is a gay Asian-American and chief executive officer of Lime, the world’s largest shared electric vehicle provider. With operations in over 250 cities across 35 countries, Lime provides electric scooters, bikes, and mopeds that can be accessed and unlocked via a smartphone app. Ting assumed this new role as the global pandemic reached its peak and caused a 90-percent-plus drop in revenue for the company. Rather than panic and slow down operations, Ting saw the potential for growth in new markets.
“Despite the difficulty of being a green transportation provider during a global pandemic, we never gave up on our mission to decarbonize transportation,” Ting says proudly. “We fought hard to serve more cities, grow our business, improve our margins, and change the way we move in cities.”
In fact, Ting says Lime had its most profitable year in the company’s history. Rather than focus exclusively on balance sheets, Ting has more lofty goals driving his business strategies — namely, the battle against climate change, with fewer cars, more bike lanes, and pedestrian-only neighborhoods, and eliminating parking entirely from most downtown financial districts.
“I would love to make a difference in the fight against the climate crisis,” he says. “And I hope I can look back on my life and feel that I lived it with intention, empathy, and purpose.” @wayneting
The readers of Vogue and GQ and fans of Puma and Beyoncé’s Adidas x Ivy Park know Yves Mathieu as a New York-based model and performer. But it’s what Yves, 28, does off the clock that truly sets this queer leader apart. He is a tireless advocate, consistently fighting for marginalized communities, particularly trans and cis women and LGBTQ+ youth.
The self-described “broken-hearted artist” heals by doing extensive work involving social justice (with LGBTQ+ youth runaway centers and homeless shelters). He also rescues pit bulls from fight rings on the streets and does extensive rehabilitative work so they’re ready to be adopted by a loving home.
Mathieu has tattoos on 90 percent of his body, which means most people don’t see fashion or queer when they “read” him. No matter, this summer and fall, Mathieu went on a self-funded, grassroots abortion rights protest tour, working hand in hand with every major organization at high-risk since the new Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. His biggest accomplishment this year is escaping a two-year-old assault charge on a police officer, which, he says, “in actuality was me trying to protect a woman who had been struck in the face by a police officer during a protest I was at.”
Though his largest obstacle (“being Black in this country”) remains, he says, “I look that challenge in the face every single day and I actively make the choice to live, even on days when I don’t want to.” Though he’s recording a new album, he’ll “continue to venture wherever injustice is happening and do whatever I can in those moments, by any means necessary.”
Mathieu knows what would make him truly happy: “Pay Black women; legal abortion in every state; health care for our trans youth and adults; no more old, white presidents; and community cookouts every weekend.” Model, sure, but he’s the true definition of a justice activist who shows queer kids they can survive, thrive, and fight back. @the_yvesdropper
Across the world, naughty dessert shops have opened their doors in places like Bangkok, Paris, London, Copenhagen, New York City, and Toronto. Earlier this year, New York City found itself with a new addition in SoHo called Sugar Wood, where customers can buy “Woody” (penis-shaped) or “Kitty” (vagina-shaped) waffles.
One half of the brains behind the bakery is marketing guru Austin Allan, who was the founder of a company that sold drinkable soup. Allan also spent several years doing marketing for a variety of food and beverage companies, including Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods. “I believe my purpose in life is to spread joy and equality through food,” says Allan. “This is the first time I have been able to do both in the same project.”
While it was Allan who came up with the idea for Sugar Wood, it was celebrity baker Tom Smallwood who helped with the culinary, design, and operations aspects of the business. Smallwood started his career in the pharmaceutical industry but pivoted to baking in 2016. Since then, he’s worked at various bakeries in New York City, including the famous Magnolia Bakery. Earlier this year, he also competed on the Food Network’s Spring Baking Championship.
“I think I was put here to bring smiles to people’s faces with the things I create or do,” says Smallwood. “I love watching people eat one of my desserts and giggle because it reminds them of childhood or smile with anticipation of the next bite.”
What’s next for this queer, sex-positive dessert shop? Allan says he hopes to launch Sugar Wood stores in Las Vegas, L.A., and beyond. As for Smallwood, he’s itching to get back on television.
“[Being a] Spring Baking Championship semifinalist on Food Network just wet my palette and I want more,” Smallwood says. “Maybe my own show? Who knows!” @sugarwood.us
At just 24, nonbinary designer and artist Jacques Agbobly has already embarked on an impressive career. In 2020, Agbobly launched Black Boy Knits, an independent design studio that seeks to emphasize Black, queer, and immigrant narratives. Recently, their work caught the eye of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), who named Black Boy Knits a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Finalist in 2022 and allowed Agbobly to show a collection at New York Fashion Week.
An immigrant who grew up in Togo, West Africa, Agbobly sees their brand as an extension of their identity. “My creative interests stem from my roots in Togo, Africa, and my immigration to the United States at an early age,” says Agbobly. “In my work, I explore narratives of the Black immigrant experience to examine the connections between past and present realities that help inform Black futures.”
He adds: “With these themes in mind, I’ve strengthened my design focus in unisex clothing and silhouettes that subvert gender expectations and realities to portray the multiplicity of the Black identity.”
Aside from the brand’s unique design perspective, Black Boy Knits sets itself apart because it is run entirely on a made-to-order basis. Agbobly also only uses natural fibers that are biodegradable and eco-friendly in order to minimize waste and reduce energy consumption.
“As a young Black and queer creative, I used to feel this pressure to save the world, to cause impact in some large form,” says Agbobly. “Over the last couple of years, stepping into my artistry and adulthood, I’ve learned that a small gesture goes a long way, and that by being my authentic self and sharing my story, it allows others to feel the love and to connect. This is my purpose — to share my story and build family along the way.” @illinoize
Over the last eight years with Google, Adrienne Hayes has been “working on growing a category that the Google name hasn’t historically been synonymous with — hardware.”
As the company’s VP of Marketing, Global Devices & Services, Hayes’s job is “to help make people think of Google Pixel, Google Nest, and Google Fitbit when they think about buying a new piece of technology, so they can get the very best Google app or software experience our company can deliver.”
As a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, Hayes says it is a “privilege” to also be an executive sponsor of Google’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group, [email protected]
“I’m really proud to help shape a work environment where LGBTQ+ employees can be seen and heard and feel a sense of belonging,” she says. “It also means I get to help our internal community lobby for product inclusion in places where Google can have a major impact on society. For example, being able to see in Google Maps if a local coffee shop is LGBTQ-owned, or if the wine bar on the corner is a transgender safe space or has gender-neutral restrooms. That may not seem significant in cities and places that are more welcoming, but to many people who aren’t lucky enough to live in a place where they’re welcomed and accepted, these tools can mean the difference for their physical safety.”
Among her proudest accomplishments of 2022, Hayes lists the Super Bowl. “We partnered with Lizzo to launch #SeenOnPixel, a campaign spotlighting the history of inequitable representation of people of color in camera technology and our newly launched Real Tone technology on the Google Pixel 6 that helps change that,” says Hayes. “It included a beautiful montage of intersectionality, shot on Pixel, underscored by Lizzo’s new song, ‘If You Love Me.’ If it didn’t bring a tear to your eye, I don’t know what will!” @adriennemhayes
As a (former) major merchandising officer, Rob Garrett Smith once helped lead companies like Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret, and Nike to greater sales and profits. But his career and life trajectory changed in 2018 when he launched the Phluid Project.
A third-generation Native American from the Ojibwa tribe, Smith was seeking a way to honor his Two-Spirit ancestors as well as today’s LGBTQ+ youth, particularly those who are transgender and nonbinary. The Phluid Project, which Smith self-funded, accomplishes this goal as a fashion brand by offering gender-free clothing and accessories. It does so by leveraging Smith’s past Rolodex to bring big-name companies into partnerships and collaborations, thus paving the way for a queerer, binary-breaking future in fashion. Young people demand more diversity. And the Phluid Project offers an education program, Get Phluid, that trains enrollees in the tastes of Gen Z consumers.
This year, Smith is proud to have launched another arm of his vision, the Phluid Phoundation. This nonprofit has raised about $750,000 since June 2021, and these funds are directed to support diverse nonprofits and initiatives, particularly those that help LGBTQ+ youth and are helmed by trans, gender-nonconforming, and BIPOC leaders. Beneficiaries include the Ali Forney Center, the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation, the Utah Pride Center, and the Marsha P. Johnson Institute.
“I believe my purpose it to encourage folks to be open-minded, curious, and imaginative,” Smith shares. “I work and speak around the world to teach folks to unlearn and relearn. To encourage people to explore and connect with their authentic selves by breaking free from binary constructs.”
“I recognize my privilege to be a part of this cultural zeitgeist as we all learn to free ourselves of the past and move toward the future...free to be.” @robgarrettsmith
Ariel Foxman wants a word with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Foxman, the former editor in chief of fashion bible InStyle, is living proof that second acts do occur in American life (contradicting a famous quip from The Great Gatsby author). The married gay dad was named general manager of the Boston Seaport late last year, a 33-acre mega-development of housing, offices, shops, parks, and hotel rooms that sits on the edge of the Atlantic.
Overseeing day-to-day operations, marketing, and coordination with city officials seems a far cry from placating advertisers and convincing Jennifer Aniston to wear colors, but Foxman sees his old career as a precursor to his current — it’s all about storytelling and selling, he says.
Still, it’s “equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. I am proud that I have been able to bring my expertise and experience to a new sector — from publishing to placemaking — and grateful that I continue to have the opportunity to learn new things every day.”
Though he remains a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, writes for Architectural Digest, and publishes the parenting newsletter Abbapapa on Substack, Foxman is now guided by his family’s best interests — husband Brandon Cardet-Hernandez got a job in Boston before Foxman took the seaport position — rather than the Manhattan media rat race.
His main purpose in life is raising “my son to be exactly who he is, and to feel supported in his feelings, ideas, and choices. And to raise him to be proud of and connected to his Jewish and Cuban heritage — and proud of his ‘rainbow family.’” @arielfoxman
For years, Antoine Gregory was known primarily for his tweets. On Twitter, he composed an exhaustive thread of every Black designer he could find. He also chronicled and contextualized major fashion moments when the industry was — and wasn’t — giving Black creatives their due.
But over the past few years, the tweets have reduced in regularity as Gregory has increasingly ingratiated himself into the actual machinations that make those moments. Through his work as a stylist, consultant, and founder of Black Fashion Fair, Gregory has become a leading figure promoting the advancement of Black designers in the fashion industry.
“My goal with Black Fashion Fair is to elevate the location of Blackness in fashion, allowing us to contribute to the canon in meaningful ways,” he says. “All of the work I do has relation to the Black experience through history, fashion, and culture.”
This work has meant everything from launching an e-commerce shop where fans could find the wares of Black designers, sometimes done as exclusives; working with brands behind the scenes to help them better maneuver the business; and creating and launching a publication that sold out upon release. This landmark fashion publication included five cover options and was 200 pages thick, akin to a coffee table book.
But Gregory also keeps his schedule packed, functioning as the brand director of Theophilio, one of the buzziest new brands in New York City. In this capacity, Gregory has helped guide the founder Edvin Thompson to a CFDA American Emerging Designer of the Year Award in 2021 and a standout Spring 2023 showing this past September. @bibbygregory
This year, trusted weather forecasting service AccuWeather is predicting a rainbow with its out leaders: Helen Swenson (chief content officer) and Kurt Fulepp (president of digital).
Swenson joined AccuWeather in June 2022, after more than two decades in the industry; she previously worked at Spectrum News NY1, the Weather Channel, and CBS affiliates in Seattle and Birmingham. This year, she’s feeling proud to be more out at work than ever before, in part simply because being LGBTQ+ is more accepted than it used to be. Swenson is also proud that in her current role, her work is benefitting the greater good.
“If you are in the information space, you really are here as a public service. The same applies in the weather business,” shares Swenson. “We are here to save lives, help people plan their day, and to arm them with the facts about climate change. No matter what the genre, media is about informing people and communities because knowledge is power.”
Kurt Fulepp has had a storied career in the weather industry, including five years as AccuWeather’s chief product officer and several years doing digital work at Time Inc., AOL, and Microsoft. He’s also been an adjunct faculty member at New York University and Columbia University, where he’s taught courses on product management and digital media.
“I’m a consumer product person at heart,” shares Fulepp. “I’m passionate about researching, designing, and building digital products that enrich the lives of people. It’s about taking complex and overwhelming information — in my current role, it’s weather and [with] my past roles [it] has been news — and presenting that content in understandable, contextual, and beautiful ways.”
In the future, Fulepp hopes to work in public service. “I’ve been afforded incredible opportunities and experiences in life, and I’d like to find a way to help improve the lives of others,” he says.